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How to Prevent a Broken Tree From Causing Major Home Damage

What would happen if a storm took a tree down on your property? A broken tree or one of its limbs can cause major (and costly) damage to your roof, siding, deck or even your car.

Fortunately, most tree damage is preventable. Paying attention to detail and regular tree maintenance can help ensure that trees on your property stay healthy—and far enough away from your home. In this article, learn how to identify broken tree dangers and what steps to take to help keep your property safe.  

How tree damage happens

Tornadoes, thunderstorms and hail can wreak havoc on properties. And, unfortunately, these types of storms are common. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Severe Storms database, about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide every year.

Damage from severe thunderstorm winds should not be underestimated, as they account for half of all severe storm reports in the lower 48 states. These storms are even more common than damage from tornadoes, with wind speeds up to 100 mph.2

Just one major gust of wind from a thunderstorm can bring down a large limb. If that limb is anywhere near your roof, siding, deck or another part of your home, costly damage could occur. Ideally, you’ll want to spot and prune a weak tree or limb before it comes down. 

How to identify a tree issue

According to a Senior Claims Supervisor at Amica, “It’s important to take a good look around your property frequently. Identify diseased or dead trees, and trees with limbs that hang over your roof, shed or septic system. These are all trees that can cause danger and damage.”3

They also suggest having an arborist visit your home every couple of years. A certified arborist can help point out signs of weakened trees, and suggest which trees and limbs may need to be pruned back. Ask an arborist to walk your property in the early winter, during their slow season. You may even get a better deal on their services.

Regular tree pruning and maintenance can help stop most damage from occurring in the first place. The more you’re aware of what’s happening, the better. After all, wind can damage a tree limb in minutes—and you’ll want to know right away.

Here are seven signs that a tree needs pruning or maintenance work as soon as possible:4

Tree damage warning signs infographic.

Sign 1: There are wires touching a tree’s branches. Electricity can run through a tree’s branches and be incredibly dangerous to anyone who comes in close contact. If you see a tree that’s touching electrical wires, never try to trim it on your own. Call a professional arborist for help—before a limb falls and your power goes out.

Sign 2: You see large, dead branches. Be on the lookout for dead tree limbs hanging above your roof, deck, car or other parts of your property. It’s easy for a windstorm or hailstorm to break a branch and cause damage.

Sign 3: There are split or cracked branches. If you see a large split or a crack in a tree, call an arborist for help. If left unattended, a large split can easily bring a tree down on your property. 

Sign 4: A tree has fallen on another tree or a branch. If a tree falls, it can put pressure and stress on other trees below it. Work with a professional to remove surrounding trees and their branches, in addition to the one that fell.

Sign 5: There is a decayed or hollowed trunk. Check the base of the tree for signs of weakness, including hollowed areas and other decay. This is a sign that a tree can fall.

Sign 6: There is peeling bark on the trunk. If you notice large wounds and peeling at the base of the tree, it may be a sign of structural damage. Ask an arborist if it’s time for the tree to come down.

Sign 7: You spot heaving soil around the tree. If you see an upward swelling of soil around the base of the tree, beware. Called “heaving,” it usually happens when a tree’s root system is no longer absorbing water. As water collects around the roots, the soil swells.

What happens if a tree damages my home? 

Sometimes, you just can’t prevent an accident from occurring. Fortunately, that’s why homeowners insurance exists. It’s there to help cover the cost of removing fallen trees and repairing any damage they caused to structures and personal property.

If you experience tree damage on your property, prioritize your safety first. This means you should look for downed power lines, dangling limbs at risk of falling, or serious structural damage that could lead to collapse. You may need to call 911 if it appears to be an emergency situation, or if the power lines have been hit. If this is the case, call the appropriate authorities right away.4 Until the area is safe, make sure that you and your loved ones are far away from the risk and in a safe location.

“The key is to be safe first. Then, once the storm has passed, call your insurance company to file a claim and get help with the cleanup and repairs,” the Amica Senior Claims Supervisor says. Amica offers Contractor Connection® services that can help you find a licensed and insured professional whose work is guaranteed for up to five years — and this service is available 24/7 for support.

If you can do so safely, take photographs of the tree damage before cleanup begins. Most insurance companies, including Amica, can adjust claims online using clear and detailed photos. This can help make the process as quick and hassle-free as possible. Plus, photos offer documentation that can be helpful if you encounter a dispute with a neighbor or another party involved in the damage.

What tree damage is covered by homeowners insurance?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Insurance policies can vary by state, and by situation. Generally speaking, however, a homeowners policy should offer tree debris removal coverage when a tree falls on your property, subject to some limitations. If a neighbor’s tree falls on your property, your homeowners policy (not your neighbor’s) may step in to help. However, your neighbor may be liable if the tree was damaged or unhealthy, and they neglected to maintain or remove it despite several documented attempts to gain their cooperation.

Sometimes policies can cover the cost of purchasing a new tree, but not always. It depends on your policy and the specific circumstances that led to the tree coming down. You’ll want to talk to an insurance representative to find out if your policy will pay for tree replacement.

If a tree damages your car, your auto insurance policy may cover the damages. This type of damage would be covered under Other Than Collision (also called Comprehensive) coverage. Check your auto policy to see if you have that protection. Meanwhile, your homeowners insurance policy would typically pay for removal of fallen tree debris. Both policies work separately, but also together to cover the damage—it’s just another great reason to bundle your auto and home insurance.

Overall, your homeowners insurance policy is there to protect you if an unexpected disaster happens. But, remember, it’s always best to prevent issues before they occur by conducting regular home maintenance and tree pruning. For most people, the best bet is to look around at your property regularly. Fix issues before they become bigger. Tree maintenance can go a long way in preventing major damage to your home.

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1 Facts + Statistics: Tornadoes and thunderstorms, Insurance Information Institute, 2021.
2 Severe Weather 101–Damaging Winds, The National Severe Storms Laboratory, 2021.
3 Interview with Stephen Norsek, Sr. Property Claims Supervisor at Amica, 2021.
4 Storm Damage, Tree Care Tips, 2015.

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