Don't plant silver maples too close to your house.
During the recent devastating ice storm in Kentucky, we heard tree branches breaking all night, with terrible pops that sounded like gunshots. Limbs hit our roof with tremendous thumps. Daylight revealed an incredible scene of natural destruction in our yard.
The photo below was taken through the living room window the morning after the storm. This photo shows only a portion of the branches that broke from a large silver maple (Acer saccharinum), about 15 feet from the window. We have dents and a puncture in our metal roof as a result of the falling branches.
The tree's main trunk ends at about ten feet. It has five long, massive limbs growing upward from the trunk, and each limb has smaller branches, of course. One of those limbs poses an ongoing (and increasing) threat to our house. I'm afraid that we need to completely remove that limb. It will be hard on the tree to lose it, but we don't have much choice.
Two more silver maples are planted too close to our house. They are younger trees, planted about 1980. One of them is even closer to the house than the tree outside our living room window.
I understand what the planter wanted -- afternoon shade -- and he would be happy to know that his trees provide that. However, as years pass, both those trees are going to be major problems. To prevent large branches from falling on the roof, we'll have to remove whole sections of the trees. It's very sad.
Silver maples have their merits. They aren't very fussy about where they're planted. They grow well in urban conditions. They will grow in compacted soil. They tolerate short spells of standing in shallow water. They are a valuable tree for wildlife -- especially in late winter and spring when their buds, blooms, and seeds provide food at a time that other food supplies are limited. They have a small-but-noticable, red blossom in early spring when not much else is blooming. They withstand drought and heat, and of course, they do grow very fast.
Unfortunately, silver maples also have a very undesirable characteristic -- weak branches that break in every ice or wind storm that occurs.
If you are willing to deal with the broken branches, silver maples will serve as a fast-growing, short-term (50 to 100 year) tree. They grow up to 100 feet in height with 100-foot canopies. You should plant them at least 50 feet away from anything that could be damaged by falling limbs. Consider power lines, roads, and driveways, as well as your house and other buildings when you select the planting site.
Take my advice and you won't ever have a story to tell about broken silver maple branches making dents in your roof.