Tree Trimming

Keeping your Trees Trimmed and maintained is a must, for the long-term health of your trees. Trees that receive periodic trimming are more likely to grow beautiful and strong. Well cared for trees are cited by many realtor associations as the single best investment a property owner can make on the exterior of their home, office, or commercial building.

Dead growth, cracked limbs and broken branches are entry points for bugs, pests and fungus. Dying limbs steal nutrients from the tree, making less resources available for healthy new growth. Dead growth is not just distasteful, it's a property liability that harms the tree and the property value. In some cases, unkept trees cause damage to person and property. Tree limbs and trunks that lack periodic maintenance are at greater risk of falling; Causing the potential of damage and injury.  It is well known that trees receiving proper trimming every few years enjoy a prolonged lifespan. Correct trimming and pruning improves air circulation around the crown (tree top).Correct trimming results in healthy new growth and stronger trees.

Using the right approach to tree trimming will improve:

  • Views
  • Enable storm winds to easily pass through without blowing the tree over.
  • Prompt the growth of grass and plants at the ground level via increased sunlight.
  • Reduce falling leaves, thereby making the property easier to maintain.
  • Reduces excess fallen leaves that choke out ornamental turf grass.

Over time fallen leaves will decompose resulting in higher soil acidity PH. Soil PH that becomes too acidic will make growing turf grass difficult. If your soil does become too acidic, lime can be applied to counterbalance the acidy.

Maintaining trimming allows for shaping of the tree. Shaping for height control of the upper canopy to avoid power lines, light posts, rooflines and view obstructions. Shaping the lower canopy to avoid lawn mowers, tractors and vehicles.


Best Time of the Year to Trim Your Trees

Although tree trimming and pruning can occur anytime, late fall and winter generally are the ideal seasons to prune. This is because the tree is dormant during this time. Trees store energy in the form of sap. Removing limbs and branches during the dormant season reduces sap loss and stress. Possible insect and fungi problems are avoided by trimming when the tree is dormant. Additionally, it is easier to trim a tree after the leaves have fallen off for the season, making clean up easier.

Safety Gear First

If Trimming and Pruning a tree yourself be sure to invest in the correct personal protective equipment (insert amazon gear list). The proper equipment you should have is:

  • Helmet with a face shield
  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Chaps made for chainsaw work
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Work Boots

Steel Toe work boots are preferred by some yet could cause more injury if a log were to fall on your foot. Yes, the steel toe could protect your toes from becoming crushed. But if you could also crush the steel, wedging the steel into your toes. A personal decision should be made as to whether or not to use steel toed boots. You should never operate a chainsaw or do any type of tree work if not wearing the correct safety gear. Chainsaws are EXTREMELY dangerous, if not used properly. Injuries resulting from chainsaw accidents are usually lacerations. due to the nature of how a chainsaw works, lacerations from chainsaws tend to rip the skin rather than cut the skin cleanly. If injured from a chainsaw seek immediate medical help.

Correct PPE Equipment

Once the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) is in place. Invest in the correct equipment for the job. There are three parts to approaching a tree trimming job.

  • Reaching the necessary limbs and branches
  • Cutting the limb or branch
  • Cleaning up and Deposing of the limbs and branches


Reaching Tree Limbs and Branches

If the tree is small, a ladder will work. Its key that you tie the ladder to the tree’s trunk before sawing, this will prevent the ladder from falling and causing injury, in the event a falling branch hits the ladder. If at all possible, a pole saw may allow the tree trimmer to stay on the ground. A much safer option when the tree is small. A pole saw should never be used while on a ladder.

Most often the best and safest way to reach limbs and branches is to use a bucket lift. Bucket lifts come in three forms.

  • Tow behind lifts
  • Self-propelled lifts
  • Truck mounted lifts.

Tow behinds and self-propelled lifts can be rented for your project. Most national rental companies like Sunbelt Rental, United Rental, Hertz Equipment Rental have the best rates on tow behind and self-propelled units. Oftentimes your local Home Depot may offer bucket lift rentals as well. Price shop all of them for the best rate.

