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Tree Protection During Construction

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Tree Protection During Construction

Planning a home construction project? Don’t forget about construction tree protection in your plans. In Toronto and GTA communities, it’s a required part of the approval process for construction permits.

Careless work around trees during construction can badly damage a tree. This can lead to a tree’s decline, tree removal, and/or municipal fines, depending on the damage. It’s best to plan ahead to ensure you’ve followed city requirements and tree protection zone guidelines.

Tree Construction Permits

If you’re completing a renovation or new construction close to trees on your property, you’ll need to submit a Toronto Tree Protection Plan as part of your application for construction permits. An arborist report [link] is required for this.

The tree protection plan should explain how any trees in the vicinity will be cared for during construction and how you plan to avoid damage to the trees. Keep in mind this isn’t only required if construction is very close to a tree. It’s also necessary if workers will be storing vehicles or equipment alongside your trees, discarding construction waste, or digging.

Arborist Reports for Construction

An arborist will look at how the planned construction will affect any trees in your yard. It’s especially important if there are large mature trees in the area where the construction is planned. These trees have larger root systems. Damage or removal can affect ecosystems and property values of your home, and potentially neighbouring homes.

The arborist report will assess which trees may be affected by your planned construction project. Your arborist can make recommendations for tree protection during construction, as well as consider whether the planned construction will leave your tree enough space to grow and thrive, and make suggestions for adjustments to your plans if necessary.

If your construction involves removing trees, you’ll need the arborist report to apply for tree removal permits as well. Toronto requires a permit to remove trees over 30 cm in diameter. Other GTA communities have different bylaws — Markham requires a permit for trees over 20 cm in diameter, for example, while Oakville requires a permit to remove any tree over 15 cm in diameter.

Tree Protection Zones (TPZ)

The size of a tree protection zone (TPZ) varies depending on the size of the tree. In Toronto, this ranges from a distance spanning 1.2m outwards from the tree, for a tree under 10cm in diameter, to a 6m radius for trees with a 91cm-1m diameter. That distance increases for trees in ravines.

In that area, you’re prohibited from altering the grade of the ground, filling or excavating material, storing construction materials, equipment or waste, disposing of liquids, and driving equipment or vehicles. The tree protection zone needs to be fenced off with plywood hoarding or another approved fencing material at a height of 1.2-2.4m (4-8 feet).

If it’s not possible to avoid the full required area, the city’s Urban Forestry department may make adjustments to the size of the TPZ in consultation with the arborist. An arborist may also need to advise on other work needed to protect the tree, including mulching, deadwood pruning, soil aeration, or removing branches likely to be affected by construction.

How Can Construction Affect Trees?

Open lot fenced in area for new home construction toronto

Trees can be affected during construction by heavy equipment being moved around the yard or stored against a tree, as well as damaged by accidents or careless operation of equipment. Bark can easily be skinned off trees by various types of construction equipment, causing damage to the tree and leaving it more vulnerable to disease and further damage. A physical barrier or fencing around trees can help protect them while your property undergoes outdoor renovations.

Improperly disposed chemicals and construction materials on lawns can also damage your trees and landscaping.

Root Protection

Tree roots extending outwards on grassy lawn

Protecting tree roots is one of the most important considerations in planning construction. Your tree roots likely extend much further than you think, especially for large and older trees. Tree roots extend outwards from the tree, but may only be up to 30 cm or 1 foot deep.

This is where your arborist can really help you out, examining where your tree’s root systems extend to, as well as the root systems of neighbours’ trees, in the case of construction close to property lines. You’ll want to ensure any digging doesn’t damage the root systems of trees. Roots need to be protected along with the trunks and canopies of trees.

Cut roots can gradually cause branches to die back in your tree and the tree to weaken over time. It’s also important to make sure your trees get enough water during construction, especially if the work is happening during hot and dry summer weather.

Your Renovation and Tree Safety

With the help of an arborist, it’s easy to ensure that your construction or renovation plans follow municipal bylaws and help keep your trees safe. Every homeowner who’s gone through a reno knows that lots can go wrong or off track during construction — don’t let your trees and yard be the victim!

