Posted 03/06/2020 in Homeowners & Tree Owners

How can you tell if a tree is going to fall? Common signs to look for.

How can you tell if a tree is going to fall? Common signs to look for.

You must have searched online to know how you can tell if a tree is going to fall? There aren’t that many homeowners that know how to detect a dead or dying tree that might be on the verge of falling. The question asked is valid. The fact of the matter is there are several indicators that are sure to tell that a tree is on its last legs and might topple over or uproot, in most cases, it just takes a good look. 


How to tell if a tree is going to fall can be easy with the right eye and knowing what to look for, preventing falling trees is easy, and once you know that something is wrong, you can call a professional tree service to come to deal with it. Hiring a tree care company to keep a dying tree from falling in your yard, or even worse on your house or car, you need to be aware of what to look for as a homeowner.  

What Causes A Tree To Fall Over?

There are several reasons why trees tend to fall over, split, and get uprooted. 

  • A variety of reasons could include a tree being planted improperly, bugs or insect infestations, diseases that cause damage to the tree, malnutrition, poor soil conditions, severe flooding weakening the soil, old age, construction damaging the root system, and other causes. 


It’s hard to predict when a tree is going to fall, even with a trained eye. It is possible to learn the warning signs and identifiers of a tree that might be a hazard to do something before it happens. Once a tree falls it’s too late the damage has been done. So ask yourself, do I have a tree that is about to fall? Here are 5 warning signs to look for to give you an idea if a tree is at risk of falling. 

Early Signs of a Dying Tree

Trees don’t talk, they can’t tell you if they are sick, damaged, or in danger of falling. A tree can, however, give off visual indicators to communicate to homeowners when it becomes unhealthy. There are several things that can look problematic, so here is what to look for to get a sense of how to tell if a tree is going to fall.

Decaying Roots- When the roots of a tree become rotten, a tree may be on its way out. However, you may not be able to detect the decay because the roots are under the soil. Look for signs of rotting roots such as dead branches, falling leaves, and mushrooms growing around the base. A tree with rotten roots will be unstable and may fall at any moment, especially when there is a strong wind.

Check for mushrooms and other fungi growing around the base of the tree or on the trunk. A fungus is often a good indicator of rotting wood

Deformed or Dropped Leaves- One of the easiest ways to tell if your tree is dying is to take a look at its leaves. If there’s an excessive amount of leaves dropping at a strange time, pick one up and look at it. If it looks discolored or shriveled up in the middle of summer, your tree doesn’t have enough nutrients to provide for the leaves.

There’s A Cavity or Hole In The Trunk Of The Tree- One of the side effects of a tree trying to shed its branches by self-pruning is the formation of a cavity inside its trunk. Teeth get cavities, and so do trees. These holes result from self-pruning and may result in decay within the tree. When the cavity gets bigger, it makes the tree trunk so weak that it cannot sustain its own branches. Strong winds may cause the tree to fall into the house or the people below.

  • The open wound from the broken branch could lead to decay inside the tree. However, this may not mean that the tree is going to collapse soon.

  • If the cavity is isolated and there’s enough solid wood around it, then your tree is probably not going to tip over or break into half.


It may be best to consult a tree professional when assessing this kind of problem.


Dead or Falling Branches- The same goes for falling branches. Go stand underneath the tree and lookup. If you see a large number of branches hanging off other branches, then something is up. 


If there are branches falling out, it’s likely that the tree is trying to make itself smaller so there’s less to feed. Pick up the branch and check for rotting or bug damage. If you notice any of these signs, that means your tree is unhealthy.


  • Shedding branches is the tree’s way of self-pruning.

  • It’s trying to make itself smaller, which typically means it’s not getting enough nourishment, which could also mean it’s getting attacked by burrowing insects, among other things.


Missing Bark- Take a look at the trunk of the tree. Sometimes with trees that are dying, there will be spots where the bark is missing or can easily peel off. If it’s flaking off like this, then the tree is more likely to break at that spot one day.


  • The presence of cankers is a sign that the tree is dying.

Deep cracks on the trunk should also be a concern.

  • These make the trunk considerably weaker and therefore more likely to become a hazard.


When you spot a crack or big gaps in your tree, it’s best to have it taken care of sooner than later.


Leaning- Probably the most alarming sign of a tree nearing the end of its life is a lean that wasn’t there before. If you notice that a tree begins to lean after a windstorm, it’s because it isn’t strong enough to stay upright. This should be taken seriously, so make sure you contact an arborist or stump removal company immediately.


5 Most Likely and Least Likely Trees to Fall in the Wind


Now that you have a better understanding of what causes a tree to fall, and how to tell if a tree is going to fall. Many homeowners want to altogether avoid this problem, so we want to give you several trees that are least likely to fall in the wind or a storm, also we’ll give you several trees that are most likely to fall in the wind or a storm. Next time you plan on planting a tree as a homeowner it might be in your best interest if you plan to avoid this in the future to choose a tree that is strong and least likely to fall in the wind. Nothing if for sure so it’s still recommended to give your trees a good look over once every few months to see their health. Many homeowners will have a tree health care specialist come out every 6 months or year to look over their property for risks. Arborists Near Me lists tree health care companies that specialize and have licensed professionals that can help. 

