Author Topic: Real risk vs scare tactic  (Read 6873 times)

poppi4

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Real risk vs scare tactic
« on: September 11, 2014, 02:08:42 PM »
I need a mustatian reality check:

We live in the PNW woods and are surrounded by large trees- mostly Hemlocks & Cedars.   Recently we decided to get a quote on taking down 1-2 of these behemoths to give us more sun the morning and through the winter.  An intelligent sounding arborist from the local tree company came out, walked our property for a couple of hours, and came back to us saying that 47 trees that are diseased and need removal.  Out of these, she claims that about 13-15 are "high risk" due to the proximity to our house/garage and extent of damage/disease on them   As you can guess, the price tag for just felling the tree sis ridiculous and doesn't include cleaning up or removing stumps:  $45K for all 47 trees or about $20K for the high risk ones (which are the largest/hardest to remove since they're close to the house).    Got a second opinion/quote & it was about the same.   

I'm having a hard time assessing how big the actual risk is.  It certainly sounds scary to have a tree fall on our house but there's probably a much higher risk of one of us getting in a car accident.    I'm not going to run out and spend $20K to get a safer car so why would we spend a boatload of money to minimize a smaller risk?     Given that train of thought, I'm thinking we should just wait for nature to do its work, if it even does.   On the other hand, a massive Hemlock did blow down last winter which took out a large cedar in its path.    No big deal since they went the opposite direction but it would have been a different story if they landed on the house.   Definitely don't want to end up a pancake just b/c we're too cheap to take down some trees.   

Anyone have experience with something like this or an opinion on it? 

PS- All trimming and removal of smaller trees we've done on our own, with the advice of an arborist (brother).   The trees I'm talking about are so large (30" + diameter/ over 100ft tall) that there's no chance we'd take the risk of trying to do it ourselves.   

Scooter

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2014, 02:28:15 PM »
Why do you question if the risk is real? Your story indicated that you sought out professional advice on the matter and it was determined to be a legitimate risk. Would you question the recommender he or she said it was perfectly safe?

This might be a good opportunity to develop some new skills by learning how to take down some massive trees. I wouldn't know where to begin, but I bet there is a LOT to learn.

Either way you decide to go, please be safe.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2014, 02:35:02 PM »
Have you thought about having some logging done and turning this into a way to make money rather than pay money?

FIPurpose

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2014, 02:42:14 PM »
If the trees are diseased, I wouldn't think they would be worth much. I have an uncle in the logging business, and remember him telling a story about how someone drove a nail into a large oak that would have easily been a 10k tree, but the nail stained the wood and made it close to useless.

But if someone were to sell him a tree, he would definitely take a look for free, or tell you over the phone if it's worth anything. Find a local logging company and they might look to buy it (if their worth anything as wood.)

hybrid

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2014, 02:53:19 PM »
Why do you question if the risk is real? Your story indicated that you sought out professional advice on the matter and it was determined to be a legitimate risk. Would you question the recommender he or she said it was perfectly safe?

Given someone came out and surprised you with a ginormous quote on work you weren't looking for, I'd seek a second opinion before going any further.

shotgunwilly

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2014, 02:54:47 PM »
I'd probably walk around, take a look at the trees myself, give them a "knock test" and be like "Meh, looks good to me."

Emilyngh

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2014, 02:54:57 PM »
I need a mustatian reality check:

We live in the PNW woods and are surrounded by large trees- mostly Hemlocks & Cedars.   Recently we decided to get a quote on taking down 1-2 of these behemoths to give us more sun the morning and through the winter.  An intelligent sounding arborist from the local tree company came out, walked our property for a couple of hours, and came back to us saying that 47 trees that are diseased and need removal.  Out of these, she claims that about 13-15 are "high risk" due to the proximity to our house/garage and extent of damage/disease on them   As you can guess, the price tag for just felling the tree sis ridiculous and doesn't include cleaning up or removing stumps:  $45K for all 47 trees or about $20K for the high risk ones (which are the largest/hardest to remove since they're close to the house).    Got a second opinion/quote & it was about the same.   

I'm having a hard time assessing how big the actual risk is.  It certainly sounds scary to have a tree fall on our house but there's probably a much higher risk of one of us getting in a car accident.    I'm not going to run out and spend $20K to get a safer car so why would we spend a boatload of money to minimize a smaller risk?     Given that train of thought, I'm thinking we should just wait for nature to do its work, if it even does.   On the other hand, a massive Hemlock did blow down last winter which took out a large cedar in its path.    No big deal since they went the opposite direction but it would have been a different story if they landed on the house.   Definitely don't want to end up a pancake just b/c we're too cheap to take down some trees.   

Anyone have experience with something like this or an opinion on it? 

PS- All trimming and removal of smaller trees we've done on our own, with the advice of an arborist (brother).   The trees I'm talking about are so large (30" + diameter/ over 100ft tall) that there's no chance we'd take the risk of trying to do it ourselves.   

I would believe them that they are diseased and have an increased risk of falling.   But, to me, the question is not if they have an increased risk, but exactly how much of a risk of falling in x years.  And, if they were to fall what are the likely consequences and would you be willing to accept them given the level of risk?

I can't answer these questions, but maybe some more research could?   

Spork

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2014, 03:32:08 PM »

What I would be interested in (if I were you) is hiring an expert that doesn't do tree removal.  I.e. You pay for an evaluation and they leave happy.  This type of person would be less likely to have a conflict of interest.

Around here, I think (not entirely sure) you can have the forestry service come out and do all sorts of evaluations (for $0).  I know they evaluated my land for Agricultural land value (which I used to argue for an Ag exemption on my taxes).  It was a big fancy 15 page report with pictures... and cost nothing.

TrMama

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2014, 03:38:25 PM »
I think you need to ask some more questions. What are the trees diseased with? Will this disease kill the tree? What kind of timeline does the disease take and where are  your trees on that timeline?

I wouldn't worry at all about any diseased trees that aren't at risk of falling on the house. Just let the forest do it's thing.

For the ones close to the house, if they do need to be taken out, you could always do it over several years. I'd also look for a freelance logger, rather than an arborist to do the actual cutting down. Then, treat him very, very nicely. My parents needed to have several very large pines taken down close to their home. The local tree cutter guy gave them a great price and did great work. However, he refused to work for their next door neighbour because she was an unpleasant person to work for.

If your comfortable cutting the fallen wood, just have the trees taken down by the logger. Buy a chainsaw, rent a chipper and do the clean up yourself. You can either use the wood as firewood yourself, or sell it as firewood.

Holyoak

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2014, 03:40:18 PM »
Beat me to it Spork.  I worked directly with the Indiana DNR forest health specialist (only one for the whole state), and what you mention is exactly why him and his colleagues exist.  Get these folks involved at some level, and see what they can do for you.  Best of luck!

dycker1978

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2014, 04:08:32 PM »
PS- All trimming and removal of smaller trees we've done on our own, with the advice of an arborist (brother).   The trees I'm talking about are so large (30" + diameter/ over 100ft tall) that there's no chance we'd take the risk of trying to do it ourselves.   

Why not get your brother to look at them.  He is not likely to charge for the advise, nor give false advise??

sandandsun

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2014, 04:19:16 PM »
I second the 'call the dnr' advice...
You could probably make some money here- I'd check with a logging company too, probably could make some cash on this...
Regardless, no way there are 47 trees that are in eminent dang of falling on your house... I'd concentrate on the couple that could cause serious damage if they actually fell on your house... Who cares if a diseased tree falls 50 yards away... 
For what it's worth, I have 100 acres that we've selectively timbered a couple of times, I've also had trees removed closer to the house for safety reasons, but those have been few and far between...

poppi4

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2014, 05:15:44 PM »
Ooh- DNR, good idea.   I'll check that out.   I knew posting would be useful.   

I checked into the logging idea but it was a dead end for two reasons:   Diseased= not good for lumber and Cedar/Hemlocks are way easier to get elsewhere so not worth the hassle for logging the small amount that we have. 

@Emilygnh- you nailed it.  That's EXACTLY my issue.   I believe that the trees have problems and both arborists pointed out the specifics on each- conch fungus (sp?), lightening damage, borer bug thingys (I forget the real name)- but how long and how much of a risk vs. the price of removal. 

