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How Can I Tell If My Tree Will Fall

Your tree can fall at anytime. But there are ways to prevent it from happening. Find out more in this article.

Have you seen a tree toppled by a weather event on the news and wonder if your trees will fall over?  Every year we get emergency tree removal calls and want to share some professional tree care wisdom.

What Causes A Tree To Fall Over?

There are plenty of reasons trees can fall over and become a danger.

Among them are improper planting conditions:

  • Advanced Insect Infestation
  • Root Problems
  • Poor Soil Condition
  • Construction Damage
  • Old Age

Don’t let that “Crack” in the night be a big limb coming down on your house.


Root Rot

Root rot is a fungus that typically occurs when there is too much moisture in the root zone. Therefore you see a lot of leaning or trees fallen down in swampy, lake front or other wet areas. 

Common types of root rot include Armillaria and Phytophothera. These types of tree fungi rot the roots of the tree and what is hold that tree to the ground?  That trees roots.

Damaged Roots

Did the contractor wreck your trees root system?  Roots typically extend 1-2.5 times the radius of the branches (the trees’ canopy) When construction is being performed within the area of the your trees, the roots can be damaged.

Sometimes, contractors even cut roots so they do not interfere with the project they are installing. When contractors install driveways and sidewalks in a tree’s critical root zone, they compact the soil and over time smother the tree roots. When the root system is struggling from construction damage and compaction, it’s much more likely to fail.  Either uproot or kill off a section of the tree. 

We see many trees alongside sidewalks and driveways dead on one side.  Not a healthy situation for your tree to be in.  Many types of harmful things can happen.  Internal rot and insect invasions are typical when construction ruins your trees root system.

Shallow Roots

When trees are planted in hard, compacted soils root systems may struggle to penetrate the ground and form roots at the correct depth. Trees can also develop shallow roots when they are watered incorrectly.

When you give your trees a fast, 5 minutes of watering when conditions are dry or that once a week quick watering, you only allow water to enter the top part of the soil. This makes your tree to grow roots shallow. Shallow roots do not anchor trees and roots that grew at the appropriate depth, can lead to the risk of your tree uprooting.

Unestablished Root System

With newly planted trees, it can take a few years to establish a stable root system.  Since these root systems keep trees from falling, newly planted trees are more likely to topple or get damaged during high winds.  Proper cabling, bracing and tree supports are needed, so your tree not only grows straight, but give the newly planted tree time to take root. 

Emergency tree damage and removal in Oakland County, Michigan.
Top heavy tree. Driveway construction disturbed root system.


No tree is safe from the weather. If winds and rain get excessive, like what you see during major hurricanes, micro bursts of wind and tornados.  Even the strongest of trees are at risk.  Many times, after a few days of heavy rain, when the ground is saturated, we will have a sunny windy day and then the emergency tree removal and post storm damage tree service calls come in.

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The tree species most likely to topple in a wind storm are willow, spruce, cedar, and white pine. These species also live in wetter soils along Oakland Counties lake fronts.  Taller trees with large canopies are also more susceptible to a phenomenon known as “windthrow” where the tree’s trunk and it’s “sail area”/canopy acts as a lever which uproots the tree.  Our lakes develop strong wind bursts, and if you have a tree with a big canopy, it has an increased chance of uprooting.

Signs Your Tree May Fall

  • Visible Dead Branches That Fall with Minimal Agitation
  • There’s A Cavity/Hole in The Trunk of The Tree
  • The Presence of Deep Cracks or Missing Bark on The Trunk of The Tree
  • The Tree Has A Tight V-Shaped Branch Growth
  • The Roots Of The Tree Are Weak and Rotten


 As we discussed above, frequently watering your trees for a short amount of time will teach your tree’s roots to grow near the surface.

The right way is to water slowly for long periods of time less frequently, the water will be able to penetrate deeper into the soil. This allows your tree’s roots to grow at the correct depth.

The correct way to water is to turn your hose on to a dribble, place the hose in the root zone, and leave it for 1-2 hours. Move the hose to a different spot in the root zone and leave for 1-2 hours. This should be done once a week.  Two times in dry conditions. 

A soaker type hose in a circular pattern around your trees root system and left on from sunrise to sunset is another method.

Your tree will thank you for the drink.

Don’t over water.

Overwatering can cause root rot which can make your tree susceptible to falling. You want the soil around your tree to be moist but not soaking.  You don’t want mud, you want a wet sponge type of soil.

Don’t use to much mulch.  Mulching is great for your tree.  But to much mulch can cause your tree to develop shallow roots.  It may even suffocate your roots. Aim for 2-3 inches of mulch spread evenly and not touching the base of the tree. 

Please no mulch volcanoes. 


Prune new trees for structure:

Pruning your young trees regularly before they are fully mature is important for the health of the tree. With early pruning, you can spot structural issues when they are first developing. This allows Certified Arborists to strategically prune or alter the tree to correct those structural issues before they become big problems later on down the road.

Trim your trees to remove dead, weak and odd growing limbs:

If a limb is leafless when it should be in bloom it’s a hint that the limb is dead/dying. These limbs are the ones that tend to come down in a storms. You’ll want to look for limbs that have two equal size branches coming off of the trunk (Y-shaped). The point at which these branches connect may be weak and could break off during wind and rain storms. 

If these limbs and branches are large, you will want to have them cabled or braced. 

Now that you know some reasons trees fall down, take the time and call an arborist to keep your tree structurally healthy and reduce the risk of having a dangerous tree fall.

If you are in the Oakland County, Michigan area and have a tree care question, give us a call.

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