So you are building a new home, but what about those trees.
This guide is intended as a guide for those owners who have elected through their residential building contract to
remove trees and stumps from the building platform area prior to construction start.
This may not sound like a big deal. Yes, your site plan and your contract says you are supposed to remove the trees and stumps
as nominated. So what's the problem.
My experience, from the perspective of the builder, and someone who coordinates all the Tradesman, Suppliers and Contractors
necessary to get your construction under-way is this.
From the time you Owner signs the contract to the time the Builder begins onsite there is a at least two plus months depending
on the backlog of work to begin on-site. It is essential, nay a must, that at least a two or three weeks before your Builder begins site start
on you site to make sure you fulfil your contractual obligation.
For something so small can create some massive headaches. So often before the Builder is to begin on-site the following happens.
Firstly, nothing has happened to the trees. They are still insitu, nothing done.
Secondly, the trees have been lopped and stump ground but not removed from site (the roots are almost never touched).
Tree loppers will never remove stumps unless they have the machinery to do so. This is where you will get your greatest variance in
quotes from tree loppers. Some will specify lopping only, others lopping and stumps grinding, then the few all of the later and root removal.
Once you have your building approved plans from the council or a copy sent from the Certifier you may remove the trees
that have been nominated "to be removed". These are the trees that have been cross hatched (lines across the canopy width)
on the site plan. This is the council permit to do so.
Failure to remove the trees at all from site prior to the Builder's site start means that the builder cannot start work on your site.
This in turn means your construction will be delayed, you will not get into your house when you want.
Secondly, if you are adamant that the trees will be fine regardless that the Builder has nominated for them to be removed
consider the following. The Builder has submitted all of the contract documentation, including foundation (house slab) engineering
to the Engineer and the Contractors required to carry out the construction works. Failure to remove the nominated trees now
constitutes a latent condition or variation to the contract to be effected. This is because you, the Owner, has not fulfilled your
contractual obligation that the Builder was relying on you to do so they may be able to construct you home the way it was designed.
So, what again ?
All the documentation that has been sent to Engineers, Certifiers, Contractors and Suppliers must now be redone. This will start with re-designing
the foundation of the structure to take into consideration the long term effect of the trees on the structure. This means that all the foundation
reinforcement, bored or piering method must be beefed up to consider the mature height of the trees within proximity to the structure.
What this means for you the Client is your construction costs are going to sky-rocket. All this because the tree or trees were not removed.
This is the point where, as a Client, you would need to weight up, very quickly, the cost of tree lopping and removal over the cost of the
increased foundation costs and administrative delays to the Builder (another cost) as well as the delay to your finish date.
What about stumps ? The tree has gone and we have left the stump. Surely that has no effect.
This is not removing the tree from site per the contract documents. This is lopping only, not removal. What will happen if you do this only is the following:
The Builder will ring the Owner and ask them if the tree/s are gone and they will often say 'yes'. The Builder's Earthmover will then travel to site only to find that the
Drott cannot cut the site because there are tree stumps embedded in the ground. The whole pre-programmed construction sequence will then be delayed
(booked two weeks in advance) allowing the Earthmover time to return back to site with an excavator to dig the stumps (and root ball) out of the ground
so the platform can then be cut. The Earthmover may even need to return to the site another time with the Drott again to get the platform within
tolerance as excavators are not very precise in providing level sites (another trip another cost). This has an immediate two week delay to the
programmed works to give the Earthworks Contractor sufficient time, and with all other booked works, to return to complete the with the
machinery necessary to remove the trees and cut the site.
A Drott is a huge a machine why cant it get the stumps out ?
As the trees have been stump ground to ground level (in most cases- better to leave 1m or so of the trunk attached to the root ball)
the Drott cannot get any bearing to remove the remainder of the stump & root ball system below ground level. Drotts push things not dig things.
Consider that the size of the root ball is commensurate with the hight and weight of the tree. The root system holds the earth to support the tree.
That is a lot of pressure the roots must resist naturally to keep the tree upright (resisting wind, the trunk and canopy weight).
Drotts are limited by traction, weight, momentum & bearing. If any one of these factors is lacking the tree will resist the overturning (removal) momentum
every day of the week.
If it is in your building contract to remove trees from your site make sure you lop them and have the root ball excavated.
If you think the Builder will sort-it-out when they start, they will it will just cost you alot more than doing the job that
should have been done to start with.
P.S. This is not intended as a sledge against home owners. I have seen this scenario so many times in my years on the construction industry. This is intended to help
Home Owners (especially first time home owners) understand the consequences of a simple, manageable situation, and resolve it before it becomes a costly issue.
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