If a bucket lift will simply not fit where the tree is. Next best option is a professional certified climber. These trained professionals have the skills and abilities to climb the tree via safety ropes and harness. In tight and difficult areas, a professional climber can be an amazing asset. Certified climbers can be much more affordable than using a bucket lift.

Cutting Tree Limbs and Branches 

Chainsaws are the tool of choice in the tree trimming industry. Coming in different sizes from small 12-inch climbing saws, to very large two-man operated saws for large trunk cuts. Pole saws are extendable chainsaws that enable an extra 4-8 ft of extra reach when needed. Most chainsaws can be rented from local rental outfits, lawn supply stores and home improvement stores.

Clean Up and Tree Debris Disposal 

Once the trimming has been done. The job is not complete until the debris has been cleaned up and disposed of. There are several options for cleaning up.

     Dumpster Bag Pick Up

For small amounts of waste look into a Bagster, or competing product. These are foldable large dumpster bags. A waste removal company like Waste Management sells these dumpster bags for a fixed rate. After you filled them with debris, you can call and have them picked up curbside. They lift the whole dumpster bag with a crane truck and haul it away for one fixed price.

       Curbside Pick Up

In some counties and towns tree waste can be stacked up for curbside pickup by your local waste service. There may or may not be a direct charge for this service. A quick phone call to your waste provider or township should answer, at what cost tree debris is disposed at? If not offered in your area, try a service like craigslist for a waste hauler. It’s very likely that you can find an inexpensive “you call we haul” type of service. These guys will show up, load your debris and take it away. Always be sure anyone your hire for tree debris removal is insured for that type of work. Property damage can occur during debris removal, especially if equipment is being used.


If your area allows it and your property has the space. You may elect to use it as firewood. This can be an excellent choice for wintertime heating, or backyard camping and s'mores with the kids. Wood will need to be dried before using as firewood. Standard dry time for good firewood is 6-12 months if kept out of the weather. Keep in mind that wood stored for too long can attract termites and bugs; As well as grow fungus and mold. So, if you plan on keeping your tree trimmings for firewood have a plan and a place to store the wood out of the elements.

Dumpster Rental and Pick Up

If the project is larger in scale a dumpster may be the more economical option. Search for a local dumpster service and collect rates based on drop off, dumper size and pick up. Often dumpster companies will charge based on the dumpster size or the weight placed into the dumpster. Many dumpster companies will have several added fees into the cost of their service. Making them appear to be a cheaper option but the math says otherwise. So, if going with a dumpster service, find a standard metric to compare each service to one another. What you’re looking for is the best rate to remove your tree debris. A little research and a few extra calls may save hundreds of dollars. (insert photo)

Final Detail Clean Up

After cleaning up your debris from trimming. You’ll want to rake up any leaves that fell in the process along with small twigs. An empty rubber trashcan and rake works best for this process. A strong leaf blower will help get those final hard to rake leaves up and out of your lawn or landscape beds. If the property has a place where you can blow the debris where decomposition may be beneficial, such as a garden bed or tree line, blow every last bit of leaves there.  Be sure to clean up well. Leaving twigs and leaves on the grass can dull the blades of lawn mowers and create potential projectiles when mowed over. Additional leaves left to decompose can cause acidity in your soil. If your landscape or lawn is not performing well acid soil PH could be the issue. Counterbalance this with a lime application. Lime is alkaline and will act to neutralize the acid from decomposing leaves. When the soil reaches a balanced PH, you’ll see noticeable results in your lawn or landscape.

If debris was piled on top of a lawn. It’s best to water the lawn after cleaning up to help the grass make a full recovery from the extra traffic and wear that may have occurred during the tree trimming process. 

Tree Removal

In some cases, the best solution is removing the tree completely. It's wise to fully remove a tree when one of the following scenarios is met.

