Is it Safe to be Surrounded by trees so close?

chuehNovember 25, 2011

I am a green person, and do not want a lawn. It's rare to find a house without a lawn. I love trees and woods, and always love to live in a mountain woody setting. What I love is idealized though; I am not sure how safe to have a house all 3 sides surrounded by all the trees perhaps 5 ft away from a house, except the opening for the driveway. Please look at the pictures. The second one is the aerial picture where you cannot even tell exactly where the house is, due to so many trees around. I put an blue-purple arrow there to indicate where the house is. You can see now a little roof color and sidings shown. Also, although there are a lot of windows and skylights, there are so many evergreens there blocking the sunlight in the winter. Wouldn't it make the heater work harder in the winter, although it is in metro Atlanta GA. Normally, every household turns the heat on from mid November to Feb or even March. Any comments? Thanks

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LOVE the setting in the photo. I am surrounded by trees and do not have any problems other than once in awhile need to trim a few branches/twigs if they start touching the house (this is rare and maybe is needed once every 5 years but only a branch or two). The trees will protect you somewhat from the cool winter winds in GA. It is great to have no lawn to care for. Also the trees will keep the sun from baking the house in the hot summer months. If you decide to park a car outside, it isn't baking in the sun.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 1:10PM
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I think everyone feels differently about it. That many trees wouldn't be my ideal. I like trees for shade, but not so close to the house. I think it is more likely to get damage from a dropped tree or limbs in a storm and have mold issues. I think you'd also have more damage because of potential blockages in the gutters and piles of debris on the roof. If the woods catch on fire, you don't any barriers. I also like gardens which wouldn't do well with no direct sun.

If you love this house, I would clear the trees out further away from the house so you're still surrounded, but have less potential tree caused problems. If you don't want a lawn, I think you could build in some natural looking rock pathways, rock gardens, and water features so you have space, but not the upkeep of a lawn.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 1:31PM
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I would talk to a home inspector (or research) the local conditions. Here because of winter storms and moisture, a little further from a house is preferable. There's ways of dealing with it though and I know plenty of people who have treed lots instead of lawns.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 1:59PM
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A uniform tree distribution and height like you have should be reasonably wind resistant (though a tornado or hurricane can tear just about anything apart).

An ice storm is probably the next big hazard to trees.

as long as you have insurance I would not give it a second thought.

That is what you pay for insurance for.

You do need to watch and make sure no damage was done to the trees during construction.

It can take a couple years for heavy equipment damage to roots to show up, though dense stands of trees do not often have that wide a root area.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 3:19PM
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In a typical GA ice storm, if a tree falls, it usually starts out falling slowly. Because the above home is so close to the trees, a falling tree would bump up against the home pretty quick, before it gained any speed. This would likely result in very minimal damage to the home. You would simply have a tree leaning against the home and maybe a dented gutter. Those this is very unlikely to occur anyway. It's not worth it to cut the trees just in case such a rare, rare thing occurs.(the ice storms aren't rare, but most trees stand up well to the these trees in the photo surely weathered many ice storms over the years and are still standing tall). Because the trees are so close together, they form a dense wind block and they aren't as subject to strong wind on one tree, which is what is more likely to fall a tree in an ice storm.

A falling brach is typically going to fall straight down, not fall sideways(against gravity) toward the home. So I wouldn't worry about branches falling onto the home, even in heavy wind.

Fire...not so typical in GA. Not something to cut the trees for.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 8:44PM
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Just took another look at the photo. The house color matches the tree trunks. That's pretty neat. It's a stealthy house, hidden in the woods and painted to match the woods. You'll have a ton of privacy. That's priceless.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 10:06PM
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Personally I like more sun, but the best house I ever lived in temperature-wise was one that was surrounded by trees like that. It was so cool in the summer I didn't have to use the air conditioning and so warm in the winter my heating bills were very low. Part of it could have been the house. But I don't think there was anything special about its energy efficiency. It had vermiculite insulation in the walls, original Depression-era windows with storms, a basement, and rolled insulation in the attic. I have to say I got a little nervous in wind storms when the trees were bending to and fro (tall pine trees) but I was told they were supposed to do that. I imagine you could keep an eye on your trees and remove rotten ones.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 10:41PM
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Love it and trees are natural for blocking sun and light and heat and also blocking wind and cold. It would be much colder if you cleared that property. Oh, and from the looks of your photo, there are some dead trees that need to come out, unless they are just leafless because of the season. I'd get an aroborist to check out the trees on the property if you are concerned.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 11:22PM
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It would be too dark for me, but I'm a big lover of sunlight! Do have an arborist check to see if the trees are healthy. An earlier post said fire isn't a hazard there...really? (Check your homeowners insurance options.) Friends built in a pine forest in Arizona and were nearly burned out twice. Then their pines started dying from pine bark beetles.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 10:16AM
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Chisue, I lived in the White Mountains in AZ for a while, and the fire danger is quite high there compared to many other areas because

