Failure Hazard of Standing Dead Ash Trees

The dangers lurking in the woods….

Nobody likes maintenance – maintenance of your car, home, or teeth to name a few. Maintenance tasks are inconvenient, and most of the time are a hit on the finances! Either way, they still have to be done, or it ends up costing more in the long run. In addition, deferred maintenance often increases risk.

A dead tree within striking distance of your property is a serious risk. It is not only a danger to your property, but potentially a danger to life.

arborist using ropes to climb a tree

Simon Normile, ISA Certified Arborist

As Arborists we are tasked with dealing with these once majestic beauties. The problem is, the longer you wait to remove dead trees the more difficult it becomes. The wood loses its strength and flexibility. This is more prevalent in ash trees as they seem to decay a good deal faster than most other species such as oak, hickory and hard maple. This not only puts you, the homeowner at greater risk and expense, but also the people who are hired to remove these hazardous trees.

As an Arborist for 22 years, I have seen all kinds of dead trees and dealt with them to the best of my ability. Fortunately I am still the right side of the ground, but have come close several times to a near miss.

Some time ago while climbing, a dead tree failed below me as I was removing it! My faith was re-affirmed that day!

Indicators of a Dead Tree in the Winter

  • Splitting bark
  • Bark sloughing off in chunks or slabs
  • Chipped wood around the base of the tree (evidence of woodpecker damage feeding on opportunistic insects)
  • Small branch and twig loss
  • Large branch failure
  • Fungal growth at base of trunk, up the main trunk &/or branches
  • Borer galleries or exit holes
  • Obviously no foliage in spring or summer is a dead giveaway!



Identifying a Dead Tree

In brief, dead trees are a risk but waiting to have them removed exponentially elevates the risk.

by Simon Normile
ISA Certified Arborist

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