Harm to Structures

It's the right choice to remove a tree when it’s encroaching on structures such as a house or building. If the tree is close to a structure, evaluate whether it should be removed by answering the following questions:

  • Will the structure be dangerous if a severe storm were to occur?
  • Would the falling tree debris cause damage to the structure?
  • Is the root system negatively affecting the structure's integrity?
  • Root system size is determined by the size of the canopy spread. Where the branches extend out, there you will find roots.
  • Are roots causing harm to the home's foundation, or cracking driveway and street surfaces?
  • If the property is on septic, are the tree roots infringing on the septic field?

 If yes to any of the above its likely best to remove the tree.

Conflicting Space’s 

A tree may need to be removed if it is coming in contact with or in the way of, active power and utility lines. Tree’s occupying space needed for utilities is best fully removed. In some cases, trees in the way of above ground utilities can be Forestry Mulched, leaving the root system to rot. If utilities like gas lines, internet lines, water lines or power lines must be run underground, it’s best to fully remove the tree and its root system. Larger projects like these are referred to as Right of Ways or “ROW projects''.  Other likely candidates for full tree removal are new home construction, road building or new landscape changes. Sometimes a new home addition or pool will require the removal of a tree.

Property Liability 

The best reason to remove a tree is when the tree has died. In the case where the tree is dead, not removing poses a major liability to the property owner. The dead tree will rot over time, attracting termites, carpenter ants and other bugs. Though the tree may appear to be strong and intact. In all likelihood the dead tree is rotting in the core. The longer the dead tree ages, the more likely the tree poses a risk of falling over. This can occur at any moment and cause incredible damage or loss of life. If you have a dead tree on your property, act immediately by marking off the potential fall area with caution tape and safety cones. Do not allow any person or property to enter the marked off area until a tree professional has safely removed the tree. When removing a rotting tree its best done by removing the top, then the middle trunk section. Followed by the bottom base and stump. Attempting to take a dead tree down from the base may result in limbs or the top of the tree falling on the saw operator. Causing injury or death.

Do you need a Permit to remove a tree? 

In most cases Yes, depending on the type of tree you want to remove.  Most likely you will need to seek local county and HOA’s approval before doing so. In most cases property owners applying for a tree removal permit will be approved. The rare exception is when the tree in question is a “Grand Tree”. Grand Trees are trees with trunks larger in circumference than that which you can reasonably wrap your arms around, or trees that far exceed the average. These trees may be so large they may be considered historic due to their age. However, if the tree is occupying conflicting space, posing potential harm or liability to structures, or dead, it is very likely you’ll be granted your permit. If having the tree removed by a professional insure, they have applied for and been approved for the permit before allowing work to start. Failure to do so could result in heavy fines and or a court date.

Best Practices for Removing Trees

It’s critical you have a plan before removing a tree. The plan should determine:

  • How the Tree will be Cut
  • Where the tree will fall when it’s cut
  • How the Debris will be Removed after its cut
  • Will the stump remain, will the stump be grounded out or fully removed?

Additional Items to consider before removing trees are:

  •  Access in and out of the work area
    • Are there gates, narrow passages or overhead obstructions?
  • Potential Hazards 
    • Powerlines
    • Gas Lines
    • Vehicle Traffic
    • Underground Utilities
  • Weather conditions 
    • If windy never perform tree work.
    • If rainy or stormy never perform tree work
    • If lighting is in the area, DO NOT perform tree work
  • Back Up Equipment Ready 
    • If you experience equipment failure halfway through the tree removal. Are you prepared with backup tools ready and available? If you are halfway through a trunk cut and the chainsaw fails. You have created a super unsafe situation. Having the right tools ready and on standby can help get to a safe stopping point.