1. Although it looks green, the monsoon weather pattern means you alternate between undergrowth growing like mad and then drying out completely, making great tinder. GA mountain area is more open, less underbrush.

2. Lightning is a major problem out there, but most of the major AZ fires have been started by stupid campers in the national forests. While there are probably stupid campers in the GA mountains, too, I suspect they don't panic so much because they don't think they'll be lost forever unless they build a big blaze to attract helicopters (at least I haven't heard of this happening).

So while I'm sure fire is a consideration, I doubt it's as high a risk as in the AZ mountains (the ranch where I lived, up near Alpine, went completely in the Wallow fire, BTW).

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 10:33AM
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I have lived in my current house in metro Atlanta for 21 years, and have a yard with a lot of trees.

Yours is a lovely lot and I can see why you like it. I love trees, too, and was very excited 21 years ago to be moving onto such a wooded lot.

When we first moved here many of our trees in our neighborhood were the sizes of trees yours appear to be. My husband wanted to thin the trees and cut the ones close to the house, but I was very opposed. We compromised, but in hindsight I wish I'd let him cut down all the trees he wanted to. In our mature neighborhood the owners who have regularly thinned their trees and done some maintenance still have lovely lots, but the ones who have just let all the trees get bigger have started having problems. Most of our neighbors cut some trees and thin the branches on others as time goes by.

I don't know anyone who's from around here who worries about fire damage from trees too close. I know that is a big concern for some areas of the country, but not here. I also don't think I'd worry about utility bills because of the trees. For us it's more expensive to keep the house cooler in the summer than to keep it warm in the winter. I think the trees help with the summer utility costs.

It's very possible, probable even, that I don't know as much about trees as sweet_tea (love that name!!!!). But my opinion about trees damaging your property is a bit different. We do have a problem in our neighborhood with tree limbs damaging cars, particularly in ice storms but in other times as well. And I do think some of the limbs have been blown by the wind sideways instead of straight down. Also, plenty of people here have trees that crash onto the roof and do major damage. That is one of our concerns, but some of our trees are much larger than anything you appear to have on your property. Those trees that were just fine when we moved in 21 years ago are large enough to cause more damage now.

At the sizes your trees are now, I wouldn't worry too much about mold or mildew. But as the trees get larger I think you will find they block more sun than you like, and if you don't keep the branches trimmed from over your roof you may have some problems.

Personally I don't worry about hurricanes; we are far enough inland so that I don't think it's a problem. I also don't worry about tornadoes. If a tornado hits, whether you have trees or not you could sustain major damage. The best thing for a tornado (in my opinion) is to go to the basement and pray for the best.

By far the biggest headache with our wooded lot is all the leaves in the gutters. So if you're not going to be in the house for decades, if I were you I'd buy the house and enjoy it, as long as I was prepared to deal with the gutters. If you're going to be in the house for decades, be prepared to do some tree maintenance. All my older relatives told me that when we bought this house, and I thought they just didn't love trees the way I do. But I was wrong.

I hope you enjoy metro Atlanta and all the beautiful trees.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 11:09PM
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We had a tree service out last week. Had a dead tree removed that was right next to our back deck, as well as limbs from our very large maple trees in the front/side yard that were touching our roof and neighbors garage.

We didn't want a service that would drive over the roots with heavy equipment or 'top' any trees, so we asked a few questions before we went with our final choice. The person we selected was an arborist who runs a tree service.

