Winter in Michigan brings many challenges for homeowners, including issues with damage to homes and property due to falling trees and branches. But we love our trees! Can you imagine how bleak the world would be without them? So how do we minimize potential damage when strong winds, ice, and heavy snow show up? Cut down every tree around our homes? NO! We need trees for shade, for roots that help to counter erosion and filter rainwater runoff, and to help clean the air we breathe.

We can’t build a bubble over our homes, and we want to keep the trees – seems like the next best thing is to be proactive and look for problems ahead of time. So, start by walking the perimeter of your home. Search for large branches that reach within a few feet of or over your roof. Look for branches that are close to windows that could potentially catapult through the glass during bad weather.

Look for dead, cracked, or broken branches, holes made by birds or other animals, missing bark, and mushrooms growing on the trees. Large splits in the trunk can also be a sign of damage. All of these are signals of possible poor health and a tree that may not be able to withstand the harsh winter weather.

Bonus Tip: Trimming large, partially dead or diseased branches will not only protect your property, it will often improve the overall health of the tree by directing more nutrients to the remaining healthy branches.

Watch out for leaners! Trees that lean toward your home or other buildings may appear perfectly healthy, but in strong winds and loaded with heavy snow, a tree that is already leaning may not need much to help it the rest of the way.

If you find any trees that you feel need attention, use common sense and keep your enthusiasm in check! Sure, you can do some of the trimming work yourself, but be sensible and realize the limit of your equipment and abilities. If in doubt, call a professional. Consider a conversation with an experienced arborist; they know trees from the roots and soil on up and can educate you about potential problems and the best way to deal with them.

Pro Tip: If heavy, wet snow or ice loads down your trees, resist the temptation to shake the branches to free them. Often, you will cause more damage by cracking branches or creating additional strain by bending them even further if the ice or snow doesn’t dislodge. The weather will eventually shift, and the weight will recede on its own.

With some due diligence, we can keep our homes (and ourselves!) safe from falling trees and branches, avoid insurance claims, and spend time having fun playing out in the snow instead.