A cracked tree, split almost down the middle with a large branch laying on the lawn. Photo from Edmonton, Alberta.

HELP! My Tree is Cracked: Can It Be Saved?

What’s the best way to deal with a cracked tree?

It may look unsalvageable but jumping into a tree removal isn’t the only option available. Before you decide to say goodbye to your tree, consider saving it. Here’s what you should know. 


Signs of a cracked tree

A cracked tree is often easy to spot. In severe cases, you’ll see a massive crack splitting the trunk. More minor cracks can be harder to find but should still be assessed. Even small fissures can weaken the tree and make it more likely to suffer severe damage during windstorms. 

Large, multi-trunked trees are more susceptible to splitting than other trees. The most common tree species in Edmonton that experience cracking are:

  • Siberian larch
  • Little leaf Linden
  • Green ash
  • American elm
  • American basswood

These trees are likely to develop what are called “co-dominant stems” as they grow, forming a V in the trunk, also known as a “tree fork.”


Why Cracked Trees Are Dangerous

A large tree can significantly damage property and people if it falls. Strong winds, an ice storm or a heavy, wet snowfall can send a massive part of a cracked tree crashing down at any moment. A falling tree can also damage neighbouring properties, potentially leading to litigation.


A cracked tree is also more vulnerable to pests and diseases, which can further weaken the tree and spread the problem to other trees in your yard and those of your neighbours.


Types and Causes

Benign cracks can significantly weaken the tree and lead to a full-on split trunk. For instance, frost cracks caused by alternating freezing and thawing temperatures don’t usually require special attention. The issue is that once a tree is cracked, it’s more likely to be damaged by future weather events. Other factors that make a tree susceptible to splitting are internal decay and ground erosion. 


Can A Split Tree Be Salvaged?

A cracked tree isn’t necessarily doomed. First, assess the damage or hire a professional arborist to evaluate your tree. Your tree can be saved if:

  • The split doesn’t run all the way to the ground
  • There’s no sign of decay or infestation
  • The damaged area doesn’t exceed 25 per cent of the tree trunk circumference
  • Loss of the tree’s crown doesn’t exceed 50 per cent

If these criteria are met, the tree should be able to heal itself, although it may require some help. Just how much support it’ll need, however, is hard to tell without contacting a professional arborist who has experience with Edmonton’s flora and climate. Don’t hesitate to contact us for an evaluation and a free estimate of your cracked tree. 


Saving A Cracked Tree

With help, a split tree can heal itself over several months. Professionals use techniques like bracing and cabling to save your tree. First, the tree is fitted with braces, which are threaded stainless steel rods that go through the trunk to hold the split sections together.

After the bolts are installed, an arborist will attach cables between the tree’s high branches to redistribute weight. This reduces the strain on the trunk and makes it more resilient.


Why You Should Call A Professional to Repair A Cracked Tree

Repairing a cracked tree may seem like a DIY project but doing it yourself is risky for you and the tree. Here’s why.

  • Ladder work is dangerous. The work may require high ladders or mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) to do it safely. One of the most common accidents in DIY tree maintenance is falling from a ladder. Professionals utilize special safety harnesses, lanyards and anchors that aren’t part of the typical layperson’s toolshed.

  • You need special tools. Professional arborists have special tools designed for the unique needs of trees. Chainsaws, drills and other tree maintenance tools are dangerous to operate, especially when working on high ladders.

  • Trees are large and heavy. Trees that are cracked are under thousands of pounds of pressure. Releasing this pressure by incorrectly sawing or drilling can release this power with catastrophic consequences. A thousand-pound tree trunk may come crashing into your house, and any resulting injuries may be fatal.

  • You can do more damage to the tree. Finally, incorrectly bracing or cabling your tree can harm the tree’s health. Cables need to be placed at strategic locations where they won’t strangle the tree or stifle growth. Braces should be placed in the correct positions and not bolted too tightly to give the tree the best chance of healing itself.

Professional arborists have the knowledge and the tools to brace and cable a cracked tree safely and efficiently, giving it the best chance of survival.

When to Say Goodbye

Bracing and cabling are effective techniques that allow the tree to heal on its own while making it more resistant to future weather events. However, if the split was due to internal decay, it’s time to think about having the tree removed. A tree that’s diseased or infested with vermin is unlikely to survive. This is also true for trees that have been entirely split in two. 

Again, tree removal is a dangerous job that requires special techniques and tools and is best left to professional arborists.



If you need to assess or remove a damaged tree, or if you think it can be saved, you can rely on All Season Tree Service’s knowledge of Edmonton’s trees. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with a local arborist.