How far should trees be kept away from a mobile/manufactured home?
Thursday, June 21, 2018
There are three ways that trees can damage a mobile home: falling branches, roots heaving or settling the foundation piers, and toppling over onto the home in a storm. HUD recommends that “for any home, it is a good idea to keep large trees away from the sidewalls. Ideally, the home should be placed beyond the tree’s drip line (outside the edge of foliage).”
Mobile home installers know better than to site a home next to a large tree, so new homes are placed clear of trees. But it’s important to know the mature spread of any tree you are considering planting.
A cute little shade tree sapling purchased in a 3-gallon pot can end up with a 30-foot diameter drip line within a decade in Florida. Since the roots of most trees spread underground to approximately as far as the drip line, if a tree has branches that extend over your home, then the roots are likely also growing under it.
We recommend asking the nurseryman what the mature spread of a tree will be before deciding to buy it, and then planting it according to that projection. If you are buying landscaping plants at a big-box home improvement retailer, most of their foliage has tags indicating mature height and spread of each species. One tree we see often planted too close to homes in our area is the Bismarckia Palm, with a mature canopy 16 to 20-feet wide.
The other issue, which is especially important in Florida, is how resistant a particular tree is to toppling in a severe thunderstorm or hurricane. Certain popular landscape trees are more prone to failure in a storm than others. Pamela Crawford, author of the book “Stormscaping - Landscaping to Minimize Wind Damage in Florida,” lists these eleven trees as the worst for falling in high winds:
- Acacia (Ear Leaf)
- Australian Pine (Pinus nigra)
- Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
- Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffianum)
- Redbud (Cercus canadensis)
- Cherry Laurel (Prunus caoliniana)
- Drake Elm (Ulmus parvifolia ‘Drake’)
- Ficus Benjamina (Weeping Fig)
- Sand Pine (Pinus clausa)
- Tabebuia (various)
- Water Oak (Quercus nigra)
From our own experience with hurricanes Andrew and Wilma in South Florida, we would put Ficus Benjamina, Australian Pine, and Queen Palm at the top of that list.
Trees provide cooling shade, act as a wind buffer, beautify, and improve the value of a home. But careful planning for mature height and spread, along with avoiding problematic species, is necessary to avoid future problems.
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