Hazard Tree Assessments

How to tell if the tree looming over your house and in your thoughts is a hazard tree…

It’s big and it’s heavy, and it’s got the potential to put a major dent in your home and your finances…but is it truly a hazard tree? When should you worry? And when should you simply be grateful for the extra shade?

Trees lay across a house roof after a wind storm
Trees lay across a roof after a windstorm

We at Sand Creek Tree Service are experienced in assessing hazard trees. That said, not all problem trees are readily detected. Sometimes the structural defects are hidden inside the tree or below the soil. Sometimes, a “better safe than sorry” approach is best. We’ll always discuss options with you, letting you make the final call when it comes to potential risks that are hard to quantify.

However, many hazard trees present signs of their structural weaknesses. Ultimately, a hazard tree is one in which the weight of a tree – or a part of the tree – exceeds the tree’s structural integrity (in a branch, trunk or roots). When assessing your tree for risks, we evaluate the likelihood of the tree failing, the environment that contributes to failure, and the target (the part of your property that would sustain damage).

There are seven general problems that point to your tree being a hazard tree: decayed wood, cracks, root problems, weak branch unions, cankers, poor tree structure, and dead portions of the tree. Decayed or rotting wood is often indicated by shelf mushrooms – a parasitic fungus – growing on the trunk. Cracks are often obvious and can be the result of lightning, frost, or other factors. Root problems might be evidenced by a bulging in the ground to one side of the tree, indicating that anchor roots are slowly losing their capacity to hold the tree in place. Weak branch unions can appear as a kind of seam in the bark, a sign of included bark. This means the branch is not fully connected to the rest of the tree; as the limb grows over the years and increases in weight, that union my fail. Cankers will look like a bulge or deformation in the trunk of your tree, meaning that the bark and cambium layer are dead and nutrients aren’t flowing through the tree as they should. Poor tree structure simply implies that your tree has grown in a direction or manner that makes breakage more likely. Perhaps the tree has a heavy lean, or maybe a horizontal branch has acquired too much weight. Finally, a hazard tree is most obvious when it is dying (dead top or branches) or completely dead.

Besides looking at these seven factors, we also assess the direction of prevailing winds in your area and which direction your hazard tree might fall. Another important factor to consider is the target. What will the tree damage when it falls? If you have a hazard tree without the potential to damage your property or injure anybody, we sometimes suggest letting nature takes its course. Trees that humans deem hazardous can make for important animal habitat. Think of all our local eagles and osprey that nest in snags.

If a potential hazard tree is regularly invading your thoughts, don’t hesitate to give us a call. It’s better to bring down a tree in a controlled manner – especially around people and structures – than to let your roof bear the brunt. And who knows, maybe your tree is perfectly healthy and willing to provide you and your family shade and birdsong for another fifty years. But a little peace of mind provided by a professional is always worth the effort.

For more information, check out this excellent hazard tree graphic.

And the city of La Grande, Oregon, has a good hazard tree checklist.

Live Edge Slabs Now Available

Locally sourced live edge slabs are great for all your home projects…

It’s official: We’re now in the business of selling live edge slabs! Throughout our years of arborist work, we’ve amassed a fine collection of logs—maple, walnut, cherry, birch and more—that are now slabs, ready for your home improvement project. Whether you’re looking for a bar top, mantle, table or shelves, we’ve got something beautiful to cover your needs. And keep checking back with us; the tree business ensures we will never run out of wood.

For a look at our full inventory of live edge slabs, go to www.sandcreekslabs.com. You’ll find stuff that’s ready to sell now, along with slabs that are currently drying and will be ready soon.

Sand Creek Slabs is a natural outgrowth of our arborist business. When sought-after lumber like maple, walnut, Doug fir, and cherry started filling the log yard, we knew we couldn’t turn it into firewood or hobby mill with our chainsaws any longer. It was time to do right by these stately trees. We bought a Norwood sawmill, followed by a dedicated slabber for larger logs, and now we have a slab flattener in our arsenal, too.

We usually let a log rest for a few months before milling it into slabs. The slabs are then stickered, stacked, and air-dried outside for several years. It typically takes one year of air drying per inch of slab thickness. After wood moisture has reached an acceptable equilibrium outside, we place the slabs in a solar-powered kiln for up to six weeks during the drying season to gently finish them off with heat and air flow. The solar kiln does its work during the day and cools off at night, giving the wood an opportunity to rest. This helps prevent checking and warping while preserving the rich colors of the grain. Most slabs end up in the 8-to-12-percent moisture content range at the end of the process.