He did a good job and we will use him again when/if the need arises.

I got lots of good info from the 'Trees' forum here at GW, as well as few other sites we googled.

Links that might be useful:,,20224962,00.html

    Bookmark   November 27, 2011 at 10:01AM
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Treed lots need to be maintained! I personally live in an open area, but have many neighbors who live on lots like th one you showed.

My neighbor across the street doesn't maintain his lot and trees fall on his house & cars all the time. He's taken to parking at my house during high winds instead of being proactive and cutting down the dead or dying trees that are the first to fall.

Other neighbors have created a space around their houses by cutting down the closest, and then maintaining the rest.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 1:20PM
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I love trees, the pics of the house looks wonderful, but thats way too many trees for me! Problem with trees, like everyone else says, is branches will be constantly falling down. You will need to be very careful parking your cars outside if you want to avoid damage. And limbs don't just fall straight down, either. They can be carried by the wind, and its surprising how far they can fall away from the tree. You also have the problems with leaves and pine needles clogging the gutters, tree sap, pollen, etc.

The tree canopy will also make it get dark much earlier. So if there are things you need to do outside, you will run out of daylight a lot earlier. At night it will be pitch black, which could be great for sleeping, but that also presents problems with home security. In the winter, you will have a lot more ice on the streets, and it will take longer to melt off.

Something I don't think I have seen mentioned yet is insects. You will have tons of insects which will be constantly getting into the house. I once saw one of those shows on TV where the house was overrun by brown recluse spiders (I think they are poisonous) - they kept exterminating, but it was a losing battle - they could never get rid of them. They said all the trees and the shade made it the perfect breeding grounds, that it was impossible to control them. Don't mean to scare ya - but that scenario didn't look too fun to me!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 9:54PM
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The last house we sold we had a lot of trees on a couple of acres. I remember one time looking in the yard and counting trees and stopping at 65 (they wasn't all of them though).

When we bought the property DH loved the idea of the trees. I'm allergic to a lot of trees so was less enthused, but they were lovely.

The property we have now bought has only a few trees on it and DH is now glad.

Some of the issues we had:

1. Constant branches and leaves in the yard. Worse, many of ours were pecan trees so there were nuts everywhere. Maintaining the yard so that it looked nice was just very difficult.

2. We had a pool. We had had a pool in a prior house which we had maintained on our own. On this property we had to pay for professional maintenance due to all the leaves constantly falling in the pool. It made maintenance very expensive.

3. We couldn't have satellite HD TV because the trees blocked too much of the sky over the house.

4. When we had a hurricane in the area even though we had little rain in our area the cost to clean up felled trees and branches afterwards was $8000. Another bad rainstorm felled another tree and broke branches (some landing on top of the house) to the tune of $2500 to clean up.

5. This may not matter to you but having grass was really impossible. We basically had natural cover on the ground and that was the best we could do. Mowing was also difficult given the many trees.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 1:42AM
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Healthy trees very rarely happen to fall over, even in a storm. The trees that fall over or lose large limbs are stressed and diseased. A little maintenance and common sense will keep you safe.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 7:07AM
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Sometimes a tree appears healthy up until the time it snaps. That's when you see the rot inside. And even healthy trees can get uprooted if the ground is wet enough.

Tree maintenance can be expensive. We pay $225-$250/hour for a qualified tree crew, with 4- or 8-hour minimum depending on the season.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 11:33AM
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I am surrounded by thousands of trees..some are so close you can touch the leaves if you lean off the porch. We are not infested with bugs. No more bugs than other homes we had that had no trees.

When you have a forest, you let it go natural and do not attempt a lawn under the canopy. Because of this, you let the leaves and branches and twigs fall where they are. You can even leave dead fallen trees and they cannot be seen if they are in the dense forested areas. The lower branches of pine trees naturally fall and things are so darn thick, it does not look messy and does not need constant maintenance. There is often an understory of shrubs and smaller trees under the larger trees, and they hide the fallen twigs and such.

If you attempt a lawn, then the thin grass is an issue and then the branches and twigs are a concern because you are trying to have a lawn and this requires bare areas for only grass. So you forego the lawn and let the forest be....the forest.

