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Landscaping Do’s and Don’ts

Brian Lamb and Kristin Flyntz

Landscaping can have numerous benefits. It beautifies your property and can add to the curb appeal and resale value of your home. It also can provide great physical exercise and a connection with nature if you do it yourself. However, whether you rely on your own landscape design skills or hire a professional to implement your vision, you will want to be sure to consider the implications that your efforts – and how you maintain them—can have on your home.

Here are some tips for reducing the likelihood that you will have a home insurance claim related to landscaping on your property.

Remove any old, dead, or rotten trees. It’s best to have these taken down professionally, and as soon as you notice them.  Wind damage is one of the most frequent causes of loss and trees blowing over on houses is both common, and often preventable.

Trim those trees. It’s important to actively maintain and trim the branches of any trees that are right up against your home.

  • Wind can cause the branches to rub up against the house, causing damage to the paint, gutters or trim. Home insurance would not cover any damages incurred this way, as it would be considered due to wear and tear over an extended period of time.
  • Additionally, trees situated very close to the house can invite animal activity from squirrels, raccoons and other critters that can enter the home and cause damage and health risks.
  • Beware of trees that grow close to power lines: if you see branches overhanging the lines, talk to your city or town about options for having the limbs trimmed. Also be sure to note if any of the trees look dead or rotten, which may require their complete removal.

Know where the sewer lines run in your yard. This is especially important when planting trees, whose roots can cause pipe clogs and backups.  If you move to a new home and are on a town sewer system, be sure to check where the lines run to see if there may be any potential current or future issues with tree roots and your plumbing system.

Know where the gas lines are. As with your sewer lines, you’ll want to know where the gas lines run on your property to ensure tree roots can’t puncture the lines. Your local gas company can tell you where the lines run underground.

Run water away from the house. If you do any land alterations, be mindful that the land should always grade away from the home to prevent water intrusion through the foundation. Likewise, your downspouts should run away from the home, as well, to prevent rain water from backing up or flooding near the foundation.

Clean gutters regularly. Clogged gutters can lead to back up and cause water to enter your home. If it’s safe, you may want to check and clean your gutters several times a year, particularly in the fall in areas where trees shed their leaves. If your gutters are too high to reach safely, you may want to enlist the help of a licensed, insured company to do the work for you.

Avoid mulching too close to the foundation. Mulch can provide a lovely finishing touch for your plantings, but putting it up against the foundation can invite carpenter ants. These insects can nest in wooden clapboards or trim, and can cause significant damage if left unchecked.

Maintain defensible space. In areas prone to drought and wildfire, creating and maintaining defensible space can dramatically increase your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire and improves the safety of firefighters defending your property.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a home that’s beautiful inside and out. With proper planning and regular maintenance using the tips above, you can help ensure that your property and your home will remain attractive and claim-free for years to come. Be sure to periodically review your homeowners policy to understand what it covers, or speak to your agent or insurance company if you have questions.

Learn more about homeowners coverage.

 

12 Responses to "Landscaping Do’s and Don’ts"

  • Extra Mile Staff | July 15, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Hello, Bob and Donna. Here's a great printable resource from the United States Environmental Protection Agency with tips on maintaining a healthy lawn (reference page 8). Basically, regardless of sun or shade, the best time to water is in the morning.

  • Cecelia Beal | July 14, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Your information is good about locating the gas and sewer lines. In OH and all the states I have lived in you must call a special phone # (call before you dig )a few weeks before you dig. The three utility companys come out to mark all lines in the yard with flags. It is the law. If you dig and hit a line it will be your financial responsibility to repair all damage.

  • Janet Proffitt | July 13, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Make SURE if you choose to take a limb off that is hanging over your property that it doesn't damage the tree. In California you could have a large bill awaiting you if the tree dies. NEVER top a tree even if it's hanging over your property -- like birch trees sometimes do. When you plant them, thinking they are going to grow straight up, if there is a steady wind, they are going to grow in the direction of the wind. Topping them is a sure fire way to kill them -- and you'll get the bill!

  • Donna | July 13, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    When is the best time to water our lawn? Is it ok to water it when it the lawn is in the shade then have the sun on it for a few hours, or when it is completely in the shade? We've heard conflicting stories! Thank you, Bob & Donna

  • Ken Jados | July 13, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for the updated information on Landscaping tips & concerns

  • George Macedo | July 13, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Am I required to trim my large tall trees within a certain period,of time, say every 7 years or so, in order to be fully protected under my Hartford policy if they fall and cause property damage or physical harm to anyone? My neighbor dislikes my trees, and told me I have to trim every year or insurance won't pay.

  • Bonnie blackberg | June 27, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    If the tree limbs are hanging over your property you can trim them or have them cut off. Hopefully your neighbor does not object but if they do object the law is on your side. We have the same problem and I talked to neighbors and authority. It’s your call in South Carolina anyway. Most neighbors will work with you on these problems.

  • Jack Speer | June 24, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    All good tips. I would add that, some dead or rotten trees could be left standing if they are not a safety hazard. Cavity nesting birds, native tunnel nesting bees (pollinators) and woodpeckers depend on dead trees. Great Horned Owls also my find a great view perched on the top.

  • Cass Konig | June 23, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    I’m from the northeast and have gardened all my life (71 years). Having moved to North Carolina area, I was looking forward to my garden and plants. Pine straw is all new to me along with all the bugs & snakes. That brings new bite problems, mold laying in the ground ... I have had more visits to the doctors with fungus and bites ... can you address what other gardeners are doing to prevent this themselves? The pine straw was one of the biggest disappointment with what it harbor under it ... any suggestions?

  • Jeanne Boyce | June 21, 2019 at 3:12 am

    Many thanks!

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 10, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Denise, we would suggest having a conversation with your neighbor to determine if the tree needs to be trimmed or taken down all together.

  • Denise Brady | June 10, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    What do I do if the tree on my house belongs to my neighbor?

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