Tree Risk Assessment (TRAQ) Certifications and Why They Matter
At Natures Design Tree Company, we’re frequently asked: “what is a Tree Risk Assessment and how can it benefit me?” Well, the simple answer is this: As an ISA Certified Arborist with a specialized TRAQ credential, we can provide you with solid, educated, and legal documentation about your tree(s) and their potential risk. Does your tree pose a risk to life, property, or to itself? Our TRAQ credential can you help you answer these questions, as well as provide you with liability-pertinent securities.
TRAQ Help for Homeowners, Neighbors, Municipalities and more
There are several reasons why a homeowner, neighbor, municipality, general contractors, and excavators should inquire about having this service performed. For numerous end-reasons, having a risk assessment performed has one true, primary focus: This assessment will give our client a strong idea of what risks may be lurking in the shadows. The premise of the assessment is to determine if a tree is an actual risk to property or life.
How much does a TRAQ assessment cost? And, is it worth it?
From a monetary standpoint, the most costly part of this process does not seem to be the TRAQ assessment itself. Instead, we see must the most frequent cost incurred from NOT completing a proper assessment before building a new home or business. Unfortunately, most contractors do not consider tree risk liability when erecting a new structure.
What makes new construction more liable is typically the excavation factor. When a no-assessment grading job is completed, is highly likely digging occurs within one and a half time the drip zone of the tree. That increases the likelihood of broken roots by excavation; causing tree-stress, pheromone exertion (attracting insects), bacteria and virus growth, as well as soil compaction around the roots. Soil compaction will ultimately lead to a lack of oxygen and water. But, by the time the tree begins to show signs of sickness or dying, the damage has already been done, greatly reducing the chance an arborist has to save your tree.
While a TRAQ assessment does incur a fee (time is money, after all), the actual cost is dependent on the Assessment Level performed.
Tree Risk Assessment Level 1
Level 1 is a limited visual assessment, where an arborist (or arborists) will designate zones where the tree may pose a high and extreme risk, like over a sidewalk or street. These assessments typically limit individual tree risk, and detail tree groups within the area.
Tree Risk Assessment Level 2
Level 2 is a “Basic Assessment” where the arborist looks for defects in all visible areas of the individual tree and its surrounding area. You may see the assessor “sounding” the tree with the use of a rubber mallet, checking for cavities. Results may lead to a need for a more comprehensive evaluation—leading us to our final assessment, Level 3.
Tree Risk Assessment Level 3
This is the nitty gritty of Tree Risk Assessments; a total, detailed review of roots, stem, crown and most likely includes climbing inspections. You may see the assessor using an aerator tool (keeping the roots safe) but blowing air to examine the root system; or using a drilling instrument to understand the tree’s resistance capabilities. Tree Risk Assessment Level 3 is needed to provide educated assessments in mitigation options, tree maintenance, or tree removal needs.
Without a licensed Tree Risk Assessment, your contractor isn’t liable for tree-damage.
Imagine it. You sit back, enjoying the peace and quiet of your newly built home. You’re officially moved in, your furniture moved into place, your kids’ toys scattered along the floor… and you finally feel you can let yourself breathe. After all, building a new home is stressful enough all on its own. That’s when you notice it. Your favorite tree in the backyard is has very few leaves, or has a discoloration in its foliage.
It almost always happens in situations like this, that the structure is new, the landscaping is new, and the “risky” tree is almost always inaccessible by tree removal equipment. That’s when this weakened tree is going to cost an average of 3x the amount it to have been removed, as it would prior to the structure being built.
Not to mention, lacking that initial tree risk assessment has now put you into a total liability position. The builder (or contractor) isn’t going to pay to have this expense covered, even if your HOME is under a builder warranty. This is just one example of where and why NOT having an assessment can incur a higher rate of cost than the assessment expense.
In the process of removal around a newer structure, there may be a new, unexpected cost of structural damage—i.e.: repairing concrete, landscape, irrigation, fencing, and even damage to surrounding trees. So, having an assessment in place for the builder and all the contractors that were on the site initially, could have saved you a large, unexpected expense (that typically comes at the most inopportune time).
A Tree Risk Assessment can add value if you’re looking to sell your home.
If you’re looking to sell property, a TRAQ Assessment will likely add value to the home or business. Statistics show the expense of tree risk assessments, pruning, or removing a tree (if warranted) will pay you back in spades: a national average of 25% more than the cost of the work performed.
If you’re the purchaser of the home, having a professional assessment of the trees BEFORE the purchase is complete can provide you with legal proof of a hazardous tree, helping you negotiate the selling price of the home, in essence, saving you money. Personally, we’ve removed many trees that should have been removed by the seller, that have caused catastrophic damage to the purchaser’s new home. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, and certainly not the first call you want to make to your new homeowner’s insurance policy.
Prove Liability and Ownership for a Neighbor’s Risky Tree.
Worried about a neighbor’s tree potentially damaging your property? You need a Tree Risk Assessment—validation and legal proof of potential hazards by the neighboring tree. Rather than getting into a legal battle AFTER an natural accident has occurred, get the facts in a proactive manner. While the assessment is an expense YOU must incur, the assessment can provide a means to prevent insurance from having to fix your future property, or provide an avenue for “legal notice” of the issue before damage occurs. If you provide a thorough risk assessment, and the owner of the tree opts to do nothing, hey essentially assume legal responsibility, can be taken to court to resolve the issue, and/or foot the bill for any future damage.
Common Misconceptions of Tree Risk Assessments
It’s a common misconception that the purpose of the assessment is to tell if the tree is healthy or in poor health. In actuality, these are facts provided by the assessment, but not the purpose. In fact, it’s possible for a healthy tree to rate out as “highly dangerous,” while a declining tree may not pose a risk at all. So, what in the world does an assessment do?!
A Tree Risk Assessment is designed to protect LIFE AND PROPERTY. The assessment will identify all the human and property targets around a tree should it fall. And, while the assessment looks over the tree to determine if there are any health conditions—such as rot or decay—that can weaken the tree, if it isn’t near a structure or anywhere people would be walking by, there simply isn’t a risk in the proximity.
In addition, an assessment is NOT a tool that should be used to inflate the need for tree removal. As an arborist, our favorite thing to do is identify solutions, helping your tree recover from human damage or natural decline.