Tree Removal – Should You Do It Yourself?

Tree removal is a serious endeavor that’s often best left to professionals. Arborists specialize in the care and maintenance of trees, but sometimes a problematic or dead one needs to be cut down. This might be because it’s leaning dangerously or dropping troublesome branches, it blocks your view of the property, is infested with pests, is too large for its space or interferes with landscaping plans or renovations.

Whether or not you should take on the task of removing the problem tree yourself depends on its height and condition, location and species. If it’s too close to power lines, a roof overhang, a house or a road, if it’s prone to breakage or diseases and if the roots are growing into sidewalks, lawns and driveways, it’s probably best removed by experts.

If the tree isn’t in danger of falling, but it’s overgrown and causing problems, you might be able to save it with a little pruning. But if the problem is structural or caused by an insect infestation, you’ll likely need to have it removed entirely.

Before you start, water the area thoroughly to saturate it and make it easier to dig. Then, use a shovel or a mattock to dig up the stump and surrounding soil to expose the main roots. You’ll also want to use a handsaw or ax to cut through the larger roots. If a taproot is present, you’ll need to dig even deeper to find and sever it.

Next, if you’re taking down the whole tree, make sure that there’s plenty of room for it to fall without damaging anything nearby. This requires clearing out everything that’s in its path, including structures, vehicles and anything else you don’t want to be damaged. It’s also important to clear the area of low branches and to provide escape routes for those who might get caught in the fall.

To fell the tree, notch it with a chainsaw, starting at a point that’s about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way up the trunk and cutting toward it. The notch must be at a right angle to the direction of the desired fall. If you’re working on a tall tree, you may need to prepare it in sections, as well.

For the remainder of the process, you’ll need to use a stump grinder or grind the stump into smaller pieces. If you’re using a stump grinder, make sure to follow manufacturer instructions and safety precautions. If you’re not, the machine could overheat or cause injury to you or others. You should also wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and pants, gloves, goggles and a hard hat. You should also ask a friend to help with the work to prevent falls and injuries. To ensure you’re safe, you should also have a first-aid kit available. Finally, be sure to keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergencies.