How to Cut Branches from a Tall Tree? [Your Quick Guide]

If you know how to cut branches from a tall tree, you can save yourself a lot of costs.

If your backyard or even the front yard is full of trees, there is a job you would need to undertake occasionally.

And that is cutting branches off trees that have spread out and are a danger to your house and passersby.

This is also done to ensure that they remain in optimal health, as they actually improve the value of your property (pdf).

But it is not as easy as it sounds because you would need to take care of a few things. And you want the tree to heal naturally, as you are literally cutting a limb off it.

Usually, for safety concerns, most people leave this job to experts and professionals. But, this is a simple enough task that can be done while observing a few precautions and dos and don’ts.

The larger the tree, the more the maintenance and the more difficult it gets to trim or cut them. Naturally, this will often require you to climb the tree and with much care.

I will talk about the process involved in cutting branches off a tall tree while following all precautions.


Climbing a Tree? Be Careful

How to climb and trim a tree

One thing to remember before doing this is that you should always wait for winters for this task. This is because trees are dormant during winters and would need that period to heal.

The perfect time for this is right after the coldest part of the winter is over.

If you trim the branches during spring, there is a danger of you stunting the tree’s growth.

You may have done countless times as a kid. But you surely must realize that it is not as simple as just pushing a ladder against the tree trunk. And then climbing it nonchalantly (unless you do that for a living!).

Bear in mind that you will need certain specialized tools. This includes chainsaw and pruning tools once you are up there.

Things to Consider

Here are some of the things that you will want to consider before climbing up a tree:

  • Always use a safety harness and secure it by wrapping it around the tree (where it is healthy). Also, always make sure that the harness is tight around your hips. This tip may sound excessive, but it will save you in case you trip and fall.
  • Ensure that there are no power lines running around or close to the tree. If you cut a line by accident, there is a danger of you being electrocuted. So, in case you spot a power line close to the tree, I would advise you not to do it yourself, but hire professionals.
  • Only remove the damaged part of the tree. This is essential not only for the tree but for other people’s safety as well.
  • Figure out where the debris/branch will fall. This will ensure that these branches are not falling off on the roof of your car.
  • Also, ensure that no people are around the area where the branch is going to fall.

Once you have secured yourself, you will need to identify the branches you want to cut off.

You may want to use a chainsaw, because not only will it save you time, but also make clean cuts.

Some people do this by using a bow or hand saw. However, it is time-consuming and would require a lot of muscle power.


Cutting the Tree Limb

Cutting tree limbs the right way

To properly cut off a branch, most professionals follow what is known as the “3-cut” technique.

The technique is simple; you make a partial cut to the branch you are about to cut off near the trunk. A few inches further, make another cut, removing most of the branch and removing the weight of the branch.

Now you can make your final cut. Let’s review this technique in a little more detail:

  • Make Your Notch: First of all, make a notch about 3 feet from the trunk on the branch you are about to remove. When you make this cut, it will stop the branch from breaking off unevenly.
  • The Relief Cut: Once you have made the notch cut, you make a clean cut about half-a-foot away through the branch. Doing so will completely remove the branch and take its weight off the tree. Do not ignore this step because there is a possibility that you will damage the trunk, leaving it exposed to disease and pests.
  • The Final Cut: This cut should be made where the branch is attached to the tree trunk. You will need to saw along the slant the branch’s collar. If you are finding it difficult to cut it off from top to bottom because of the angle, you can cut it from the bottom up. There is no strict rule about this.


Common Mistakes to Avoid While Cutting a Branch

How to cut branches from a tall tree

1. Do Not Cut the Limb Too Short

This is a mistake that a lot of people make while trimming branches off a tree. Most of them do it for aesthetic reasons (so that nothing is sticking out). But they could be actually damaging the tree.

Do not cut the branch off too close to the tree trunk, but right before it, because that (branch) collar would form scar tissue and help the tree heal.

The tree will take a long time to heal from cutting off the branch collar.

If you notice rotting holes or wounds that seep near the branch collar, that is because the branch collar has been cut off.


2. Wait, Don’t Leave It Too Short Either!

The whole branch following the branch collar has to be removed because the healing process will be very slow if you don’t.

Branch stubs that are left too long will interfere with the healing and in some cases, prevent them.


3. Relief Cuts Are Important!

Before trimming the branch to the trunk, don’t forget to make relief cuts. If you forget, most of the weight on the branch will likely make it split off, causing, in some cases, irreparable damage to the tree.

As I pointed out earlier, it will make your tree more vulnerable to disease and insects, making it take more time to heal itself.


Conclusion on How to Cut Branches from a Tall Tree

Cutting off and pruning overgrown and diseased branches is a way to ensure that your trees remain healthy and is an important safety precaution.

However, before you go ahead and do it yourself, you should read up on doing it the right way or talk to an expert.

As you can see, learning how to cut branches from a tall tree yourself is a good thing. Not only because it saves costs. But you get that satisfaction from knowing how to do it.

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