5 Trees Least Likely to Fall in Wind

The 5 most sturdy trees that tree service companies recommend to homeowners if they are looking for sturdy trees that are least likely to blow over and be uprooted are Live Oak, Flowering Dogwood, American Beech, Bald Cypress, and Southern Magnolia. However, keep this in mind that if your yard is very open meaning the trees are being exposed to consistent high winds, you still may have a fair amount of trouble with trees being damaged due to high winds and storms. This is due to branches cracking which will compromise the health and longevity of your trees, this can cause risks to your property and landscape in general. You can trust that if you plant a more sturdy species of tree it can minimize the risks if a tree is going to fall. If your landscape is open with access to high winds then do yourself a favor and look into planting one of these 5 trees that stand up well to high winds and far less likely to be damaged due to wind and storms.

4 Trees Most Likely to Fall in Wind 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the trees that are most likely to fall in wind tend to be Willow, White Spruce, Cedar, and White Pine. This is coming from a survey from tree service companies themselves saying that these trees tend to do far better in wetter and moister soil which can lead to increased chances of these trees falling or being uprooted. You have to realize taller trees with much larger and wider canopies are more likely to be subject to “windthrow” which means the tree truck and the canopy act as a lever swaying the trees this causes the roots to weaken over time with consistent or long periods of wind to uproot the tree.  

Now that you know how to identify if a tree is going to fall, why do trees fall, the least likely and most likely trees to fall? As a homeowner knowing these warning signs ahead of time can reduce the risk of your tree falling, splitting, or being uprooted. There are several things you can do to prevent some of these things from happening that we call preventative tree care. 

How to Reduce The Risk Of Your Trees Falling, Splitting, or Being Uprooted

Water Your Trees Slowly For Long Periods Of Time: Watering your trees often and for a short amount of time will train your trees and their roots to grow near the surface. If you water this way, slowly and for longer periods of time less often then the water will go deeper into the soil. This allows your tree roots to continue to grow at the proper depth which is best and leads to stronger roots, so your trees will be far less likely to fall over or be uprooted. 

A tip of watering, the best way to water is to turn your hose on to a dribble, a slow drip you should put your hose in the general area of the root system near the trunk of the tree usually within a few feet of the trunk especially pertaining to newly planted trees. It’s best to leave it there for two to three houses, then move the house to a different part of the root system, the opposite side of the tree trunk for another two to three hours. Repeat the same process a few days of the week. 

Do Not Over Water: Some homeowners go overboard with the watering. Do not overwater, it can cause root rot especially when it comes to new trees freshly planted the solid is already loose, this can easily cause your tree to fall. You want the soil around your tree to be moist but not soaking. If you are able to make a mud ball out of the soil, you’ve overwatered your tree. 

Do Not Over Mulch: Adding mulch to your trees is a great way to hold moisture in general mulching is great for your tree. At the same time, over mulching can cause your tree to develop shallow roots and can potentially suffocate your roots, roots need to breathe. We have an article on mulching, how to properly mulch when to mulch if you need answers on this read the article. It’s best to shoot for two to three inches of mulch that is spread evenly and not touching the base of the tree trunk. 

How to Reduce Risks of Fall Limbs and Trees Splitting 

Prune For Structure: Pruning your trees often before they are fully mature, it’s recommended to trim your tree during the first two to ten years. This is an important part of the tree's growth and health. You just spent money on the tree, planting the tree, make sure you are giving it the best chance to survive and flourish long term. When you do this early on, you can spot structural issues when they are first developing and shaping. Tree trimming should be done by professionals, folks that know where to trim, how much to trim, when to trim, there is a lot that goes into pruning a tree. This is why hiring Certified Arborists to strategically prune or alter the tree to correct any shaping or structural issues ahead of time, catch it early before they become big problems later on down the road. 

Remove Dead/Weak Limbs: If you see limbs on your tree are leafless and lifeless when it should be in full bloom its a telltale sign that it’s dead or dying. When you see these limbs just know those will be the first ones to come down the first sign of winds or a storm which causes hazards and risks to your property. Look for limbs that have two equal size arms that branch off of the trunk to make a Y-shape. This point where these branches meet can be weak and tend to be what might break off during wind or heavy storms especially if it’s a heavy thick branch. 

Know that you better understand some steps homeowners can take on preventive tree care, you have the answer to many questions, how can you tell if a tree is going to fall, why do trees fall, and how to prevent a tree from falling, take these steps and lessons learning to keep your trees healthy and structurally sound. 

How to Prevent Your Trees from Falling the Genius Way

If you notice any of these warning signs with trees on your property, Arborists Near Me is here to help if after reading this article don’t delay you should contact a company before something happens. We’ve seen homeowners to many times prolong and procrastinate on hiring a tree service company knowing they have trees that need to be serviced. The indicators are there but they overlooked it and then several months later something bad happens. Arborists Near Me helps thousands of people every month connect with local tree service companies that can help. People report to save up to $500 with Arborists Near Me due to getting up to three quotes. Get a professional to take a look they will be able to determine what actions need to be taken to prevent property damage. 

At Arborists Near Me, you can find a variety of professional tree service companies that specialize in tree pruning, tree removal, and stump grinding services. They will be more than happy to take a look at your trees and recommend the best course of action. If there are trees you are worried about falling or if a tree has already fallen they’ll be able to handle the problem. 

Check out other posts in our Arborists Blog to learn how to properly care for your trees. If you are a tree service company we offer great tips and strategies on how to connect with more local customers. 


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