The perfect lot in the perfect subdivision has been selected and you are planning to build your house around a couple beautiful 100 plus-year-old oak trees. A plan many people make without any thought to maintaining the health of the tree. Far too often I am called up to a new property to diagnose the declining health of a tree or even worse to remove one that has already died.
When looking at a massive work of art that is a 100 plus-year-old tree the last thing that comes to mind is fragility, but they are much more sensitive than their appearance lets on. When building near trees the major killer is soil compaction. The fibrous roots that are vital to the nutrient and water uptake of the tree are located all the way up to the top inch of the soil.
Driving heavy equipment over them daily for months and even heavy foot traffic smash the roots and greatly reduce uptake. A safe rule of thumb, if you are trying to save a tree during construction, is to make a barrier around the tree one and a half times the dip line (the area directly under the outer circumference of the branches of the trees). The likelihood of the tree surviving is greatly enhanced. Also, often fill dirt is brought in and the soil levels are changed leaving the roots buried too deep to function almost always condemns the tree to huge dieback or death. Just like with root compaction, if you leave the soil levels unaltered in a circle one and one and a half times the drip line of the tree it is likely the tree will survive and add great value to your property. Keep in mind any time you alter the site of a tree's root bed that there is the possibility of harm to the health of the tree and in most cases, a little preventative planning can save thousands in tree value and removal cost.