Almost all of us like to tackle tasks and feel accomplished at their completion. But there are some tasks that are simply not safe to do, no matter how much we may want to or think we’re capable of doing it. Removing trees and pruning large branches are among the tasks where the likelihood of injury and long-term damage far outweigh any benefits of doing it yourself and where hiring a professional is a far better choice.
Still, we know some homeowners prefer to do their own yard and tree work where possible. And others may not realize the risks or know about all the training, equipment and specialized tools that go into doing large-scale tree work safely and properly.
So before you start pruning or sawing on your trees, consider the following potential issues of DIY tree work to see whether it’s worth doing it yourself. DIY tree work is dangerous – be safe by knowing the risks and understanding the issues before you jump into it.
Look at the Differences Between “pruning” and “tree work”
You may be an experienced garden pruner, but the stakes (and the equipment) are a lot higher for large trees.
Once you’ve learned good methods, pruning ground-level branches and stems on shrubs or small trees doesn’t carry many risks. For example,
- You won’t damage a tree’s structure if you know what you’re doing
- You’ll know how little pruning is required, rather than wondering how much
- You can easily fit what you’ve cut off into bags or cans for pick up, or into your vehicle to drive it to a disposal site
- You’ll prune from the ground so won’t use a ladder (which can be unstable)
- You don’t need power tools so the risk of injury is fairly low
But when working on larger trees, much of what you may know about pruning changes drastically.
Think About Safety Before Planning a DIY Tree Job
You may be accomplished at ground-level pruning or maintenance, but pruning large trees or branches makes risks to the tree and you much greater. Mature trees have large, high branches that require you to either climb into their crown or use large tools from a distance. Already, it’s more dangerous.
And even if you have superior upper-body strength, know how to properly climb a tree, and are familiar with power tools, risks can quickly outweigh the benefits of doing this work yourself instead of hiring a professional.
Tree work is one of the most dangerous professions in the world, resulting in more injuries and deaths than almost any other job. Most fatalities amongst non-professionals are caused by falls (often by falling off a ladder when climbing a tree) or by getting struck by a falling tree or branch.
Unlike “civilians”, ISA Certified Arborists and tree service professionals (including the team here at LAM Tree Service) are trained to prepare for the dangerous situations inherent in tree work. Plus, they have the correct tools (which most homeowners don’t have) and extensive knowledge to properly and safely remove trees and large branches.
What to Consider Before Pruning or Removing a Tree Yourself
Professional tree care companies answer YES to all of these questions. Can you?
Do you know what you’re doing?
Pruning or removing large branches while up in a tree is very different from pruning while on the ground. Climbing up and down a tree to check your work is time-consuming and ineffective (and increases the chances of an accident), so once you’re in the tree you’ll have to complete the pruning work without breaks or being able to step back to evaluate your work.
Arborists are trained to evaluate a tree’s branching structure so they know exactly where they’ll make cuts before they even ascend a tree. Professionals strive to prune as minimally as possible to achieve the desired result, plus they’re in constant communication with other crew members on the ground who can help guide them. They also wear professional safety gear, know how to use power tools while hanging from ropes (it’s not easy to start and control a chainsaw while suspended 60+ feet in the air!), and know-how to move around a tree’s crown to stay out of the way of falling branches.
Can you reach your tree easily? Or get the cut pieces out of the way?
The size and weight of large branches and sections of trunk, as well as the likelihood of accidents, are often underestimated by homeowners. Removing or pruning a large tree is labor-intensive and dangerous and made more so by the scale and weight of the material you’re cutting.
Rest assured, tree branches and trunks are heavy. All of them.
If you have a tree in a hard-to-reach location, you’ll need a plan to remove the branches or trunks that you cut without damaging buildings or property. Often, a crane is the only way to safely remove tree branches and trunks.
If you’re uncertain about any of this, hire an experienced tree professional who can maneuver in and out of tight spaces without causing any damage. The last thing you want it a big branch falling on your house or a tree dropping on your neighbor’s property!
Do you have lots of insurance?
Professional arborists are insured for the work they do. If an accident happens and damages your or your neighbor’s property, you’re both covered.* Being a good neighbor means considering how your actions may affect others. Limiting the chance of damage and disturbance to not only your own property but to your neighbor’s as well makes professional tree work the responsible choice.
*Even if you’re insured yourself for any damage to a neighbor’s property, it’s safe to assume that your neighbor would rather not experience any loss from your accidental tree mistakes. It’s better to call in a professional.
Do you have plenty of free time?
Professional tree crews work as a team to prune or remove a tree as quickly and safely as possible, following business and professional safety standards.
If you’re working alone to prune your trees and are removing branches in increments, it can take a long time to prune a large tree. Each time you climb and descend a tree you risk injury, and it’s tiring. Distractions and fatigue increase the likelihood of injury.
Have you planned what to do with all the debris from large-scale tree work?
Given our risk of wildfire and insurance company requirements around fire mitigation, large piles of brush, branches, and tree trunks are not something you can leave on your property. The debris left from large-scale tree work will need to be removed.
Professional tree care companies bring trucks, power tools, and wood chippers to big jobs. A wood chipper quickly turns branches into bite-size pieces that are fed into a waiting truck bed and hauled away to make mulch. It can also turn you into bite-sized pieces, so let experienced professionals operate it.
Companies like LAM Tree Service also haul away tree trunks to split into firewood.
Big sections of tree trunks or branches can be a problem if you don’t have a practical plan to remove them from your property. If you rely on local waste disposal services for your garden waste, or have to haul it to the disposal facility yourself, you’ll have to cut everything down to fit and you’ll have to dispose of debris in small increments. Plus, you may not be able to move larger pieces by yourself.
Did you remember about tree stumps?
After you cut a tree, its remaining stump can start sprouting new branches which you will need to cut off each time they appear. If you wait for a tree’s trunk to decay naturally it will take years, attracting fungi and insect pests along the way. After it decays, you’ll need to dig up and remove the remaining trunk material and fill in any soil depressions left behind.
On the other hand, you can ask your tree care professional to grind the stumps out after they’ve removed the tree. Grinding out a stump leaves the location free to be replanted, and stump grinders are designed to make minimal disturbance as they chew up the trunk and roots into chunks.
What takes a professional crew a few hours at most can take you much longer, and equipment rental costs may be more than the cost of having a few stumps ground.
Before You Start DIY Tree Work
Before starting any DIY tree pruning or removal, take the time to learn all you can about the proper techniques, tools, equipment (like a hardhat, ropes, climbing harness, and lightweight but powerful chainsaw) and safety precautions. Take a close look at your property and where the tree is relative to your house, nearby structures and obstructions, your neighbor’s house and property, access points, electrical wires, etc. Consider how much wood and debris will be left afterward (it’s always a lot more than you think!). Ask tree professionals informed questions about what it will take to do the work safely and efficiently.
When you have all the information, realistically weigh your options. Chances are you’ll get far more benefits from hiring a tree service professional to do the work than risking yourself, your neighbor, and your tree!
Call us at 303-674-8733 and ask for an estimate for the tree pruning or removal job you need to have done.