Now we have a plethora of beautiful pieces, ready for whatever creative project you have in mind. Call or visit our slab website today.

FREE Wood Chips and Logs!

Want wood chips or logs? We’ve got you covered…

Hey Sandpoint-area property owners! We’ve got an offer for you: free wood chips and logs! If your property is conveniently located and trailer accessible, delivery of chips and logs is free of charge. Loads vary by size and content, so we will contact you ahead of time to see if our offerings meet your needs. In the meantime, call us if you’re interested in getting added to our list. We’ll need an address and a good number at which to reach you.

free wood chips and logs
Wood chips are a great help in the garden.

Of course, a load of logs is a great way to jumpstart your firewood collection for the year. And you can’t beat free delivery. As far as wood chips go, they’ve got multiple applications: mulching, composting, creating pathways, use as animal bedding, erosion control, padding under playground equipment, and more. If you have questions about using wood chips as mulch (because it is a complicated subject), this site is a great place to start.

Sharing the byproducts of our work—both logs and chips—is a win-win situation. You help us by providing a drop site for material that needs a home, and we help you with your homesteading efforts. Give Jen a call today at 208-920-3564 and get on our list for the coming season. We’ll have a bounty of logs and wood chips before you know it.

Also, share this information with your friends. We have plenty of material to go around.

Sometimes we can accommodate preferences related to specific tree species and size, but the less picky you are, the more likely you are to receive deliveries from us. We’ll do our best to work together to make everyone happy.

Random Musings from The Lumberjill

In case you were wondering what goes on in a female arborist’s head…

The Lumberjill

Once upon a time, I was not a Lumberjill, but a writer. I was poor but creatively fulfilled and somewhat prolific. I wrote a lot. Now, with a thriving business and family, I rarely have time to pick up the proverbial pen. But the folks at the Sandpoint Reader give me reason to, holding space for a regular column called “The Lumberjill.”

It turns out that, during long days feeding the chipper and moving logs, many thoughts move through my brain. It’s fun to have an outlet for those musings. It’s fun to be The Lumberjill.

The column won’t help you diagnose tree health issues or assess hazard trees. Sorry. It’s not that kind of writing. (Call us if you need help with any of that stuff.) Instead, it’s a look into my stream-of-arborist-consciousness as it relates to gender issues, work-life balance, family dynamics, shifting life goals, the highs and lows of service sector work, and more. It’s the world as seen through the lens of Bugz. My Bugz, specifically.

The Lumberjill is in no way required reading, but if you’ve got time to kill—perhaps while waiting for your busy local arborist to show up and provide an estimate—head on over to the Sandpoint Reader and have a look around. I’m certainly not the only columnist worth reading there. But if you feel like checking out The Lumberjill’s musings, I’d be happy to hear what you think.

Hooray! A Bucket Truck!

A bucket truck joins our fleet to better serve your needs…

Though the 2020 season is just drawing to a close, we find ourselves looking ahead to next year and how we might better serve our clients. A bucket truck seems just the thing to handle a diversity of tree needs. From the removal of beetle-killed Doug firs too dangerous to climb, to unruly cherry trees in need of top-down attention, our new acquisition has you covered.

bucket truck
New to our fleet: a bucket truck.

Sand Creek Tree Service’s new bucket truck features a 75-foot working height elevator bucket, getting us within range of most of the cuts we’ll need to make. The truck also features a chip box with a dump feature, so once your limbs or trees are reduced to wood chips, we can deposit them wherever needed.

We anticipate that the bucket truck will make our work easier and allow us to tackle a greater diversity of jobs in a more efficient manner. However, this doesn’t mean we’ve hung up our harnesses just yet. A truck can’t get to every tree in the forest. If you have an inaccessible tree, don’t hesitate to call. We’re still ready with ropes and spurs to do what needs to be done.

We at Sand Creek Tree Service are so grateful to our community for choosing us year after year to tackle your tree needs. We wouldn’t be where we are today—a thriving business and a happy family—without your faith in us. Thank you, Bonner County. We plan to do right by your support for many, many years to come.