Last summer I planted a maple sapling in my yard. I foolishly did this without calling 811. This month I have other work to do and had my utilities marked.

When the marking was done I discovered that my phone and cable lines were ~6 feet apart and my maple sapling was planted right in the middle of those two lines.

How far should my sapling be from these lines?

If it is too close should I transplant it or just kill it and start over with a new sapling in a better location?

1 Answer 1


Trouble now or trouble later would sum up the answer.

Dig the tree up and set back it's growth by a few years or take your chances that there will be substantial root damage later if the lines have to be relaid.

Where I live cable and phone companies have a distressing tendency to bury their lines anywhere but usually close to the surface. It's not like a water or natural gas line where they are buried below the frost line in northerly climates.

The upside to this is, in the event that roots or other events cause your line to need replacing the odds are good that they will not dig up the area and "fix" the line. They will just lay a new line from the nearest junction and hopefully you could ask them to dig around your tree.

You don't say what kind of maple it is or where you live but many maples get to one hundred feet tall with a thirty to fifty foot crown diameter. Digging around a tree at mature size within six feet of the trunk will cause damage but might not be a likely outcome if your utilities prefer to lay a new line if the old one is broken.

Edit: This reference from Wikipedia agrees with my own observations that the size and shape of red or silver maples is highly variable. Trees grown in the open spread out a bit more, soil, climate and parentage do have an effect on mature height and spread.

Let's take the best scenario: Your tree grows to maturity over twenty or thirty years. At that point in time it could be about forty feet in diameter. So you would want to plant this tree at least twenty feet from any utilities and twenty five would not be a bad idea.

  • This is a red or silver maple. Its likely parents are 2-3' in diameter and 50-75 feet tall. How far should I replant it from the marked lines?
    – Freiheit
    May 6, 2014 at 12:32
  • You probably had some good aesthetic reasons for putting the tree where you did. Before you move it, and compromise the health of the tree, contact your phone and cable companies and ask them "what happens if my buried lines get damaged by tree roots?" Factor that into your decision. I'm pretty sure most phone companies will service the the cable leading from the main to your demarcation point. Around me, the demarc is usually installed on the house. Not sure about cable. There's a chance the roots won't damage the lines anyway. May 7, 2014 at 1:05
  • 1
    I know the policy for my cable company, they come out and re-dig the line for free as long as some period of time (years) has passed without a new line going in. Phone company is likely more challenging, but not relevant to my own interests as I do not use their services.
    – Freiheit
    May 7, 2014 at 17:12

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