Tree removal is normally a last resort for tree care companies, but it is sometimes an unavoidable part of homeownership. While you work hard to keep your trees happy and healthy, there are certain situations where the only alternative is to remove a tree (or even a few). Tree removal is ultimately about removing a hazard or potential hazard and protecting your home, yard, and loved ones.

Is Tree Removal Necessary?

Unless your tree removal desires are aesthetic, you’ll likely reach out to a pro about tree removal because you’re concerned about one or more trees in your yard. Before scheduling a tree inspection, take note of any of the common tree issues below, and make sure to point them out to your tree pro. If you’re unsure about whether there’s a real issue, a professional will help you determine if your tree can be saved or if it’s a lost cause.

  1. Is the tree dead, damaged, or sickly? These trees can be very dangerous to you and your home because dead and damaged trees are susceptible to breaking and falling. If you have a diseased tree that cannot be treated, it is important to remove this threat to protect other trees nearby.
  2. Is the area overcrowded? Maybe you’re looking to clear a space in your backyard or are planning a construction project.
  3. Is the tree too close to your home or other structures? Another good reason for tree removal is its proximity to your home or other structures.
  4. Is the tree leaning? In this situation, a certified arborist should definitely come out to assess the situation. There may be an issue with the root system, and the tree could be in danger of falling.
  5. Is there a fallen tree? In most cases, it’s best to remove a fallen tree, especially if it has fallen onto other trees. If the tree has fallen between property lines, figure out who’s responsible for its removal.
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Hire a Professional Tree Service

professional arborist removing dead tree

Tree removal can be very dangerous, and it’s a task best left to the professionals. Qualified tree care professionals will consider the following when assessing your tree prior to removal:

  1. The height of the tree
  2. Nearby obstacles such as your home, garage, power lines, or a neighbor’s house
  3. The direction the tree will fall
  4. Unexpected issues during the removal process such as rotting limbs that can fall
  5. What equipment is needed for the job, including chainsaws, wedges, cranes, and other specialized equipment as well as a means to haul the downed tree away

Don’t risk life and limb by tackling a major tree removal on your own. When you use a professional tree service company, you’re paying for skill, expertise, speed, and safety.

Getting a tree removal estimate

The size, type, condition, and location of the tree will determine how much its removal will cost. Before hiring a company, make sure you know what’s included in the cost.

Included. Depending on the company, tree removal often includes reducing the tree to a stump, hauling away the branches, and cutting the trunk down to smaller pieces.

Not Included. Stump grinding, branch chipping, branch hauling, trunk hauling, and splitting can be additional costs.

Tree Removal Techniques

The tree’s size, location, and condition also govern how the tree will be removed. Tree care professionals have the expertise necessary to determine the best way to remove your tree and keep people as well as your home or other nearby structures safe.

Tree felling

Felling is the process of cutting down a standing tree. A lot of thought goes into tree felling, since people (or vehicles or structures) can be crushed if the direction of the fall is miscalculated. Read more about the tree felling process in six steps:

  1. Before felling a tree, a professional will assess the surroundings to see if there are any obstacles to avoid. They will also check the condition of the tree. Felling a damaged or dead tree is dangerous because the tree could fall unexpectedly during the process or in an unpredicted direction.
  2. Tree professionals will then determine which direction they expect or need the tree to fall. Based on the direction of the fall, they will plan escape routes and ensure these paths are clear for them to retreat to once the tree is falling or if something unexpected happens.
  3. Once it’s time to fell the tree, your tree care pro will typically use an undercut and a back cut, unless the tree requires some other method of removal (such as crane-assisted removal).
  4. The undercut, or notch cut, is made on the side of the tree that faces the direction of the fall. The tree pro will use a chainsaw to cut a V shape into the tree. The depth and angle of the undercut depends on the size and lean of the tree.
  5. The back cut is made on the opposite side of the tree and is positioned slightly above the bottom of the notch cut. The back cut does not go completely through the tree, leaving a section of trunk as a hinge between the back cut and the undercut. This uncut section of the tree helps control the fall.
  6. Once the cuts have been made, the tree will begin to fall, and your tree pro will turn their chainsaw off and quickly move back along one of their planned escape routes. When the tree has fallen, the limbing and bucking can begin.

Limbing is the removal of tree limbs (either from a standing or felled tree). Bucking involves cutting a felled tree into smaller pieces. Limbing and bucking make it much easier to remove a large tree from a property.

Crane-assisted tree removal

Crane-assisted tree removal involves cutting down a tree piece by piece and removing the pieces with the help of a crane. This is commonly used in urban areas and for very large trees. Some companies own their own cranes and other large equipment, and others rent equipment as needed.

For some crane-assisted jobs, a tree care pro will climb up in the tree to do the removal, wearing a harness and other necessary safety equipment. Each piece of the tree is secured with a rope or chain attached to the crane before being cut with a chainsaw. The crane then takes the section away from the tree and to the ground.

In other cases, the company will bring in a bucket truck, and the person in the bucket will make the cuts after someone in a harness secures the limb or trunk section to the crane.

Look up videos of this tree removal method—it’s really cool to watch. And once you see it, you’ll understand the dangers of this tree removal technique and why proper training and equipment is required.

After the Tree Removal

man cutting down tree with chainsaw

Once the tree has been removed, some companies will turn it into firewood or other useful pieces of wood. If you’re interested in reusing your tree like this, ask tree care companies beforehand if they provide this service. It’s a nice way to get further use out of the tree once its usefulness in your yard has ended.

Stump removal

Now that the tree is gone, what are you going to do with the stump? You may not want to leave it in your yard. Stumps can become infected with fungi that can spread to your healthy trees, and they make good homes for nuisance pests.

Stump grinding is a common method of stump removal. A stump grinder is a large piece of machinery with a cutting wheel on an arm. The arm moves the wheel back and forth across the stump as the wheel’s steel teeth grind it into small pieces.

Ask your tree care professional if you can keep the fine mulch that results from the stump grinding process—it makes for great gardening or composting. If you don’t want to keep the stump leftovers, find out whether the company will remove it for you.

You can also ask your tree service company if they’ll bring in topsoil and fill in the hole left by stump grinding. If you would like to use the space for landscaping in the future, ask your tree care professional about what you need to do to make it suitable for planting.

Educate yourself on the ins and outs of stump removal beforehand, so you know what questions to ask and what to expect from your tree service company.

The Bottom Line

  1. Tree removal is a serious undertaking.
  2. Unless you’re removing a peewee tree, call a professional. They’ve got the expertise, equipment, and insurance to handle tree removal safely.
  3. Remember to talk with your tree service pro about what happens after the tree is removed—if you want firewood or mulch from your tree, or if you want the stump removed, you should ask beforehand.