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Planning a deck or patio? Watch out for your trees.

Even installing pavers around a tree can impact it. Be sure to protect your trees when you build a patio or deck.

Even installing pavers around a tree can impact it. Be sure to protect your trees when you build a patio or deck.

As our yards start to green up, it’s hard not to think about a summertime full of sitting outside under a favorite tree, sipping a nice cool lemonade. And it’s hard not to think about home improvements to help make that possible and more enjoyable –like a new deck or patio.

If you’re thinking of building a deck, patio – or any other home addition for that matter – be sure to think about the impact on your trees.

“Sometimes the very things people want to enjoy by building an outdoor seating area are what inadvertently suffer in the process,” says Craig Martin, an arborist representative with the Northbrook office of Bartlett Tree Experts. “Trees have sensitive root systems, and what a lot of people don’t know is that their roots are concentrated just below the soil surface and they extend out from the trunk to the farthest reach of the branches, sometimes farther.”

That means digging anywhere under the branches of a tree, or the “root zone,” could damage the tree. Compacting the soil in the root zone with construction equipment or by storing construction materials on it could also have an impact.

It’s the type of damage whose signs might not appear right away. In fact it could take years. But disturbing the roots of a tree can stress it, making it more prone to pests and disease. Just like people who experience excessive stress, it could send the tree’s health into a downward spiral that could eventually lead to death and removal.

And where would that leave the view from your new deck, patio or family room?

The good news is that there are ways to protect trees during construction. The first and most important step is to consult a certified arborist with a company accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association before you even start drawing up plans, whether you’ve got a do-it-yourself project or one that involves an architect. Often slight tweaks to a design can make the difference in coming up with a tree-friendly approach.

Beyond that, there are protective measures arborists can take to protect your trees during construction. They range from installing temporary fencing, mulching, pruning the roots (which involves cleanly cutting the roots with special equipment, instead of having them torn by excavation equipment), pruning the branches, and more.

An arborist can also help you explain to your contractor what needs to be done to protect your trees and why.

Considering the beauty and increased property value your trees lend to your home, they’re worth the extra effort.

Learn more about protecting your trees during home construction projects at the 2012 Chicago Flower & Garden Show, being held at Chicago’s Navy Pier, March 10 through March 18. Bartlett Tree Experts’ vice president Scott Jamieson will present “Great Excavations: Tree-Friendly Home Improvement” on Friday, March 16, at 11 am. Visit

Founded in 1907 by Francis A. Bartlett and in its third generation of family management, Bartlett Tree Experts ( has pioneered the science and services that make landscapes thrive. With offices in 25 U.S. states, Canada, Ireland and Great Britain, the company’s tree care experts provide a rare mix of local service, global resources and innovative practices that lead the industry. Distinguished by having its own tree research laboratory, Bartlett is the only private company in the National Plant Diagnostic Network, a consortium of government agencies and universities providing rapid diagnosis of plant pests and diseases.

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