FYI- Brother is in Maine, we're in Washington.   He's not licensed & insured to do it here and not available for consult...plus the size of trees we're looking at is probably more than a 1 man job.   

Spork

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2014, 05:56:07 PM »
I live in the woods... and I can attest that pine borers (if that's what you have) and lightning damage WILL make them fall ... someday.  So the question that remains is: when?  and what would they crush?

Anywhere except next to the house or power lines:  I either cut them down myself (and... if they fall wrong... they fall wrong).  Or I leave them to fall on their own.  In the mean time, they are an awesome place for woodpeckers to feed/nest.

DK

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2014, 07:51:26 PM »
Practice on the ones away from the house, and when you get good enough, do the ones near the house...

Although it would be a hassle, your homeowners insurance should pay for any damage done. But they do not pay for preventive maintenance that would avoid the loss. You could mitigate the risk by chopping off the branches on the house side, so at least if it does fall, it would be a bit more likely to fall on the 'heavy' side away from the house.


Spork

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2014, 09:05:13 PM »
I'm all for DIY.  But damaged trees can fall in spectacularly unpredictable ways.  I'm not saying don't do it.  ... just a warning that guys with loads of experience are sometimes surprised.

Rural

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2014, 03:37:08 AM »
Do you really have 13-15 trees so close to your house that they would land on it if they fell? I find that difficult to imagine, and I live in the middle of the forest.  Have a look at distances and heights, but surely you can identify the ones most likely.


And yes, get an opinion from someone with no dog in that fight, and not just for the money, though of course that matters.

No Name Guy

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2014, 09:51:51 AM »
If you have conchs and other obvious disease / damage on those trees, they're rotten and will fall - the only question is when.  When will probably be the next big wind storm we get....or the one after that.  So, how often do those happen Poppi (not knowing EXACTLY where you are here in WA)?  In the Seattle area, it seems to be about every 5-10 years or so.

And with what you describe as to the typical size (30", 100+ feet tall) I'm not surprised you have so many that need to be taken down - that tall, in a mature stand there will be lots that could reach your home.  I'll also say that anything short of a concrete blockhouse in the way of those things when they come down (at that size) will be absolutely destroyed.

As I've said in other threads, I'm a backpacker, so I get out in the woods here in Washington a lot.  I see what Nature does to the hiking trails with every puff of wind that comes up.  The first thing that has to be done every spring / summer is saw teams have to cut out the trees that came down over the trails over winter.  Every....stinking....year. 

Poppi - I'd suggest that you recall the winter before last, where 2 people were killed by falling trees on Highway 2 east of Stevens Pass when that ice / snow event hit before the ground froze.  Lots of trees came down in that - areas I hiked not far north of Hwy 2 had jackstraw piles of trees that came down, uprooted and broken, many with no obvious signs of being diseased.  I suspect the diseased trees started chain reactions - they hit their healthy neighbors, that were just hanging on, and dominoed down piles of trees.  Hiking those same areas a few weeks ago, looking at the logs cut off the trails, many of them look totally solid.

One more thing - I was in a home that was hit by a falling tree, many, many, MANY years ago.  Top broke off in a windstorm and landed on the roof over the kitchen.  It only punched a hole in the kitchen wall where the trunk broke at the edge of the roof (one piece ended on the roof, the other piece slashed down through the exterior wall, knocking all the cabinets around.)  Missed the pipes to the sink by 2", else it would have been a total disaster with water damage.    That piece was only 12-ish inches in diameter and didn't fall too far vertically.  I can only imagine how bad the devastation would have been had that tree been a 30 incher.

TL / DR - I'd get the diseased trees removed as soon as practical.  They're coming down, the only question is when - when you choose it to happen, or when it's chosen for you, likely during a big wind, snow or ice event.  It may be that you can only afford to have it done in stages, but I'd start with the highest risk ones first.

I'd keep shopping around on the price.  Note that one reason it may be so high on the quotes you've received is that they're planning on taking them down in chunks, instead of "felling" them whole.  Ask for clarification as to their intended process and inquire as to why they might not just fell them whole.  Note that they may be too diseased to fell whole safely - if there isn't good holding wood for the hinge (cut the notch on the one side, then the back side cut a bit above the bottom of the notch, leaving a "hinge" of good wood that aids in directing / controlling the fall) things can be extremely dangerous to fall.  An experienced feller will do a vertical cut with the nose of the chain saw (e.g. boring) a smidge above the proposed hinge to see what the chips look like (good wood, or rotten punky shit that will come apart).

