Buying a rural property: clearing the land

July 29, 2015

The justification for removing plants to facilitate building should be weighed against the reasons for which they ought to be retained.

Buying a rural property: clearing the land

Tree preservation

  • A tree preservation order or local regulations may dictate which trees may be removed.
  • Beyond this, you can exercise your own discretion, but good judgment requires a little common sense, some background knowledge and familiarity with your land.
  • Root systems reinforce the ground, stopping soil from being washed away by rain.
  • Over-generous clearing of the site's vegetation may lead to erosion, so before removing plants to make way for building, consider the hidden role that roots play in maintaining soil quality.
  • To save the soil, it may be better to build elsewhere.

Consider replanting

  • If you must remove vegetation in order to build, consider replanting similar species elsewhere on the property.
  • Take heed, though; especially in exposed areas many native species are slow-growing and may take decades to regenerate.
  • Trees can act as a natural windbreak, provide shade against the hot sun, obscure unsightly views and make a pleasing visual cradle for a house.
  • Instead of razing and replanting, look for a compromise site on the property that promises the best of both worlds.

Keep your distance

  • Trees too close to the house can cause overshadowing, making it dark and damp in winter. If positioned too far away, they may be ineffective as windbreaks.
  • Depending on proximity, tree roots can draw moisture from the soil under the house, especially where there are clay soils. This can lead to cracking in the walls and floor of the house.
  • Surface roots can swell as the tree grows, sometimes causing contortions in the floor of the house or damaging a pipe.
  • A cracked or broken pipe will readily be clogged and is then likely to be further damaged by roots seeking water.
  • Generally, trees should be distanced from the house by at least 1 1/2 times their mature height.
  • Do your homework to know which trees you have, or are considering buying, that can cause such damage if located too close to a house.
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