If you need an arborist report for your construction plans, give Vista Tree a call. We’ll help you keep your trees healthy during your construction project!

author avatar
Michael Co-Founder
Michael is a Certified Arborist and founder of the company. He holds a Certificate in Urban Arboriculture (Honours) from Humber College, Certificate in Project Leadership from Cornell, has post-graduate studies in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture from Oregon State College of Foresty and holds a BAH in Ancient History with a minor in Business. In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, he is a TCIA Certified Tree Safety Professional, Tree Appraisal Qualified by Arboriculture Canada and holds a Landscape Exterminator license. Michael sat on the Board of Director for the Ontario Commercial Arborist Association in 2022 and 2023. He worked at some of the top arboriculture companies in Southern Ontario before starting Vista Tree Management. Before that, he was an award-winning Executive Director in the nonprofit sector and published marketing consultant. On the rare days off, Michael can be found at home with his family - a loving wife, two daughters and two cats in Central Toronto.
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Vista Tree Management provided an excellent service of removing a large tree from a backyard of my property in Toronto. The whole process of quoting, and doing the job was very efficient, clearly explained and provided as promised. Their price for the serviced was very competitive.
My parents used their service to cut a tree down in their backyard. This tree was in such an awkward position where it was interfering with 2 other neighbors. James ensured me that the service would be done in a very professional manner and no damage would be done. Im glad to say he was right and had a group of 6 hard working individuals made the job done safely and efficiently. I would highly recommend this company for anyone needing tree removal.
Everything went smooth, from the initial assessment visit to the email communication to the job getting done! Thank you guys for your professionalism and quality work!!
Vista is an excellent company to deal with. The owners went above and beyond expectations to help deal with a unique situation. The guys who did the work were not only professional but also very polite. I will be using them again to help with other work in the future.
We are very happy with all the work Vista Tree Management accomplished on our property.  James was very professional and gave us excellent advice concerning the trimming of our 12 foot cedar hedges and the pruning of our mature silver maple trees.  The crew was very friendly and hard working, they did a tremendous job on the work required and they did an excellent job with the clean up.  We would highly recommend Vista Tree services to our family and friends.  We will definitely use them again for all of our future projects.
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They just did my front lawn, and boy, did they leave a lasting impression!

They were straightforward with the plan - clear and precise, ensuring that I was well informed of the process and outcome. The execution was meticulous and exceeded my expectations. Moreover, the cleanliness post-service was remarkable, leaving no trace of debris or disruption.

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I can’t say enough positive comment about James and Vista Tree. We were “ghosted” by 2 other tree management companies last fall. James came by and provided separate quotes for two very large trees on our property, both of which were a challenge to severely prune. They were a hazard and had to be addressed. The quotes were delivered the next day after assessment. The team was here on two separate days (April 30 and May 7). They were efficient, professional and most importantly safe. Hollis, the arborist who climbed the trees was friendly and communicated everything he was doing to the trees as well as any changes he made once he was up in the tree. The other members of the crew (Syd and Pete, I can’t remember the others) were professional and friendly. They cleaned everything up and were open to any suggestions we had regarding disposal of the wood. I would highly recommend this company. We will be having them back again to do more work, in the fall.
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Safe, fast, personable team - did a great job with tree trimming and removal! Note: the removal of a tree was not on the original scope and they still made it happen!
By the end of the day, I wouldn’t have even known they were there.
Very Happy with the professional advice and service we received from Vista which was promptly done. The follow-up to ensure we were happy with the work was appreciated.
Highly recommend! Michal came by first to take a look at things and provide the estimate. He’s obviously passionate about what he does and I learned a ton about my tree that I had no idea about! He gave me the confidence I needed to schedule the work. James and the “J-Crew” arrived on the scheduled day and were super friendly. The team did an amazing job with trimming my large overgrown maple and a fantastic cleanup job. My yard looked better than before they arrived. Will definitely have them back for future maintenance! Thanks Vista!
Great service from a great crew of people! The team was amazing from consulting on best ways to tackle the project, safely removing the trees and making sure the job was done to satisfaction. Would highly recommend and definitely use them again.
These guys are incredibly professional and by far the best arborist that have visited our home. And we've had many!

What impressed me the most was throughout their only concern was safety for my family and our property. With that and that only in mind they made all the cuts and changes that were required. When they left, I felt the most relief I felt about the trees in our backyard in a long time.

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After doing a fair bit of research into Toronto-based arborists, we decided to go with Vista, and are very happy we did! From my first meeting with Mike when he came to give us a free quote, I was impressed with his knowledge and professionalism. Mike and his crew were punctual on the day they came to prune the deadwood from our very large Red Oak tree, answered my questions, and worked for 7 hours straight to get the job done. We were impressed from beginning to end, and wouldn’t hesitate to hire them again!
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