Is My Tree Hazardous?

Is My Tree Hazardous?

Marianne C. Ophardt
Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Area Extension Agent

How do you know when large older trees have become a hazard and should be removed?

There are symptoms that can tip you offthat your tree is a liability that could fall, injuring people or damaging property. Any one or combination of the following symptoms could indicate that your tree is in trouble


Large branches or major limbs are dead.


Large branches and/or the trunk has obvious rotten wood or hollow cavities.


Mushrooms are present at the base of the tree.


Large branches have fallen from the tree and/or there are broken branches hanging in the tree.


The trunk has developed a strong lean.


Large roots have been severed or damaged by construction, such as root excavation, sidewalk repair, or trench digging for utilities.


The soil level over the roots and/or at the base of the trunk has been significantly raised or lowered more than two inches.


Root function has been impaired by installation of pavement or building foundations over the root zone.


The tree has been topped or severely pruned in the past.


Decay and rot is present in old wounds.


Two or more main branches arise from the same point on the tree


If you suspect that you may be at risk from your tree, it would be wise to consult a certified arborist who has had training in hazard tree assessment.  The arborist can analyze your tree’s situation and recommend the best course of action.  This may include removal of the tree, pruning the tree, cabling and bracing the tree, or removal of possible targets should the tree fail.