Step by Step Guide: How to Remove a Tree from your Yard

For most homeowners tree removal can be a daunting task, especially if you have never done it before. Just because you own a chainsaw doesn’t necessarily qualify you to cut down a tree. Before you get started, there are several factors to consider, the area around the tree, safety protocols, regulations, and how you are going to go about removing a tree. This article will guide you through the process, focusing on when it may be necessary to remove a tree and how to do it properly.

how to remove a small or large tree from your yard

How to Decide if you Need to Remove a Tree

The first step in any tree removal process is to determine if indeed the tree needs to be removed. Just because there are few dead branches doesn’t mean the entire tree needs to be cut down.

First you must assess the tree's health, stability, and impact on your property. For instance, a tree that's diseased or infested may need to be removed before it infects other trees. On the other hand, a healthy tree that's merely obstructive, displays an uneven canopy, or has a few dead branches might be spared by effective pruning.

To be sure, you may want to call in a professional arborist before you start cutting.

Common Reasons to Remove a Tree Including Disease and Deadwood

There are several reasons to remove a tree including a variety of diseases and branching dead wood. When a tree is diseased, it can spread the disease to other trees and plants on your property. Deadwood, on the other hand, can pose a safety threat as it may unexpectantly drop branches in a high wind.

Discolored leaves, a large number of dead branches, and fungi growth are telltale signs of a diseased and dying tree. A tree with significant decay or deadwood usually has large dead branches, hollow or rotten areas and peeling park.

Besides disease and deadwood, another reason to remove a tree is threat to property. For example, if a tree is leaning dangerously or has been split by lightening, removal might be the only course of action. Similarly, trees that interfere with power lines or whose root systems threaten building foundations may need to be removed.

why, when and how you shoulkd remove a dead tree

Regulations and Permits for Tree Removal

The first thought before you remove a tree is, it's important to find out if you will need permits or observe regulations in your area. Most cities and municipalities have specific rules about tree removal, mainly to protect the environment, buildings, underground services and maintain the area's aesthetic appeal.

In a major city it’s probably need to secure a permit before you can cut down that tree, especially if it's large or an invasive species. There might also be restrictions on when you can remove a tree, such as during nesting season for birds.

Ignoring these regulations can lead to hefty fines and legal trouble, so it's essential to do your research. Contact your local government or a professional arborist to understand what's required in your area.

Precautions and Safety Measures to Consider Before Tree Removal

Tree removal can be dangerous, which is why it's crucial to take appropriate precautions and safety measures. Before starting, ensure you have the right safety gear, including gloves, safety glasses, sturdy boots, and a hard hat.

It is essential that all of your cutting tools are extremely sharp so you don’t force a cut anywhere on the tree.

When cutting down a tree, always have a plan. Know which direction the tree will fall and clear that area of any obstructions. Also, have a planned escape route in case something goes wrong. Use a rope to force the tree to fall in the direction you desire.

Never work alone. Always have at least one other person with you who can call for help if necessary. You will need someone to hold the tree rope. Never remove a tree near power lines or structures without professional help.

The Tools and Equipment You will need for Tree Removal

For small trees, you might only need a hand saw or pruning shears. However, for larger trees, you'll need more heavy-duty equipment that may include a chainsaw. Make sure it's sharp and in good working condition. You'll also need a ladder for reaching higher branches, rope for controlling the direction of the branch or trunk fall, and trunk cut wedges.

Other tools that might come in handy include a hand ax, a branch saw, a mattock for digging and chopping roots, and appropriate safety gear.

Preparing the Area Before you Remove a Tree

Before you begin chopping down a tree, it's crucial to clear the area where you plan to fall the tree and where it might fall unintentionally. This preparation step ensures that when the tree falls, it doesn't hit anything that could cause damage or pose a safety risk.

The first thing you need to do is determine the fall zone. This area should be at least twice height and width of the tree. Clear this area of any structures, equipment, or debris that could be damaged or pose a tripping hazard if you need to run from the fall area.

Also, consider the wind direction and speed, as these can affect the tree's direction of all. It's always safer to cut down a tree when the wind is calm. If the tree is near power lines, call a professional or the utility company to remove the tree.

Removing a Small Tree

When you are cutting down small trees, begin by making a notch cut on the side of the tree facing the direction you want it to fall. This cut should be about one-third of the tree's diameter and made at a comfortable working height – between 2 and 3 feet. Next, make a back cut on the opposite side of the tree, slightly above the notch (about 1 inch) cut's bottom. As you make this cut, the tree should start to lean and fall. Remember to move away quickly and safely along your pre-planned escape route as the tree begins to fall.

Cutting Down a Large Tree

Methods for removing large trees are more complex and should ideally be handled by professionals. However, if you decide to do it yourself, start by preparing the area and planning the tree's fall direction.

The cutting technique is similar to that of small trees, however the need to use wedges to control the direction of the fall will more than likely be required. Also, due to the tree's size, you might need to remove large branches first to reduce the tree's weight and make it safer to cut down.

It is sometimes preferrable to cut down the tree in the direction of the branches formed mostly on one side of the tree referred to as the lean. If not done, there is a strong likelihood that developed branches that remain intact will break off and penetrate the ground possibly breaking subterranean power lines, gas lines or sewer connections. Removing large trees can be dangerous. If you're uncertain, it's best to hire a professional tree removal service.

Handling Power Lines and Nearby Structures

Handling power lines and nearby structures during tree removal can be tricky and dangerous. If a tree is too close to power lines, don't attempt to remove it yourself. Contact your local utility company or a professional tree removal service. If the tree is near structures like your home or garage, consider hiring professionals. They have the necessary training and equipment to remove the tree without causing property damage and they are insured.

How to Section the Tree for Removal

Once the tree is down, the next step is sectioning the tree for removal. This process involves cutting the tree into manageable pieces for easier disposal.

Start by removing branches, working from the base towards the top. Once the branches are removed, cut the tree trunk into sections. Remember to always cut from the top down to maintain control and avoid pinching your saw.

Also, consider cutting the trunk into sawlog lengths if your tree has timber value or 16-inch lengths for split firewood.

How to Deal with Root Systems after the Tree is Removed

After removing the tree, you'll be left with the stump and the root system. Dealing with both can be challenging, as they can extend far and wide into the ground and be difficult if not impossible to remove entirely.

Depending on the species of tree, you might consider grafting to start a new tree or allow the cut stump to coppice.

One option is to leave the roots to decay naturally, but this can decades. If the roots are a problem, you might need to dig them out or hire a professional stump grinder.

Grinding the Stump

Grinding the stump is often the most effective way to deal with the leftover stump and roots. This process involves using a stump grinder to shred the stump into mulch or compost. Stump grinders can be rented from equipment rental shops, and the process is relatively straightforward. However, it can be dangerous if not done correctly, so make sure to follow all safety guidelines suggested at the equipment rental outlet. Professional tree removal companies often include stump grinding as part of their tree removal contract.

removing tree stumps with a stump grinder

Alternatives to Tree Removal

Sometimes, tree removal is not the only solution. There are alternatives to tree removal to consider, particularly if the tree is healthy. Pruning or trimming can help resolve issues with overgrown or problematic branches. Transplanting is another option for trees that are causing problems because of their location. Grafting is another solution; you might be able to grow an entirely different tree using the developed roots of the cut tree. If you have the right tree, allowing the tree to coppice is an excellent option. Remember to leave only the strongest leader that sprouts from the stump and remove the rest. When dealing with diseased trees, consult with an arborist. They might be able to treat the disease and save the tree.

Article posted, Nov 30