Tree Removal and Tree Cutting: Basic Methods and Techniques

Part 1 - Tree Removal and Tree Cutting - Basic Methods and Techniques

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Tree removal or tree cutting is not as simple as finding your trusty axe or saw and moving on with the deed. There are numerous methods and techniques to make sure you are on the right path in terms of avoiding risks or anything illegal in your state or country.

This article is part 1 of a 6 part series of tutorials about tree removal and cutting. If you wish jump to certain parts of the series, here’s a list for your convenience:

Now to continue, the idea of tree removal and cutting always starts with a reason, and there might be a lot depending on where the tree it’s located and the situation of its surroundings. Read through to learn more about the basics and why it is important.

Tree Removal vs Tree Cutting

Why Should You Remove or Cut a Tree?

Despite all the benefits trees bring to our existence, there are instances where overgrown or damaged by mold trees become dangerous to your property and the surrounding community. The most common accidents involving trees are when their branches suddenly snap and fall onto a property, a car, or people, or when fazed by natural disasters like storms, they can get uprooted, causing serious damage and sometimes even injuries. In situations like this, a tree might have to be cut or removed, which raises the following questions: What is the difference between tree removal and tree cutting? Why is it important to us and what benefits are attained?” 

Let’s find out more below.

What Is Tree Removal?

Tree removal is defined as a process which a tree gets completely cut down and its roots removed from the ground. If you have dead trees on your property, removing them would be necessary for your safety. It also eliminates the potential damage to nearby structures, and infestation with pests and wild animals, that can not only cause nuisance but also damage to your house. With the tree removed, further issues will be prevented and you will also have a new exciting task: planning your next landscaping or construction project without risks. 

What Is Tree Cutting?

Tree cutting involves trimming or pruning the limbs or branches. This method is mostly done to get rid of dead or damaged branches and twigs, to alter the shape for beautification, or to refine overgrowth that can pose a threat to nearby structures or power lines.

Tree Cutting Techniques

Before cutting a tree though, first, it is best to know the different types of tree cutting with various techniques, and which one will suit you the best will depend on the purpose. The most common types of tree cutting are the following:

Crown Thinning

Some tree species have very large and thick crowns that block most of the sunlight, making the yard and the house inside dark and gloomy. After the rain, it also takes a long time for the ground underneath the tree to dry out, which can result in puddles of water becoming nurseries for mosquitoes and other pests. 

Large thick crowns like that will also have a negative influence on other, smaller, and more delicate plants in your yard, as they will not be able to receive adequate sunlight for photosynthesis to proceed, resulting in their death. Another not-so-pleasant consequence of thick tree crowns in foliage. The more branches the tree has, the more leaves it grows. And when those leaves fall, they pile up thickly on your roof, eventually causing roof sagging and cracking and of course, on the ground, resulting in more frequent cleaning that can inflate your landscaping bill quite sufficiently or if you do it yourself, you will spend your Saturday cleaning the leaves rather than having fun with your loved ones on the beach or BBQ. 

In such scenarios, thinning the crown is a great option, as it allows you to obtain the benefits of both worlds: keep the tree and bring in more sunlight to lighten up the house and the yard while also cutting down on “cleaning the leaves of your roof and yard” expense! 

The process of crown thinning itself involves the removal of the twigs and branches in specific positions, to let more sunlight and air pass through the tree.

Crown Reduction

Often, if not kept up, trees will grow very tall and will develop heavy crowns, becoming susceptible to uprooting during a tropical storm that brings heavy rains and lashing winds. If a large tree happens to be a fruit-bearing, anything that grows above 10 feet becomes unreachable to humans, but attainable and attractive to various birds, insects, and rodents that can quickly become very irritating and cause a mess in your yard.

Getting stung by a wasp while slipping on a gnawed fruit is hardly a happy scene we typically imagine when planning our day or weekend. If this isn’t something you are looking forward to, consider reducing the height and the weight of your tree’s crown, by removing the upper branches. The crown reduction also trains the tree to grow sideways, providing more shady coverage for your yard which is very much desired during hot South Florida summers. 

Crown Lifting

Some trees grow branches that are settled very low on the trunk. Those branches can entangle with each other creating an obstacle course for you and your family to go through every time you pass by that tree. This situation is not only unpleasant, but it can also be quite dangerous, as you can easily run into a low-hanging branch at night or during the day, if not paying close attention, and either injure yourself, receive a decent lashing on your face or body by a twig or leave a few hair strands behind as you struggle to get out of tenacious tree hugs. To avoid a situation like that, have the crown of your tree lifted, which involves the removal of the tree’s lower branches and results in increasing the clearance between the ground and the tree, giving you clear passage, so that you can safely stare at your smartphone while running to or from your house.   


Pollarding is an ancient way of tree pruning that is known to be used by Romans as far back as the 1st century BC and has been a common practice in Europe since medieval times. It is typically done to younger trees in order to mold them into a unique, intricate shape that fits the landscape. This tree pruning style involves the removal of all branches from the trunk, including the central leader, giving the tree a “knobby” appearance. After pollarding, the tree grows many more new branches that are thinner but bushier, creating a light but thick crown that provides good shade. Pollarding also removes a possibility of a tree developing a heavy crown and becoming a candidate for uprooting by strong winds. It also prevents the development of thick and heavy limbs that can snap, fall and cause damage. In modern urban landscaping, pollarding is done to prevent damage to electrical wiring that can be caused by heavy overgrowth. However, keep in mind that not all trees can be pollarded. Large deciduous species, such as maple, birch, elm, and conifers should not be subjected to this practice. Nevertheless, next time you are driving down the street and see those weird-looking branchless tree trunks, you know what was done to them and why. 


Coppicing is another extreme tree pruning technique and as pollarding, it also cannot be done to any tree. Coppicing exploits the natural regenerative capacity of certain tree species and is a part of the regenerative wood harvesting practice. It was widely used during times when wood was harvested for heating and involved cutting the tree entirely, leaving only the stump in the ground. New growth emerges in the spring and after a number of years, the stump grows many new shoots that in time turn into a splendid number of smaller trees. Eventually, the coppiced tree looks more like a giant bush to an inexperienced eye. This practice, however, is not typically used in the urban environment and is more suitable for forestry, as it permits the tree to be harvested without irreversible damage to the ecosystem and wildlife habitat. 

Note: It is important to remember that pollarding and coppicing might be illegal in some states or countries. It is simply indicated here as a reference to the technique and its history, so make sure to check with a professional before cutting trees in this manner.

The Three Most Common Methods of Tree Cutting

As discussed above, there are many various techniques of tree cutting and each one is done to purposely remove a specific portion of a tree, as needed for its care and maintenance. However, apart from techniques, there are also several methods of cutting trees which are done according to their different purposes. The methods discussed are not necessarily applicable to urban landscaping or tree care and maintenance, they are typically used for harvesting trees and in forestry. Nevertheless, we decided to include them, solely for educational purposes, so next time you drive across the vast plains of the United States of America, you can impress your fellow travelers with an interesting piece of information. Thus, below are the three most known methods of tree cutting, their purpose, use, pros, and cons.

The Three Most Common Methods of Tree Cutting

The Clear-Cut System

Clear Cutting, as the name suggests, is a method when all trees and bushes growing in a specific location are cut in large volumes and processed for use. It is an extreme form of logging that does great harm to the ecosystem, even if removed trees are replaced by new saplings. Those man-made plantations typically consist of trees of the same species and the same age, making the area more susceptible to wildfires and less suitable for the wildlife that once prospered in the area. 

Changes in the wild landscape can and often contribute to the extinction of many valuable species, across the entire Tree of Life, from fungi and bacteria to plants, birds, and mammals, offsetting the perfect balance of coexistence and cohabitation. Other negative effects clear-cutting has on the environment are interference with the cycle of water in nature, contribution to soil erosion, and mudslides. 

Even though some websites suggest that clear-cutting, when carefully planned and done thoughtfully with a specific purpose, can improve the health of the forest and provide more light to the saplings and species of plants that need more sunlight, due to such dire impacts on the environment, clear cutting isn’t a preferred method any longer and is only used when the area is being prepared for the development of urban infrastructure or to create land for farming. 

Shelterwood System

The Shelterwood System is a method of tree cutting that follows a silvicultural approach, which is a practice of controlling the growth and composition of forests to meet the needs of timber production. Shelterwood cutting is used to encourage regeneration of the forest by selectively harvesting old trees, which in turn allows more light and space for the new generation to grow, creating younger, even-aged forests. 

This method is more sustainable as it does not create permanent damage to the habitat and it permits better control over the desired species. Nevertheless, it is not perfect and also has its downsides. Poor planning and selection of wrong trees can result in windthrow (when the trees in the forest are uprooted by winds) while sloppy felling can damage young seedlings, resulting in the uneven age distribution of trees. 

Selective Logging

Selective Logging, also known as partial forest removal, is another timber harvesting method that focuses on the selective cutting of some species of trees that are most suitable for the intended purposes while leaving the rest intact. This method has the highest productivity, however, it is not as environmentally friendly as it may seem at first sight. During selective logging, the trees are selected based on the characteristics that are most desirable for the timber (height, diameter, health) and therefore could be sold for a higher price, which typically results in the harvest of the best, healthiest species before they are able to produce seedlings or seeds, while aging and weak are left behind since they don’t have a high selling price. Even though selective logging is a better way of tree logging than clear-cutting, there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

What’s Next?

Now you’ve learned about the basic methods and techniques of tree removal and cutting, read through our next article in the series. Part 2: DIY or Hire a Professional.

Also, check out our professional tree care services for more information.

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