Excavation and Earthwork

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Excavation Service FAQ

No one can say for sure. Many of my customers have gotten conflicting answers from certified arborists that also work for the tree service companies and were left confused or uncertain of which path to take. If you are not comfortable, it is best to get the opinion of an independent consulting arborist if you have any doubt about whether or not the tree is stable and safe.

It is difficult for an untrained eye to recognize whether a tree is unsafe. Tree service estimators are rarely independent and often recommend a more expensive job than they really believe is necessary. We don’t do this! Sometimes all it takes is wind sailing or cleaning out the inner canopy to make a tree much more stable. Other trees may have a lean and can be corrected by balancing. We will always give you honest information so that you can make the right decision for your property.

Many older trees will have dead wood and branches hung up in them. If these fall they can be dangerous – tree branches are heavy! We can clear them out for you, and we will always give you honest information about whether a tree should be removed for safety reasons.

It depends on the tree, and we can’t give you a good answer without looking at it.

Trees are removed for a variety of reasons: failing health, poor location, property development, too much maintenance required, improper pruning in the past, pests, threatening assets below, heart rot, root rot, diseases and much more. There are many factors to consider before reaching a decision.

These factors include: species, age, health, current stability, balance, direction of the lean the tree has, position on the property, surrounding vegetation, rooting habit/soil type, density of the stand, and the ability of the tree to sprout.

As always, we will give you our honest assessment of the condition of the trees on your property and give you the information you need to make the right decision for your trees.

People tend to remove many more trees than are necessary. The value of a healthy, strong tree on a slope or bluff far outweighs its value as lumber or firewood. A tree should be retained unless it is a hazard to life or property, is growing directly on a building site, driveway or drain field area, is over your roof line or has some other major problem.

We can help you explore alternatives to removal before deciding to cut. The location of trees and other factors involved should be considered carefully. You may find that a particular tree does not need to be removed.


Generally, the influence of a tree’s roots on a given site will be related to the tree’s age and size. Larger trees will have more extensive, often deeper and better developed root systems. Dominant trees, those larger and taller than the surrounding ones, have usually been subjected to more wind and develop stronger root systems as a result.

Trees compensate for shallow rooting by increased spread of root systems. Recent research has indicated that a tree’s root system will extend considerably beyond the drip lines, often as much as two to three times as far. Extensive lateral root systems are common where soil moisture is excessive, soil is shallow, and impervious soil layers impede vertical growth. Where soils are porous, well-drained, deep, and no impervious layer exists, deeper rooting will occur.

Some trees will re-sprout even though the tree was cut off at the ground. A fallen cottonwood can sprout and root up the entire length of the tree just by laying on moist ground. One time Bob removed a fir stump that had continued to grow under a concrete drive, and it cracked the concrete and raised it 3 inches!

The ability of a tree to sprout from a cut stump can be an important characteristic when a property owner is concerned about securing a view without jeopardizing the stability of a slope, or whether or not to remove or grind a stump in their yard. On slopes and hill sides the maintenance of a vigorous, live root system will be important to soil-binding benefits.

Though most tall brush species common to our area will readily sprout when cut, there are relatively few tree species that do so. All of these are broad-leaved deciduous trees. Careful cutting of the species listed offers a means of view clearing without jeopardizing slope stability. The following common trees are capable of sprouting when cut.

Willow: sprouts readily.
Red Alder: often sprouts; leave four to five inches of trunk uncut for more vigorous growth. Older trees sprout less consistently. Repeated cutting increases mortality.
Big Leaf maple: sprouts profusely when cut. Older, larger stems, when cut, can be avenues of infection. Sprouts can grow as much as six feet per year.
Vine Maple: sprouts similarly to Big Leaf Maple. Vine Maples can be trained and pruned into tree form.

Most conifers will not successfully stump-sprout when cut.

