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BrandonC_1972 08-10-2012 08:35 AM

Transplant tree near underground utility lines?
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I unfortunately have a beautiful Red Maple tree that is planted in my back yard near underground utility lines (cable tv and electrical)
At what point in this trees life should I expect there to be problems with its root system and these utility lines?

If this is not for 10 years should I just let the tree go and then chop it down years from now?
If this will occur in a short time, when is it too late to easily transplant a tree?

In the photo the cable tv boxes are about 15 feet away, but notice the red flag right by the trunk
this is the line of where the utility lines go underground. I would say these lines are at least one foot under ground and could be 2 feet plus.
I base this on the frost line in my area being at least two feet and in another area of my yard I have gone almost 16 inches and not found a line yet.
I also base this on seeing how deep they make the trench of other homes in the plan when they build a new house.

As per the details, if I put a rope around the trunk of the tree middle it is about 9-11 inches around.
It stands about 12 feet tall.
It was installed less than one year ago (installed November 2011).

The placement of the tree was totally my mistake.
I had wanted the tree to be planted further away from this area.
The landscaping company kept putting me off for planting my trees (5 in total) last year becuase it was a smaller job.
They kept saying, we'll call you next week.
So in the meantime, I marked the area near the electrical box to help the PA One Call system to mark utility lines.
I did not expect the tree to go there. Shortly after the contractor called me and said my trees were installed.
I never got a chance to tell them that the white circles in my back yard were not the spots I wanted them.

user1007 08-10-2012 10:54 AM

The roots and utility lines may will learn to live together. The problem is that if you ever have to service the utilities you will end up chewing up tree roots and perhaps killing the tree. Plus working around the roots will cost you!

The problem with your strategy of letting them grow for 10-15 years and then cutting them down is that it makes this tree hugger cringe. I want already to picket you for planned tree cruelty. As a practical matter, while you can cut the tree down a decade from now, trimming and getting to all the roots is much more complicated.

You should have the trees moved now before they establish themselves.

iamhomer 08-11-2012 01:06 PM

look like the tree is still young..can you move to another place? wait until all the leaves are gone in the fall and move the tree to another rplace :thumbup:

gregzoll 08-11-2012 08:13 PM

Better to let the utility know that you plan on moving it. Even then, they may just tell you to leave it alone or get hit with a large bill if you knick a trunk line that feeds those pedestals.

BrandonC_1972 08-14-2012 01:09 PM

I am not a tree hugger but I would like to avoid killing this tree. I got 5 trees instead of 4 for the reason of promoting tree life. Even for the most huggable sycophant, there is a line in $$ that one would make the decision to put 'er to sleep.

I am betting low risk that any service outside of tree roots would occur in the next 30+ years. And the utility boxes that are there only service my home in the direction near my property (if there would be a root problem on other property I would have this same problem since there is another tree feet away from this suspect one).

Therefore, I am trying to gauge the repair cost of any utilities versus moving the tree. While it cost less than $100 a tree to initially plant my guess is that it would be $200 to move the tree. I am also trying to gauge if transplanting the tree would be successful as installing a brand new caliber tree would be $350. If in x years there is a service problem and this costs $200 I will leave the tree be. If this is $2000+ then I view this decision to be easily answered.

Moving the tree could have its own inherent risk both from hitting the utility lines during extraction as well as during the transplant. Therefore, I might be swaying away from the DIY approach.

Thanks for all of the insightful replies.

AGWhitehouse 08-14-2012 04:12 PM

The main roots aren't usually much large than the drip line (extent of the leaf canopy). I agree with all above...move it now. Don't wait for it to be a problem...

AGWhitehouse 08-14-2012 04:17 PM


Originally Posted by BrandonC_1972 (Post 988430)
If this is $2000+ then I view this decision to be easily answered.

That number isn't absurd when you're talking main electrical service in buried conduit. If the conduit is breached then you'll need to provide a whole new one to satisfy your local inspectors (I hope they're this diligent). You may be able to re-use the feeders, but that is a guessing game and depends if they even meet the code when the breach occurs. Rememeber buried conduit requires an excavator, sand surround, warning tape, and sealed conduit. Inspections ensure the excavator is on-site for at least a full day with is easily a $400 expense all by itself...

I know for me to put in a new 200A overhead service to my house at a wire length of approx. 50', I'm looking at over $1k in material alone. That was an over-beer-discussion estimate from last year by my electrican friend. I don't think things are getting cheaper.

notmrjohn 08-22-2012 05:28 PM

Move it now. For one thing it is planted way to deep, a common problem and even, I mean, especially the landscapers do it, . You should be able to see the root flare just above ground level. Because of that depth the tree is gonna have problems later on and you'll wind up chopping it down anyway. There are lots of folks making a living now using what they call an air spade to uncover the root flare of trees that were planted too deep years ago. Its not a cheap job. Take a look here
Scroll down to TREES ALL SUBJECTS and you'll see all about transplanting, planting, depth etc. And is that a bucket around the trunk? What's that for?
I'd raise hell with the landscapers, whadda ya mean, "totally my mistake"? They kept putting you off, they too busy to have you as a customer? Then they show up a year later without contacting you and just start planting trees without asking you where you wanted them? Have THEM transplant it, and make them do it right.
Unfortunatly I don't think you're gonna get much 'customer satisfaction' in the long run from folks that put off for a year in the first place. Call up some more landscapers ask how deep they plant their trees and how they figure out where the customer wants them. Ask um if they start digging holes B4 the utility companies have marked their lines, big fines for that in our area. Too bad there wasn't a high power line down there that those oh so busy guys wound up hitting, with an iron shovel.

chrisn 08-23-2012 03:33 AM

You will be planted deeper than that trees roots till it causes any problems with the utility lines

As they say in NY


notmrjohn 08-23-2012 09:08 AM

chrisn, I agree, the roots aren't gonna interfere with the utilities and the utilities aren't gonna affect the roots. But that tree is not planted correctly, there are going to be health and longevity issues down the line. Seems a shame to have to wait a year then pay for a job done so sloppily and that may cost more money later on.
Tho there are some un-tested and unproven claims that magnetic fields, such as occur around lines carrying electricity, have an effect on plant growth. Most theories say a benificial effect.But I think New Yorkers would say the same thing about those theories as the non-existant utility problem , which I think is actually, Fugget about it. Them Yankees shore dew tock funny.

chrisn 08-23-2012 04:59 PM

If it is planted to deep, I agree 100%, I cannot really tell from that pic.

Windows 08-26-2012 05:43 PM

I would talk to an arbourist about the tendency of red maples and let him have the final say. All trees are different and not all of them will necessarily interfere with the utilities. I have a HUGE madrone sitting right on top of the water, sewer and gas lines and when we had the sewer scoped, it looked as good as the day they put it in decades and decades ago.

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