Spork

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2014, 10:01:19 AM »

Another point on price negotiation:  I've had trees dropped that I was too chicken to drop.  (In this case both were close to power lines and one was very dead and probably unstable.)

They quoted me one of those $1000 a tree deals.  I asked "How much to just lay it on the ground and walk away?"  The price dropped to  $200 and $300 a tree.  If you're willing to do the labor of cutting it up (or if a big log on the ground is a do-not-care) you can save a chunk of money.

AH013

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2014, 01:30:22 PM »
I'd also point out that, unfortunately for you for having called in an arborist, you are now "on the clock".  You've essentially been notified as a homeowner that there is a realistic eminent threat on your property (diseased tree that could fall on your house or someone at any moment).  Being ignorant of the diseased tree, if such a tree did fall on your home or a guest, you would not have been culpable and any damage would be covered by your insurance company based on the policy in place.  Being made aware of the diseased trees, if any of these 47 trees fall on your house or a guest, the insurer can claim you were negligent for failing to rectify a known issue and void any claim you make.  If you don't believe it, it was a central plot story in the movie "Crash" (guy calls locksmith to evaluate lock on door, locksmith says the door is broken and he needs a new door, doesn't get one, store gets vandalized & robbed, insurance company denies claim on the grounds of contributory negligence for not fixing the door he knew was broken).  This also applies to other stuff like lead tests, asbestos tests, etc.  You can be 99% sure you've got lead or asbestos, but as long as you don't KNOW, you don't have to take care of it.  Once you know, you are obligated to take care of it or else.

Whatever solution you take, whether calling in someone to fell the trees or getting the opinion of an independent arborist or DNR to say the trees aren't an eminent danger, do it quickly before a tree actually does fall and cause issues for you.

poppi4

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2014, 04:35:21 PM »
Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.      We were just talking about the liability issue this morning & wondering if it mattered that we know, as long as the insurance company doesn't know we know. 

The #s that we we quoted were already for felling only.  Clean up would be done by us... which at least means we wouldn't have to workout for a while :)

Yes, we really have 13-15 trees within striking distance.  Our house & garage are separate- approximately 100ft  from each other.    7 trees would probably go in the direction of the garage given primary wind direction (2 that if they fell right would also hit the house)   4 that are up near the house in the same primary wind direction path and a couple others that are growing weirdly enough that they're weighted heavily  towards the house or garage- whether or not they'd fall that direction is questionable.   

PS- We're on the Fall City/Issaquah line

swiper

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Re: Real risk vs scare tactic
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2014, 06:46:42 PM »
hi poppi4,

I'm in a similar situation, but with smaller trees. A few years ago we purchased a property with an Ash forest. Now that forest is being destroyed by the Emerald Ash borer. In the last two weeks I've taken down ~15 Ash trees within striking distance of my home.  Most of these have been ~80 foot high. My strategy has been to only handle trees I feel comfortable doing myself and outsource ones close to powerlines, that lean-in on the house or have high risk of hangups.

For the ones I've done, I've used vehicle-recovery straps and heavy-duty hand winches to encourage trees to fall in a particular arc. I've climbed or laddered my way up as high as I dare and attached the recovery straps around the tree to get as much leverage as possible.  I used the hand winch to pull/hold the tree in the desired direction. Next I cut my wedge/notch and finally cut to meet the wedge. All during wind calm mornings. So far so good.

For professional removal I've been quoted prices all over the board ($250 avg, for felling tree, no cleanup). Recently, I had guys take the top 1/3 off some trees at about $60/tree (allowing me to safely remove the rest of the tree myself). Getting multiple quotes helps as does discussing options to make the job cheaper. Also ensure that the pros you pick have adequate insurance, and (if applicable), that you get tree felling permits.

Other than the learnings, hard to make this a mustachian activity :(

Note: This is not professional advice, just my experience ;)







 
« Last Edit: September 12, 2014, 06:48:34 PM by swiper »