How To Prepare Trees for Winter

By Nancy B
October 16, 2023

We pledge to provide straight talk from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts. Read the Northern Neck Insurance Integrity Promise.

Do you treasure the trees around your home? Their sublime fall colors tell us another summer is ending and old man winter is approaching. While trees provide beauty and shade and enhance your home's landscaping, they can damage your property when a hurricane, tornado, or winter storm threatens Virginia. While homeowners insurance is designed to protect you from costly tree damage, it's wise to do what you can to prevent a claim.  



In April 2018, this large tree branch came down in Irvington, VA, from an EF1 tornado.

How trees can damage a home

A mature oak tree can top out at over 80 feet, weigh in at 20,000 pounds or more, and become a massive threat to your home. A tree that size is not something you want dropping on you during severe weather! Hurricanes can produce winds that cause large branches of trees to snap and shallow-rooted trees to topple. The weight of ice from a winter storm can result in high crown breakage and trees can also split or lose major limbs.

Can a house withstand a tree falling on it?

A home can handle a tree falling on it depending on the size of the tree and the areas of the home that are damaged, but it can still cause extensive and costly damage. The Duvall family's story says it all. Kate and Dan were preparing their home in anticipation of the couple's first child when a large tree brought catastrophic damage to their forever home. We worked closely with our local independent agent to help the Duvalls restore their home. 

We know from these types of member experiences that your home needs to be protected. While homeowners insurance policies cover tree-related damage, most can be prevented with proper tree choice and placement when planting new trees and two simple maintenance practices.

How to prevent tree damage to your home


1. Trim your trees

Trim your trees twice yearly in early spring and fall—zero in on dead and damaged branches. Maintain a minimum of 10-15 feet between healthy branches and your home and other property. Protect your home during fall wildfire season in Virginia which runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30 each year. Having a defensible space around your home can prevent wildfires from quickly reaching your home.  After hurricane season ends and winter arrives,  Virginia ice storms can add excessive weight to tree branches, causing them to break off when they wouldn't otherwise.   


2. Check your trees' health    

Is the foliage full and healthy-looking? What you see above ground often reflects the root problems below. Check your trees for a few more possible warning signs:

  • Mushrooms growing around the tree's roots
  • Rainwater pooling around the tree's base
  • Leaning with cracked or buckling soil or exposed roots on the opposite side
  • Multiple V-shaped trunks vs. U-shaped. V-shaped are prone to splitting
  • Signs of illness: Lack of foliage, fungus, or carpenter ants at the base of the tree, hollow pockets, cavities, or decay
  • Signs of damage: Exposed roots, peeling bark, deep cracks, partially detached or suspended limbs or stem tops

If you're unsure about your tree's health or think it should be removed, we recommend avoiding drive-by solicitations that may not have proper training and certification. It's best to consult a certified arborist in Virginia. These specialists are skilled tree-care professionals. If a tree in your yard is beyond help or looks dead, it should be removed immediately. It may or may not be safe to remove your tree yourself. This job is usually better for an insured and licensed professional tree removal service.

Arbortist cutting large branch

Does Homeowners Insurance cover tree damage?

While regular maintenance is the best way to protect your home and property, trees sometimes fall. If your tree or your neighbor's tree causes damage to your property, file a claim with your home insurance carrier. Contact your local independent agent or call us with severe weather-related claim questions. We're right here and ready to help!

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THE NORTHERN NECK INSURANCE INTEGRITY PROMISE — We pledge to provide straight talk and good counsel from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts through our blog. While we hope you find this to be a helpful source of information, it does not replace the guidance of a licensed insurance professional, nor does it modify the terms of your Northern Neck Insurance policy in any way. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy.