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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Should You Cut Down A Tree?


With their summer shade, fall color, dramatic winter branches and spring leaves, stately trees bring beauty year-round and are a boon to the environment. It’s easy to become emotionally attached to nearby trees you associate with fond memories. But no tree will last forever. So is it time to say goodbye to one of yours? Here’s what you need to know about whether you should cut down a tree.

Warning signs

Every tree is different, and each shows signs that it is dying in different ways. But here’s a list of common signs that it may be time to cut down a tree.

  • An increasing number of the tree’s branches are falling, particularly when there’s been no storm. It’s normal for a tree to lose a few branches here and there, but if more than half of a tree’s branches are in rough shape or have fallen, it’s probably time to cut down the tree.

  • The tree’s bark is dead, peeling or has sores known as cankers.

  • Fungi, like mushrooms, grow at the tree’s base or along its roots. Not all fungi are harmful, however, and some can attack even healthy trees.

  • The tree’s roots are growing along the surface of the ground. Although some trees have very shallow roots even when healthy, this is often a sign a tree is having trouble getting nutrients. Shallow roots are more susceptible to harm from humans, animals, lawnmowers and storms.

  • A hollow trunk generally means a tree is insufficiently strong to support its branches.

  • The tree is diseased.

  • The tree’s roots are rotting. Dips in your lawn in the area of the tree’s roots are a telltale sign, as are clusters of mushrooms growing in the grass above the roots.

  • The tree has begun leaning to one side.

  • The tree is sprouting new growth near its base in an attempt to hang on.

When a tree is clearly dead but seems sturdy, you should still cut it down to avoid damage to your property or even people. Trees whose roots are disturbing your home’s foundation, driveway or adjoining sidewalks also need to come down. And if a tall tree’s branches extend over your roof, you should remove them to prevent costly damage.

Get professional help

Often sick or dying trees can be saved with professional help. Hire a tree service company or an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture to evaluate your situation before cutting down the entire tree.

In circumstances where a dead tree can’t damage anything if it falls, such as at the back of a yard, there’s no need to cut it down. Instead, you can just let nature take its course. But if your tree needs to be cut down, leave the job to professionals. They have the training and equipment to do the job safely and can complete the task more quickly than you can.

If you have to cut down a tree, it’s a nice touch to plant a new one in the same area to replace it.

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