How to Protect Trees During Construction

Four Methods:Assessing your TreesCreating a BarricadeDigging Trenches near TreesTreating Tree Damage

Construction can be disruptive to the environment around a plot. If you want to save trees and bushes around the plot or your home, you will need to take precautions before construction starts. As well as damage from falling debris, trees can be compromised because of compacted soil and roots and a lack of water. You will need to decide which trees you want to save and make a perimeter surrounding them. This article will tell you how to protect trees during construction.

Method 1
Assessing your Trees

  1. 1
    Read your state and city's land use code. Many cities have rules about removing trees and protecting them during construction. Share any applicable rules with the interested parties on the project.
  2. 2
    Meet with your contractor or architect to discuss what changes will need to be made with the landscape. If you are doing a small renovation, some trees may not be affected at all, while others may need to be protected or removed.
  3. 3
    Call an arborist or landscape architect to appraise the stability of your current trees. If some of the trees are dying or are not structurally sound, they may need to be removed instead of saved.
    • You should be especially conscious of older, mature trees. These trees often pose a risk to structures if they fall. They also have a harder time adapting to environmental changes than younger trees. If these trees will be within 5 feet (1.5 m) of your new construction, you should remove them.
  4. 4
    Hire a landscape architect to handle the entire landscape plan for your construction area. The architect can handle the transplanting of trees, removal of trees and protection of others. You should approve a plan to landscape the area before construction starts.
  5. 5
    Consider relocating smaller trees to other parts of the property. If they are at risk, you can hire an arborist to help you safely move and replant the trees where they will thrive.
    • Tree species adapt to change differently. Consult the table of relative ease of adaptability at before making your decision to move or protect a tree.

Method 2
Creating a Barricade

  1. 1
    Assess the tree's root system. You will need to consider the horizontal space below the tree as well as the tree limbs, branches and trunk. Keep the following parameters in mind:
    • The tree's root system extends horizontally in all directions approximately as far as its height. Measure this area away from your tree and mark it with a stake.
    • You must aim to protect at least 50 percent of the root system from construction vehicles in order to ensure the tree will be safe. Measure approximately half of the length of the tree and mark it with a stake on each side. This is the area you will need to protect.
  2. 2
    Ensure you have a water source during construction. Most construction takes place during the warm spring, summer or fall months. During summer, trees need to have the soil around their roots saturated every 1 to 2 weeks.
  3. 3
    Buy metal or wooden posts to help put up barricades. You will also need some netting to string around those posts. Bright orange netting will advertise an extra need for caution around the area.
  4. 4
    Choose the size of your barricade by the age of your tree.
    • For trees that have been planted 1 to 4 years ago, the barricade should extend just beyond the branches and leaves of the tree. This is called the drip line.
    • For trees that are older, the barricade should extend 1 extra foot for every inch of the trunk's diameter in all directions.
  5. 5
    Place a layer of wood chips around the tree in the barricade. This layer should be approximately 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) deep.
  6. 6
    Post signs around your barricade to help communicate that the tree is to be protected. This can help to warn construction crews, and it will reduce the likelihood of damage from machinery.
  7. 7
    Check on the health of the tree and structure of the barricades at least once per week during the construction period.

Method 3
Digging Trenches near Trees

  1. 1
    Minimize damage if a trench must be dug near a tree. This process can easily damage root systems and make the roots susceptible to fungi and diseases.
    • If possible, ensure that the trench is at least 8 feet (2.4 m) away from the tree trunk.
    • Once the trench is dug, cleanly cut affected roots with shears.
    • Fill in the trench as soon as possible to avoid extra stress on the tree.

Method 4
Treating Tree Damage

  1. 1
    Treat tree wounds immediately. Remove loose wood and bark from the wound. Leave the wound open, without a dressing.
  2. 2
    Look for signs of tree damage, such as scorched leaves, drooping branches, flowering out of season, leaf changes out of season, excessive needle shedding or excessive winter dieback. Some trees will take years to show signs of internal construction damage.


  • Hire a tree care specialist, such as an arborist or urban forester, if you want to be sure your trees are safe during construction. Look in the phone book and online. Check the person's references and be sure they have liability insurance before employing them.
  • It is a good idea to try to protect a mixture of different tree species. This will fortify your landscape in case of pathogens or insect infestations.
  • Saving groups of trees improves each tree's survival chances. Individual trees have a harder time dealing with construction stress than those in groups.


  • Stress to a tree's roots, branches or bark make the tree more susceptible to parasitic insects. If your town is undergoing an infestation of bark beetles or something similar, consider taking aggressive steps in your construction plan to protect it.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal/wooden posts
  • Orange netting
  • Stakes
  • Measuring tape
  • Water source
  • Shears
  • Signs
  • Landscape architect
  • Arborist/urban forester

Article Info

Categories: Environmental Awareness