Fast-growing cottonwood and poplar trees can create problems for homeowners. When they become mature or old they simply start to fall apart, fall/blow over or even break in half from their already weak trunks or main stems. Cottonwood and poplar tree roots sprout new plants and they can clog septic and sewer lines. Controlling these trees takes diligence and work. If the tree is cut down, the root sprouts will continue to grow rapidly. They evolved with these characteristics to survive fire and drought.

It is not uncommon for cottonwood sprouts to develop from the roots, especially after the tree has been cut. Even if the stump is treated with stump killer, the roots often produce sprouts. To solve this problem in most cases, we can dig the stumps out with an excavator. If the stump is entangled in underground utilities such as sewer, septic, power, or gas lines the best we can do is stump grinding unless that utility is going to be replaced. When there are surface roots we can use the stump grinder to grind them as well, or we can take a more extensive route and use a Harley Rake to go over the area or remove the surface soil and roots. Then we can come back and put down a fresh 4-6” of top soil, and re-plant the grass.

You can mow the new sprouts, but that will leave hard sticks at the level of the grass and these sticks may try to begin growing again. You can cut them with a shovel below ground level, and they may still try to grow. Finally, you have the option of applying herbicides. A systemic (trans-locating) broadleaf herbicide will not harm the lawn if used according to directions but will be absorbed into the Cottonwood sprouts and trans-located into the roots, killing more than just the stem. Some of the roots will survive so some sprouting may continue, but this will help stop the sprouts.

In any method, the important consideration is to keep the sprouts from retaining leaves. It takes energy stored in the roots as carbohydrates to produce the new sprouts. The leaves produce food which is returned to its roots making additional growth and sprouting possible. Removal of the leaves soon after they are formed (by using a mower, digging with a shovel, or applying herbicides) prevents the replacement of the carbohydrates in the roots. In time these carbohydrates will be depleted and sprouting will stop.

Examine cottonwood and poplar trees regularly. Look for dead branches, cracks, and up-rooting of the stump. Trim the lower branches of the tree every year in the winter to maintain a straight tree form. A cottonwood or poplar tree can grow between four and eight feet per year and end up growing well over 100 feet tall.

Brush and trees on hill crests or hillsides can be very important in terms of slope stability and erosion control. Healthy roots are one of the best ways to protect hillsides from erosion. Under no circumstances should herbicides be applied to kill unwanted brush. Herbicides kill the roots, and the value of the root system far outweighs the inconvenience of maintenance when slope stability is a concern.

Cutting brush and trees near the crest of a hill is sometimes required to maintain your view. If you find that brush must be cut more often than once every two to three years you may want to consider planting a slower-growing species to replace the existing brush. For example, Kinnikinnick, a native evergreen, forms a dense, low mat and has good erosion control properties. Allow at least three years for its establishment and provide protection from animal damage for the new plantings as required.

Wind, heavy rain, snow and even hail can cause significant damage to residential trees. Understanding the impacts of storms on trees will allow you to develop both preventative measures to decrease the probability of tree damage or property damage and management approaches to care for trees after damage has occurred.

Trees may be uprooted, decapitated or suffer massive crown loss as branches are broken by the force of the wind or by the weight of ice and snow. Loss of large portions of the crown results in tree stress, a reduction of growth and entry sites for insects and disease. Depending on the degree of damage, some trees will recover on their own, others need immediate care to repair the damage incurred and some are so irreversibly damaged that they will eventually die.

If you’re worried about a tree on your property that has suffered storm damage, give us a call and we will take a look!

The treatment of storm-damaged trees requires good assessment and prompt action. Factors to consider are whether the tree has damage that is relatively superficial, damage that can be treated or damage that is beyond repair. If more than 35 to 50 percent of the main branches or trunk are severely split or broken, extensive repairs are questionable.

Several types of damage occur to trees during storms.

