Many people are hesitant to solicit the help of an arborist, because they fear that arborists solve every problem with a chainsaw. But this is not the case; in fact, arborists rely on a variety of techniques to help trees. Often times, it is possible to support trees, instead of removing them.
And one of the most effective ways arborists do so is through the use of cables, braces and props. We’ll briefly discuss each of the three methods below.
Cabling is the most common method by which arborists provide structural support to trees. It essentially involves attaching various types of high-strength cables and hardware to other, stronger branches, the trunk, the ground or other anchors. Sometimes, cables are strung up in relatively simple ways, but occasionally arborists will deem it necessary to create a more complex “web” of cables to provide the type of support the tree requires.
Cabling is most commonly used to keep tree branches from splitting at their junction. However, it can also be used to provide support for unusually long limbs or reinforce weak-wooded species. While an infinite number of materials and attachment techniques can be used in the cabling process, most systems will generally fall into one of two categories: static or dynamic.
Static Cabling Systems
Static cabling systems are designed to hold branches in a relatively rigid fashion. They often rely on metal hardware which is screwed or bolted into the target branches. Then, galvanized steel or aircraft cable is used to connect the hardware attached to different limbs. While the metal hardware often used in these systems often allows for very secure attachments, it can serve as a place into which fungi and other pathogens can enter, leading to decay.
Dynamic Cabling Systems
Dynamic cabling systems are designed to allow the limbs and tree a bit more room to sway. This not only puts less stress on the tree and its branches, but it allows the tree to continue to produce reaction wood – special cells trees produce in response to wind or other stresses. Dynamic systems generally use synthetic ropes instead of cables, and they usually wrap around the branches being supported, rather than relying on metal hardware that has been screwed into the tree. Rubber shock absorbers are sometimes incorporated into these systems too.
Static cabling systems are the older of the two systems, and although they are still useful, dynamic systems have become the preferred choice for many arborists.
Braces work in much the same way that cables do – they provide support by pulling a branch or stem in the desired direction. However, braces are rigid, rather than flexible like cables are. Typically, this means braces are used in different applications than cables are; specifically, they are used to support the bases of large, co-dominant stems (“twin-trunked” trees).
To install a brace, an arborist will first drill through both trunks or stems. Then, a steel rod is passed through the holes and secured in place with nuts on both sides. Multiple braces may be necessary in some cases, especially if both trunks are very large. Although braces provide a great deal of strength, they provide an entry point for decay, so they shouldn’t be used unless necessary.
Props are perhaps the simplest type of tree support system, and they’ve undoubtedly been used by enterprising individuals for hundreds of years. Designed to “prop up” branches that are in danger of failing, props can be engineered from almost anything rigid and strong enough for the task at hand. This includes masonry walls, metal poles or wooden posts, among other things.
Props are most commonly used to support limbs that are still healthy and desirable, yet lack good structure or feature a weak attachment point. This commonly occurs in mature trees, whose lowest branches are very long and therefore heavy. Eventually, these limbs will fail, but with proper support, they may last for several more decades than they otherwise would.
Props can also be used to support the trunks of leaning trunks too. However, because of the incredible weights involved with large trees, this is only realistic with relatively modest-sized trees.
Like virtually every other tree-care technique, cabling, bracing and propping are most effective when employed early. So, stop procrastinating and contact your friends at Trav’s Tree Service if you suspect one of your trees needs some help. One of our experienced and highly trained arborists will assess the tree and provide you with a plan for keeping it healthy and happy for years to come.