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The Importance of Tree Cabling

Many homeowners consider tree cabling a preventive measure to support trees that are otherwise vulnerable to limb or stem failure. A weakened or damaged tree can create a safety hazard in a home’s landscaping, and may even pose a potential liability risk to passersby. It is also expensive to replace a mature or beloved tree, so preserving the integrity of a tree by cabling an insecure limb is an attractive alternative to removal.

Cabling can also be used to reduce the risk of structural failure by connecting limbs that would normally fail at different times during violent storms or other events. In most cases, cabling is used to provide supplemental support to weak limbs that are close to one another.

For homeowners, the key to responsible tree cabling is to understand why and when this technique should be used. A professional arborist will have an in-depth knowledge of the health and structure of a tree, and can advise on whether or not cabling is an appropriate method for supporting a particular limb or branch.

In the past, cabling was achieved by drilling holes through which steel cables were inserted into the trunk and branches of a tree. Now, synthetic cable kits are available that offer a simpler and less invasive alternative to this method. By using these kits, a homeowner can save time and money, and avoid the hassle of drilling through the bark and inner wood of the tree.

To install a cable, first find the anchor points for the connection. Choose two limbs that have a V-crotch, and make sure they are strong enough to carry the weight of the branch or branches they will connect. Then, measure the distance between these two points to determine the length of cable required. Once the correct length has been determined, the do-it-yourselfer can manipulate the cable to form loops around each of the two limbs in the V. By feeding an expansion insert into each loop, and adding anti-abrasion hose or shock absorbers to reduce rubbing between the cable and the tree, the two limbs can be united, stabilizing the branch against violent wind movement.

Homeowners should also be aware that cabling does not guarantee against structural failure, and that the likelihood of this occurring is still very high if a tree has a serious weakness. An experienced arborist can assess a tree and determine its suitability for cabling, and will recommend a variety of other structural support measures if necessary.

For example, a major branch of a tree that hangs over a house can pose a significant safety threat if it fails. Similarly, a large tree that overhangs a sidewalk could cause injuries to people walking beneath it. In these cases, cabling is an excellent option for reducing the risk of damage or injury. For these reasons, it is important to assess the condition of a tree regularly, and call a professional if there is any reason for concern.

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