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Nature isn’t always stable. Trees may die, unexpectedly fall, or get infested with pests, becoming a possible hazard to properties or the public’s way. Cutting a tree isn’t as simple as it may seem, there’s a lot to consider when attempting to remove a tree safely. While it’s always safer to call in the professionals, homeowners could remove small trees on their own if they have the appropriate equipment and knowledge.
This guide provides information on how to navigate through the risks and the steps associated with tree cutting and removal work.
Reasons for tree removal
While it’s generally encouraged to plant more trees, there are some cases where tree removal is deemed necessary. The decay of a tree or the instability of its structure are the most common causes for cutting trees. If you observe any of the following signs, consult with a professional arborist.
Dead or dying trees
The separation of large pieces of bark from the trunk, the absence of leaves when there should be leaves, and the fall of large branches are all signs that your tree is dead. Other signs that indicate that your tree is declining, but can still be saved are increased bare branches throughout the tree and wilting and discoloration of the leaves.Dead trees need to be removed as soon as possible. The longer you wait to take a tree down the more fragile and unstable the wood becomes, making it harder and more expensive to remove it later on. When removed in time, decaying trees can be saved and replanted before they die.
Structurally unstable trees
Unstable trees can be potentially dangerous when left without intervention. Several signs can deem a tree to be structurally unsteady and require immediate removal. Some of these signs include vertical and horizontal cracks in the tree’s trunk, dying roots, diseases that cause unusual growth patterns, and large cavities in the trunk.
Steps involved in tree removal
Whether a tree is diseased, dying, dead, or poses a risk to others, once you’ve decided that a tree must be removed, the following steps are the most commonly taken for a safe and efficient tree removal process.
Check legal requirements
It’s not always easy knowing the legal requirements or consequences of removing a tree, even one you own. Some areas have very strict laws that enforce major fines on tree removal while other areas -usually rural- have no rules or regulations.
Many cities have protective tree laws that are enforced via a council or local board. Whether or not you need to get a removal permit depends on the city you live in. This means that if you live within the limits of any city, you need to contact your city council, local board or commissioner’s office before proceeding with your tree removal plan.
Examining the tree
Examine the tree and notice which direction it naturally leans. This can play an important role when determining the best direction it should fall. Note if there are decayed areas on the trunk, and check for symmetry to see if there is more weight on one side than the other as this may cause the tree to fall in an unexpected direction.
Clearing the area
There needs to be enough room around the tree for it to lay flat on the ground once it’s taken down. Estimate the tree’s height to determine how much area you’ll need to clear. As a precaution, pick an escape route in case the tree begins to fall out of control. You’ll want a clear path where you and anyone involved will be safe. The previous two steps can be easily done by the homeowner.
This is the simplest step for taking down a tree. After completing the previous steps, a rope is tied above the place where a wedge will be cut to help guide the tree in the desired direction. After cutting the wedge, comes the final cut. The direction of the fall can be controlled or changed when making the final cut by chopping more or less of one side or the other. Felling a tree in urban areas or places where the trees are close to structures or power lines can be slightly more complicated as there is usually not enough room to safely drop the entire tree to the ground. In this case, the tree is taken apart in sections. A professional tree climber will assess the tree and find a central point to start their rigging from. Once the rigging has been set in place, the climber will cut and lower all the necessary branches. After the removal of all branches, the trunk is cut into the desired pieces.
Removing the tree using a crane
When there’s enough room in the area, cranes can be quick, efficient tools of tree removal. The process starts by finding a place to set the crane up that’s within a safe operating radius of the tree.
Once the crane is set up and leveled, the operator will direct the crane ball over the tree. The ball will then hoist the climber waiting at the base of the tree where they’ll attach the cable and instruct the operator to apply tension after which the climber will then tie his rope to the predetermined area and make the first cut.
The crane operator then lifts the cut section off of the tree and transports it to the chosen landing zone. Once in the landing area, the ground crew will disconnect the cable so the crane operator and climber can make the next pick. The process is repeated until the tree has been completely removed.
Ground operations and stump removal
Ground operation specialists dismantle the chopped pieces, cut them into logs, and strip the large ones off their branches. The smaller pieces will be crushed in the chipper and turned into mulch. The last step in cutting a tree usually removes the stump. The means of stump removal depends on the size and condition of the tree’s base. The process typically includes manual digging to remove the trunk and roots, digging and removing the stump with an excavator, and grinding the stump below the soil surface with a mechanical grinder.
Things to consider
When hiring professionals, be sure to check their credentials. Ask them to provide a copy of their license and insurance, verify that they have a proven track record, and ask for references and follow up on them. Every company should be able to give you a detailed plan based on their evaluation that includes an estimate of how much tree removal will cost and how long the tree removal process would take. Make sure it’s absolutely necessary to remove a tree before you cut it. Properly assess the health or risk of the tree in question and hire certified arborists that are properly trained in recognizing dangerous trees and diagnosing factors that may cause a tree to decay.
Tree removal is one of the most dangerous parts of the tree care process, especially if the tree is close to buildings, service lines, or other structures. Removing a tree in such conditions takes precise knowledge and equipment. However, under less complicated circumstances, homeowners may attempt tree cutting and removal themselves if they have access to the right equipment and enough knowledge. No matter who removes the tree, it’s important to be aware of the steps involved. And remember, never remove a tree when it’s not warranted.