In today’s world, there is construction everywhere.  Roads are constantly being expanded and improved upon and new buildings and homes are being built.  For most people, construction is an annoyance, but for trees, it can be deadly.


Most damage that occurs to trees as a result of construction is to the root system.  Roots are one of the most vital parts of a tree.  They are responsible for water and nutrient uptake, storing energy, and supporting the tree. It is a common misconception that tree roots are buried deep in the ground.  In fact, 50% of a tree’s roots are located in the first foot of soil and 90% are located in the first 3 feet of soil.

Soil compaction is the most common problem caused by construction.  When construction occurs near a tree, the soil can become compacted due to constant traffic from heavy machinery, stockpiled building materials, or construction crews.  When the soil is compacted, the tree is unable to absorb water and other required minerals and the tree becomes dehydrated and very weak and often dies.

A big tree is fenced with an excavation at its side.

This tree’s roots have been severed due to construction.

Trenching and digging equipment can also cause serious damage to a tree by severing the roots.  This problem is especially common when new buildings or homes are built as tree roots are cut, whether intentional or not, to make way for a foundation, utility lines, or fencing.  The closer to the tree the roots are cut, the less likely it is to recover.  Root suffocation can also occur due to grade changes during or after construction.  Too much dirt over a tree’s roots can actually cut off the tree’s oxygen supply and suffocate the roots.

The heavy equipment used in construction can also cause direct damage to a tree.  While in operation, these large pieces of machinery can easily cause destruction to trunks and larger branches and stems.  Large wounds from equipment can weaken a tree leaving it more susceptible to fungi, insects, and water and eventual decay.  When larger stems or branches are broken, it can lead to uneven growth and instability.  Typically, this type of damage is less consequential than root damage.


Unfortunately, most signs of construction damage often take years to appear and by the time they are noticeable, it is too late.  Trees suffering from root damage will be unable to pull up moisture from the ground and will exhibit leaf wilting or scorching or early leaf drop.  Dead branches or excessive suckers may also be present.  Equipment-damaged trees will have visible scrapes or wounds or broken limbs and branches.

An excavation near a big tree

This tree’s roots are being suffocated.

An excavator and a loader heavy machines working near a big tree.

Heavy equipment damaged the trunk of this tree.


Trees that exhibit signs of construction damage are often unable to fully recover.  In some cases, depending on the extent and type of damage, air spading or vertical mulching can be done to alleviate compacted soil around the root zone.  If the roots have been extensively damaged, it is highly unlikely the tree will survive.   Prevention is the best way to keep trees healthy during and after construction.  A Certified Arborist can work with a contractor to help establish tree protection zones and proper construction procedures to help minimize or mitigate damage.  Preventative tree maintenance, such pruning or tree cabling, may also help prevent damage.


Jake at TREES BY JAKE is a Tulsa Certified Arborist with extensive experience in assessing and diagnosing construction damage.  If your trees have been impacted from construction or you are getting ready to undertake a construction project, contact us today for a free consultation!  We provide removal and maintenance services, including pruning and cabling, as well as pre-construction assessments.

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Tulsa Tree Service

TREES BY JAKE has been providing tree removal services in Tulsa for over a decade. Jake is a Tulsa Certified Arborist and we have a variety of equipment to safely and efficiently remove trees. Call or text us today for your free estimate at 918-500-9955 and don’t forget to check us out on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

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