Avoiding Tree – Utility Conflicts

Utility Services are what makes our homes comfortable, providing electricity, water, sewage disposal, etc.  It’s easy to forget that these services are provided through wires and pipes that are either overhead or below ground.  When trees are planted near these lines there could be trouble in the future, so think before you plant.  Here are some things to consider.


Overhead lines:  Trees look so small when you buy them that you can’t imagine them growing really big.  But if you plant tall growing trees under or near overhead lines they will ultimately have to be pruned regularly to provide clearance for the wires.  This often causes the tree to have an unnatural appearance, plus continual pruning puts a lot of stress and wounding on the tree that can lead to decay, insect, or disease problems.  So research the growing habits of your tree before you buy and select one that will fit the space it is planted in.


Underground lines:  These are easy to overlook and need to be located before you plant.   Accidentally digging into a utility line could cause personal injury or a costly service interruption.  Believe me, I’ve done this twice.  Never assume the lines are deeper than you’re digging.  From the trees perspective, they are again deceptive in how big they get.  Tree roots normally extend far beyond the tree’s branch spread above ground.  Tree roots and underground lines can often coexist, but if the tree is near a line that must be dug up for repair, its roots could be badly damaged.  Sewerage drain fields and tree roots are a bad combination; so don’t plant trees within 25’ of them.


Things to look for when selecting trees is average height and crown spread.  These will tell you the rough dimension of space the tree will require when fully grown, and give you something to measure to see if it will fit the site you have in mind.  There are lots of choices, so you should have no problem finding a tree that will work.  A little research now can save a lot of aggravation later on, so take the time.



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