Dead trees are called snags and they are good to keep if they are far enough from the home and are not an eyesore (so they don't fall on the home). Snags are good for woodpeckers and other birds and insects.

It does NOT get darker outside sooner in the forest. Yes, it is shady and not sunny. But you can be outside after sunset and you can still see things fine...up until it is total dark outside (just like the non-forest).

You have total privacy, as folks cannot see the home from the road or from other homes. It feels like hundreds of acres in terms of privacy.

You might get owls at night and they make some noise (which I love). You will get some woodpeckers but they are not active at night. A full moon will cast some awesome light and shadows in the forest. It's like walking through a national forest, but you are in your own yard. You find yourself taking a walk just to view what nature might bring that day.

Because the woods are left natural, you can easily hear anything that is walking in the woods (crunch, crunch). Even a squirrel can be heard walking nearby...or raccoons or possum, etc. You learn the noises well and can often tell the size of the animal based on the noise it makes in the woods, and how fast it goes.

There are some awesome looking mushrooms that grow in the woods, usually after recent rains. There are some that are various colors and textures and some are prettier than some flowers.

Because the forest is natural, you don't have to worry about watering, or fertilizing or herbicides. It is much easier than having a lawn to care for.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 11:40AM
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"Other neighbors have created a space around their houses by cutting down the closest"

This is one of the things that can create a gap in the tree crown that makes the remaining trees more vulnerable to wind damage.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 9:35AM
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I can see why you love your lot.

It reminds me of this saying from my childhood:

Scent of the pine brings back memories of good times.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 4:16PM
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I live on a lot much like the one you posted. I've lived here for 20 years. I don't have a "yard" because I live in the woods. I do have a savanna restoration in the back where my septic system is since the woods were cleared there.

I don't need to say much beyond what sweet tea said because that pretty much sums up my position on living in the woods. It is absolutely spectacular. We do have the trees around our house trimmed every few years to keep them off the house. We have had to have a few diseased trees removed over the years. When a tornado struck very nearby we had a couple blow down in our driveway. Just last year when we had record low barometric pressure we had a tree fall on the house for the first time. It was a huge, old oak tree. It didn't crash through the house it fell on the house and we had to have it removed from the house and some minor shingle and siding repair.

If you love the woods it is so worth whatever minor inconveniences you might experience. It is not "dangerous". I'm sure statistically it's much more dangerous to get in your car and go for a drive.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 3:50PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Some insurance companies would decline to insure your house based on the high risk category such a setting has. We don't live anywhere near as wooded a location as pictured, but our company did a drivethrough of our neighborhood and we had to remove a pecan tree that they deemed too close to the house to keep our policy. Several other neighbors also had to remove trees or reduce their canopy close to their houses. One neighbor who refused and lost his policy ended up with a high risk policy from another company at quadruple the rates.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 4:38PM
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I did some research on this when I was looking at a house with old oak trees very close to the house. My insurance company said they would definitely charge more unless they were cut down.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned foundation damage. According to my internet browsing, the roots of a tree swell in a wet season and shrink in a dry season, and the masonry can't cope with the push/release of pressure. I'm sure there are local circumstances, but if the insurance company believes in it, there must be something there. The real question is how much clearance do you need - My gut says fifteen feet, which should not change the nature of your lot much.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 12:11PM
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"My insurance company said they would definitely charge more unless they were cut down. "

Time for a new insurance company.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 2:50PM
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"I'm surprised no one has mentioned foundation damage."

Good point.

When we purchased our house last year, the inspection revealed a foundation problem on the west wall of our basement. Tree roots from a huge maple on that side of the house were causing it to buckle as well as clog the storm line.

Our inspector recommended we put up a couple of foundation poles to prop the sagging wall and have the storm pipe replaced. It was clogged with tree roots. We'd heard that heavy equipment could kill the roots so we asked the waterproofer to take care and use a smaller machine to do the trenching. After the work was done, we had the tree service out to remove a dead tree, evaluate the maple and trim up anything else that needed it.

Last year was a record year for rain. We feel fortunate that we got the work done early so we wouldn't have to worry about the house collapsing, the basement flooding, or tree branches coming down during winter storms!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 7:33PM
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