Not Your Everyday Tree Removal: Part 2
By Micah Pace
ISA Certified Arborist TX-3752
Professional Urban Forester
Qualified Tree Risk Assessor
See the first part of this article here.
Assessing the home and trees.
I recently completed a difficult tree removal job in McKinney (30 miles north of Dallas) that required professional crane service. The prospective client indicated that his usual “arborist” told him he needed to call more advanced professionals for this job, which leads us to lesson number #1 – Know your own limits!
I agreed to a site visit to discuss the work with the property owner. Upon arrival to the property, it was very clear that this was no ordinary removal job. Thirty-five years ago, this well-intentioned resident designed and built his home around three trees – 1 bois d’ arc (yellow arrow) and 2 cedar elms (1 in the center of house (red arrows) and 1 in back patio on right (blue arrow))…prized specimen no doubt, but again, he was well-intentioned after all.
Inside the custom home were two rooms approximately 6-feet by 8-feet with no foundation, complete with windows and doors accessible from inside the house, and whose ceilings were open to the sky. In one room grew a 38-inch diameter cedar elm. In the other room, a 28-inch diameter bois d’ arc stretched to the sky out of the roof. Complicating an already difficult situation was the fact that the large cedar elm had a four-foot long vertical crack in its trunk as well as a large (12”) cavity on the back right side. The trunk was also resting on the edge of the roof at the top of the room 15-feet up.
The third tree was actually outside. However, it too was growing directly along the side of the house. With two large diameter trunks protruding up through the roof itself, and with all three less than a foot from the walls of the house, this would be no simple removal job.
Age, limited root systems, construction stress, and countless storms over a 35-year period have resulted in the decline of both the safety and functional value of the trees. The need for their removal was evident, but their relatively large sizes, the unique design of their growing space, and their close proximity to the house would require the use of a crane to safely lift and carry the cut material up through the roof and away from the house.
Planning the Removal
Following an on-site meeting with a professional crane contractor, it was determined that a 115-ton crane would be used to handle the “picks”, or individual cuts, from an average boom reach of 60 feet. This size crane could easily hold 10,000+ lbs from the expected boom distance, so each pick was specifically assessed for weight and balance. An average weight of approximately 3,500 pounds per pick was determined using a species-specific log weight chart. The site was also assessed for logistical considerations such as placement of equipment (e.g. crane, trucks, chipper, trailer and front end loader) and material, as well as any potential hazards to the crew. A communication plan was also established to inform all the residents on the street of the pending work so they could plan accordingly for the temporary inconvenience on the day of service.
Performing the job
The day of the job arrived and all the pieces were set in place to perform the challenging removals. A pre-job safety meeting was held, including the crane operator and his signal caller, to insure everyone was clear on the goals and steps for a safe job. I cannot stress enough how important good communication is on jobs with this high level of difficulty.
We began with the large cedar elm in the center of the home. The tree’s canopy was sectioned out making the pre-selected picks accounting for weight and balance. The material was then lifted and placed in the street next to the chipper where crew members were ready to cut and chip the small diameter material. Large diameter branch and trunk material were lifted and placed onto the trailer directly by the crane or by the using the front end loader. This process was continued for each of the three trees.
The trunks represented the most difficult portion of the work since there was, quite literally, very little room for error while lifting the material up through the small rooms. I am proud to say that everyone worked safely and completed the project with no conflicts with the client’s property and no injuries. The trunks were securely tied-off and lifted very slowly while the signal caller, using a 2-way radio from inside the interior rooms, communicated directional commands to the crane operator outside in the front of the house.
One-by-one and piece-by-piece the large tree trunks were sectioned and safely lifted up and away from the house. The stumps were cut to as low to the ground as possible, with the exception of the tree outside. I guess the owner was just not quite ready to let go completely. They asked to leave a two-foot stump just outside their kitchen window.
After an 8-hr day the three trees were completely removed, the site was cleaned, the equipment loaded and stored, and I made sure to get out of there before the client could ask me about getting a stump grinder lowered in to the rooms!