Most common methods of Tree Removal

  • Top Down
    • Typically used in conjunction with a bucket lift. It's a common best practice to remove the very top branches and limbs first. This thins out and shortens the existing height of the trees top. The tree is removed piece by piece top down. This is a preferred method to use in tight areas, where structures or obstructions exist. This method takes more time but is one of the safest methods to deconstruct a tree.
  • Top Up
    • Used in conjunction with a crane and a certified tree climber. The climber makes his way to the top of the tree, where a cable from a crane is waiting. The climber secures the cable around the top of the tree trunk. With the cable wrapped and secured the crane applies lift pressure. The tree climber then performs a trunk cut. With the trunk cut, the crane lifts the top up and over any obstructions. Placing the top of the tree into a haul truck or on the ground to be chopped into smaller pieces. This method is most common in tight to reach areas, particularly areas where there is no access for equipment to access the tree.
  • Alligator Base Cut and Fall
    • Perhaps the most common method used in full tree removal. Provided there are no structures, landscapes or other trees in harm's way. The tree crew selects a direction in which they’d like to see the tree fall. For extra precaution a pull strap is placed ¾’s of the way up the truck. Pressure is later applied to this strap.  An “alligator cut” is then made halfway through the trunk of the tree.  Facing the direction in which you’d like to have the tree fall. A triangle wedge shape is removed from the “alligator mouth” out of the tree trunk. A second final cut is then made several inches above the alligator mouth on the backside.  It's important to apply pressure from the safety strap at this time. If done correctly the tree should fall in the direction of alligator mouth cut. Be careful as the tree falls, branches and limbs can become projectiles. Once on the ground, the tree can be chopped into smaller pieces and hauled away to a debris site or used as firewood.


Clean Up and Turf Repair 

After Tree Removal Services have completed, be sure to rake up any saw dust, leaves or twigs that may have fallen during the process. Leaves left on the lawn will cause browning. As the leaves decompose, they will cause the soil to become acidic. Acidic soils do not grow plants and lawns well. However, the soil PH can be brought to neutral levels by adding lime. Lime is alkaline, so adding it to acidic soils will balance the soil to a neutral PH level.

Some areas may have experienced ruts or damage during the tree removal process. Smooth out and level any marks or damage that occurred in the turf or landscape, from falling tree debris or equipment. Extra topsoil can be helpful for areas where equipment has left tracks behind. Fill these areas with fresh topsoil and apply sod or seed on top. Water heavily after all work has completed to help the lawn and landscape areas fully recover quickly.

What to do with the Tree Stump After the Tree has been Removed?

You have three options after removing a tree from your property.

  • Leave the stump in Place

Leaving the stump behind is the easiest and cheapest option. Over time the stump will rot, decomposing back into the soil. If choosing to leave the stump consider digging 6-10 inches into the soil, around the base. Make a base cut just below the soil level, covering with topsoil. The stump and root system will still exist but are now below the soil layer. (place photo)

To expedite the decomposition process. Drill holes into the top of the stump, place a stump decomposer into these holes, using the product as directed. This will increase the rate of decomposition. (place amazon link to stump decomposer) 

  • Grind the Stump

Stump grinding is a quick, easy and cost-effective method to get rid of a stump. Stump grinding machines are small and can access tight and hard to reach areas. A stump grinder will quickly eat the stump away. Leaving behind only the root system. In most cases the roots will naturally decompose completely over the next 5-7 years. Grinding the stump is a preferred choice to ensure the tree does not grow back, as it does in some cases when the stump remains. When grinding has completed, a hole will remain where the stump once was. Place fresh topsoil into hole and level off. The saw dust produced from the stump grinder can be then raked into the lawn or landscape.

  • Full Stump Removal

The very best solution when possible is to fully excavate and remove the stump completely. When removing the stump and its entire root system, adequate space for digging equipment is necessary for removing the stump. This equipment will need access to the stump. Be sure obstacles such as fence gates, walkways, sprinklers etc., can be avoided when moving excavating equipment around the property. Always call 811 before digging to have utilities like gas lines, communication cables, electrical lines located and marked for free. Failing to call 811 can result in damage, injury or death. 811 will require notice of 3-5 business days to locate and mark all underground utilities.

After the stump has been excavated it will need to be hauled off and disposed of. The hole remaining can be filled with topsoil. If the stump was very large, consider filling the hole with good quality fill dirt and topping with a light layer of topsoil. Using fill dirt provides a more solid compacted layer of dirt. Preventing unwanted sinkholes from occurring in the future.

More information about Stump Grinding and Stump Removal click here.