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The basics of tree care and removal

December 28, 2016
Home tree care is often a job best suited for professionals.

Homeowners have plenty on their plate when it comes to regular maintenance in and around their residence. But one job that could be easily overlooked involves possibly some of their biggest possessions:  their trees. Depending on where they live, the front yard or surrounding acreage of a home could contain anywhere from a couple to dozens of towering cedars, oaks and pines. Just like any other plant, trees require a good dose of care and attention, but their size means several special considerations must be made too.

"Tree care and removal is a job that's often best left to a professional.”

Trees range widely not only in size, but also in regard to species, and each has their own needs when it comes to maintenance or removal, if needed.

Common tree species found in residential areas in the U.S. range from relatively small types like dogwood, hawthorn and sumac (around 20 ft. tall) to towering pines, oaks and walnut trees (80 feet tall or higher). Tree size is a concern due to the ways they grow above and below ground. If planted improperly, trees may encroach on power lines and present an electrical hazard. But trees also develop extensive root systems underground that can disrupt cables, pipes or building foundations.

These are just a few reasons why tree maintenance is important, and why homeowners might need to consult a professional to handle some aspects of tree care.


Many trees need to have their branches trimmed periodically to ensure they grow correctly and healthy. This is called “pruning,” and can be done easily when branches are within reach from the ground or on a small step ladder. Any taller branches should be removed by a professional arborist.

If you can reach them safely, try to prune trees in the winter or early spring. For the most basic pruning, use a pair of clippers or shears and remove branches growing out at the base of the stem. By pruning the most distant branches or the ones growing in an unfavorable direction, the tree can continue to stay healthy without putting any property at risk.

Tree removal

For any number of reasons, entire trees may need to be removed if they pose a danger of falling or are simply no longer wanted. Just like with trimming, it's not usually safe to remove a large tree without professional help. Regular inspection by an arborist should prevent a tree from growing out of control or becoming unstable due to disease, but if necessary, these experts should be able to advise on their removal, too.

As with any other home maintenance trade, there are likely many services offering tree removal in your area, but you'll want to pick the right one. Check online for reviews or ask friends and family for a reference, keeping the following in mind:

  • Consider hiring a certified arborist, as they should have the training and experience to deal well with most situations.
  • Make sure the service is insured under their own liability policy. Check on your homeowners insurance as well to see how liability and property damage might be covered.
  • Carefully review the contract before signing. Be sure all expectations are in writing and that every one of them is met during the procedure.

Removing a tree is a major task on its own, but after it's gone, there will still be a large stump left to contend with. Removing tree stumps is a job all its own, so be sure to ask the tree care service if they can accomplish that as well, or have another plan ready for stump removal.