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How close to American Elm tree to build garage?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Helper Forum' started by Hoosier_Mom, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. Hoosier_Mom

    Hoosier_Mom New Member

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    I live in southern Indiana in a rural area. I have a huge (60 -70') American Elm tree growing between my house and a barn. We've been here for 7 years, and we've noticed that the huge roots of this tree are more visible now. They seem to have come up to the surface and make mowing a little difficult. This is within 5 - 10 feet of the trunk.
    My questions are: I want to add a garage to my home. The closest edge would be about 20' from the tree trunk. Do you think this would be okay? I don't want to damage the tree, especially since it hangs over my house. That far out, do you think the roots would damage the concrete floor of the garage?

    And, what should I do about the large roots that are surfacing? Should I just mulch around the tree, plant some perennials or shrubs?
     
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  2. ATH

    ATH Addicted to ArboristSite

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    #1 question: Are you sure it is American elm? I see a lot of folks calling Siberian elm "American elm" because they know it is an elm, and that is the only elm name they know.
    #1A question (assuming it is American): Are you going to invest in hiring somebody to inject the tree every 3 years to protect if from Dutch Elm Dies. Depending on the diameter of the tree that could be several hundred dollars for each treatment. If it is American, and you want to save it, I'd have somebody reputable out to review it and plan your first treatment for this summer.

    If it is American elm and if you are not going to treat the tree, I'd seriously consider having it removed before you add more obstructions making it more costly to remove in the future.

    Having said all of that: 20' away from one side of the tree is pretty good. It is well documented that if the concrete is poured right, even tree roots in a tree lawn don't damage sidewalks.

    Be adamant that no construction equipment is parked under the tree, they are not driving over the rest of the rest of the root system, etc...

    Not much you can do about the surface roots. Sometimes trees respond to compacted soil with surface roots. Some trees (elm included) are just prone to that. You can put a a little soil over them, but not much or you will really hurt the tree.
     
  3. Hoosier_Mom

    Hoosier_Mom New Member

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    So if it is indeed an American Elm, it's a sure bet it's going to die? I remember searching the internet a few years ago, leaf in hand, and deciding it must be an American Elm. Is there an easy way to tell the difference in elms? I didn't think Siberians got that tall. I want to get an arborist out here, but I'm guessing it's pointless until it leafs out in the spring. Is that true? I saw somewhere that the bark will have white layers in it.
     
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  4. ATH

    ATH Addicted to ArboristSite

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    There are extremely few American elm that are resistant to Dutch El Disease (DED). Many juvenile trees are resistant or are not exposed to the disease for several years, but end up dying. I see them by the tens of thousands in the 6-10" diameter range...fewer as they get larger, but it is not uncommon to find a 30" diameter tree. It is equally common to find one that has died within the las couple of years. Bottom line: nothing is 100% in nature, but yeah...it will become infected and die. USFS lab does test for resistance for research trees. I am not sure if you could hire testing done to see if you tree has resistant genetics???

    As for ID: Yes, American elm bark is layers with light and dark. A half decent arborist can tell the species in winter. Post some pics here and we may be able to help. One from far away to show the form of the tree. One that shows bark close up and one that shows more bark (maybe zoomed out enough to see 2-3 feet of trunk length). While you are taking pics shoot one of the base of the trunk... American elm roots tend to buttress more than most others.
     
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  5. Hoosier_Mom

    Hoosier_Mom New Member

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    I found some older pictures with the tree leafed out. The picture of the leaves was taken back in 2008. The barn is 28-30 feet tall, to give you some reference.
     

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  6. maplegrovetom

    maplegrovetom ArboristSite Lurker

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    It's definitely not a Siberian elm, it has the form, bark, and buttressed trunk of an American elm, or one of the American elms, as there are several different subspecies in the mid-west states.
    It also appears to be the only shade in the yard, and removing it could make summer afternoons very uncomfortable. Without having a picnic table in a shady location for ladies to sip iced tea, and gentleman to enjoy cold beer after work, plus the increase in electrical cost from the air conditioner, could create an unhealthy atmosphere for the family.
    If it were my yard, I would spend the money to have the tree chemically treated to try to save it, as it's unlikely anything you plant for a shade tree will ever achieve that size in your lifetime.
    Building a garage 20 feet away should not hurt the tree, and raising the mower deck a notch might cure the protruding root issue.
     
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  7. Hoosier_Mom

    Hoosier_Mom New Member

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    Thanks for that. I was fairly certain it was some type of American Elm. The diameter is nearly 4 feet. There are pictures on the internet of the barn from the 60s or 70s, and the tree is there. It wasn't as big in the pictures as it is now. According to the post by ATH, this would be pretty rare to see an American Elm this size and age seemingly unaffected by DED. I will definitely find an arborist to come out and look at the tree. I will pay for treatments. The tree does give a lot of shade to the house and deck. People stop to take pictures of our Mail Pouch barn, and the tree really sets it off.
     
  8. Hoosier dad

    Hoosier dad New Member

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    You do not want too build your new garage that close to your huge american elm tree because your concrete floor would be sure to crack. Roots of american elm trees that are that big will cause the ground to expand and contract as much as 5 inches per season. However it sounds like you are planning in advance and atleast are thinking of the possability that if you do have it built there that it could damage your concrete. that being said i would consider picking a different spot to build it to be safe.
     
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