The first and most severe damage occurs when the trunk or main stem of the injured tree splits or is broken. Mature trees that are larger are most susceptible to this type damage. Past tree injuries and pest problems often predispose the tree to storm damage by weakening the wood structure. Trees do not heal wounds. Trees can only grow over old wounds and seal them off. Wounds are structurally weaker than solid wood.

A second, damage category is blow-over of trees. Often trees that blow over have root failure from a disease (root rot), from shallow soils or those with shallow hard pans, from soil compaction during construction, or from saturated soil from excessive rainfall.

For small to medium-sized, blown-over trees with at least 50 percent of the root system still in the soil, it may be possible to brace them with guy wires or cables.

The final and least damaging category is that of broken branches where the break occurs away from the main stem. The higher the break and smaller the diameter of the break point, the higher the probability that the tree will recover. Broken branches generally do not affect tree survival unless more than 50 percent of the crown is involved. Generally, if a tree has lost more than 50 percent of its crown, the probability of future survival is poor. These branches need maintenance quickly so that they do not become a hazard and to decrease the risk of decay organisms entering the wounds.

For moderate trimming jobs close to ground level, homeowners should follow these guidelines:

  • Smaller branches should be trimmed back to the point where they join larger ones.
  • Make the cut at a slant next to a bud that can produce new growth.
  • Do not leave branch stubs as they encourage rot and decay.
  • Large branches that are broken should be cut back to either the trunk or main limb. Do not cut the branch flush with the trunk. Instead, cut outside the collar at the base of the branch.

Broken limbs are often under tension and can kick back unexpectedly during cutting. Be alert for down and damaged power and utility lines and broken limbs that are hanging. If a tree is large and the necessary work is off the ground, call us! We have the equipment and knowledge to safely remove broken limbs and to correctly repair trees.

A damaged limb may strip healthy bark from the trees main stem or trunk. To repair this type of damage, cut any ragged edges of torn bark with a sharp chisel or knife. Take care not to remove any more healthy bark and expose more live tissue than necessary.

If possible, the wound left by the cut should be shaped like an elongated football with the pointed ends of the cut running vertically along the trunk or limb. There is no need to apply tree wound dressings to prevent decay-causing infection. Most research has shown that wound dressings (paint, tar and others) do not prevent decay, may interfere with rapid healing and in some cases can serve as food sources for harmful microorganisms.

Do not top trees!

Topping accelerates shoot growth and promotes branches that are weakly attached to stubs rather than anchored from within the limb. These branches are more likely to break in future storm events. The tree will also need all its resources to recover from the stress of storm damage. Removal of more branches and leaves reduces photosynthesis, the food-making process in plants, and depletes the trees stored reserves for maintenance and growth.

Topping trees also:

  • Leaves wounds that the tree can’t readily close
  • Ruins the structure of the tree
  • Disrupts the tree’s energy storage for future growth, which slowly destroys the tree
  • Stimulates new water sprouts that are weak and can easily break

Bob’s Property Solutions provides excavation, site development, landscaping, retaining walls and many more related dirtwork services in and around Tacoma, Puyallup and surrounding areas. We are fully equipped to handle any job you have!

Excavation and Earthwork

Be it home or office development, we are equipped to handle excavations of any size. We do excavation, site development, gas and electrical line fixing, remove tree root systems, fix pipe bursting, sewer repair and install for both homeowners and developers.

We take pride in being an expert on earth moving. We have the equipment, talent and the experience to carry out any job, big or small.

Retaining Walls

It is essential to construct retaining walls after an excavation as they hold back dirt and soil that would otherwise erode and collapse. These walls also help to stabilize slopes, and keep earth from eating into buildings, structures, walkways, etc.

We Have the Experience to do the Job Right

Over a decade of experience in building and successfully completing functional walls for both residential and commercial purposes. Bob’s Property Solutions is a fully-insured, licensed and bonded contractor with vast skill and experience in excavation, earthwork, trenching, drainage, retaining walls, and any other excavation or earthwork you require..