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What are the Different Ways to Remove a Tree?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 16, 2024
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While the typical method of removing a tree involves the use of a chainsaw, there are many different variations to the process. Most tall trees require a bucket truck to remove a tree. By lifting a worker high into the air alongside of a tree, the worker can remove a tree in sections. This method eliminates the potential of dropping a full-size tree onto a building, fence or roadway. Another tactic to remove a tree involves climbing the tree and cutting limbs while sitting in the tree.

Often, when a crew arrives at a location to remove a tree, workers find that the tree is towering over a building or a roadway. This creates a problem, because tree limbs cannot be dropped as they are cut without damaging property or creating a hazard. The most practical method to remove a tree in this circumstance is to lower the cut limbs to the ground with a rope. By attaching a rope to the limb, the limb can be cut and guided to the ground, avoiding contact with any structures or traffic. Depending on the location of the hazard, several ropes may be used to direct the cut wood.

While movies depict the dropping of a tree as an entire tree falling to the shout of "Timber!" in reality, this is seldom done. The vast majority of trees are removed from the top down, and then a small limb-free trunk is cut down or tipped over. The smallest branches are trimmed from the larger limbs and sent down to be loaded into a brush chipper. This creates a nice load of wood chips that can be later used as mulch. The larger limbs, now free of the smaller branches, are cut into firewood-length and sent to the ground to be loaded onto a truck or trailer.

The final step to remove a tree is to cut the trunk down. Most trees will be cut several times to get portions of the trunk on the ground safely. To remove a tree, tree cutters must make sure that the tree can be handled once on the ground. Some tree cutters use a skid loader or tractor-based loader bucket to remove a tree—using the loader, the tree trunk is lifted in sections and set on a trailer to be taken away. The final section of tree trunk is cut off close to the ground, and then the property owner can choose to remove the stump at a later time or have the tree cutter remove it by grinding it out with a stump grinder.

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Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Sep 08, 2014

@croydon - Trees don't always have to be considered a cash resource. I have friends who have tried to let some of their land go back to nature and they wouldn't ever remove one of the trees, even if it does have to be cut down. The dead wood is part of the ecosystem and provides habitat and food for a variety of creatures and fungus and plants.

Sometimes they do have to cut down a tree if it's getting dangerous for some reason, but it's just treated as a part of the system rather than something to remove.

By croydon — On Sep 08, 2014

@browncoat - I imagine you get used to it, or you quit. Most tree surgeons would have to use the mulch making machine even if they weren't removing the whole tree, since raw tree branches aren't all that great for firewood and people don't usually pay all that much for that kind of firewood anyway. So mulch is the only real option for recycling the branches.

The trunk might have more uses, but people hardly ever take the time to grow their trees properly, because they don't think that far ahead. If you train it when it's young, it will end up with a trunk that's straight and worth something for the wood, particularly if its a hardwood tree.

If you let it grow the way it wants, the chances are that the trunk won't be worth much, and the tree itself will probably not last as long because the weight won't be distributed properly.

By browncoat — On Sep 07, 2014

I hate it when someone on our block is removing a tree because it is extremely noisy, sometimes for days on end. I know they have to mulch the tree in order to get some additional cash from it, but the constant noise of the machine doing it is very jarring. I have no idea how anyone can work with that noise constantly around them all day.

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