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5 Reasons You Should Not Do Tree Work Yourself

Tree work is the professional practice of caring for trees through various tasks and activities aimed at promoting their health, safety, and aesthetics. 

Tree work cuts across routine maintenance and specialized services to maintain trees’ health, safety, and aesthetics in various environments, including urban landscapes, parks, forests, and private properties.

People choose to do tree work themselves for cost savings, personal satisfaction, control, immediate availability, learning experience, and perceived simplicity.

Engaging in tree work yourself tends to be unsafe, as it requires a particular set of skills, equipment, and knowledge that professionals possess, potentially leading to property damage, personal injury, or tree damage if handled incorrectly.

The following are the 5 reasons you should not do tree work yourself instead use a professional tree removal service:

1. The Dangers of DIY Tree Work

The dangers of DIY tree removal work comprise the risk of personal injury, property damage, and improper tree care practices, as untrained individuals lack the expertise, equipment, and safety measures necessary to safely and effectively perform tree maintenance tasks.

Now, let’s break these down and understand why it’s best to leave tree work to professional tree removal services.

Personal Injuries

Participating in DIY tree removal without professional expertise or equipment leads to severe injuries. Climbing trees or using ladders without safety gear often results in falls from heights, causing fractures, head injuries, and paralysis. Additionally, handling sharp tools like chainsaws without proper knowledge increases the risk of lacerations, puncture wounds, and amputations, with chainsaws posing particular dangers, including limb loss or death.

DIY enthusiasts encounter unexpected hazards like hidden decay or structural weaknesses, leading to falling branches or trees that cause crushing injuries or fatalities. An inadequate understanding of tree biology can also result in injuries, as incorrect cutting techniques engender unpredictable tree reactions. Furthermore, working near power lines or structures without proper training raises the risk of electrocution, entanglement, or collisions.

Misjudging gravitational pull, using incorrect ladders, or miscalculating tree height and cutting angles precipitates falling limbs or unintended tree falls, creating hazardous conditions. To mitigate risks, it’s crucial to approach tree removal with caution, ensuring safety measures are in place and the tree falls safely in the desired direction.

Property Damage

DIY tree work often leads to significant property damage. This happens when there are misjudgments in the process and the tree falls in an unintended direction, damaging homes, belongings, and neighboring properties.

Inappropriate use of tools such as chainsaws or incorrect cutting techniques increases the unpredictability of the falling tree, compounding the risk of property damage. Additionally, neglecting to appropriately prune branches before felling a tree obstructs its fall path, exacerbating the likelihood of property damage. The financial toll of property damage from DIY tree work includes repair costs and potentially higher insurance premiums.

Utility Accidents

A utility accident is damage to or interference with utility infrastructure, such as electrical, gas, water, or telecommunication lines and it is a major risk during DIY tree work. Electrocution is a risk during tree work near utilities, due to the potential of live wires arcing through tree branches or chainsaws, without needing direct physical contact.

Apart from the possibility of electrocution, there’s also the danger of damaging utility lines such as:

  • gas
  • electric
  • Ethernet
  • fiber optic
  • telephone cables

when they’re disturbed during tree work. Maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from power lines when performing tree work is a federal safety regulation directed at preventing accidental contact and ensuring safety.

Trained professional tree removers carry out emergency tree removal near utility lines owing to the precision, knowledge, and experience required; DIY attempts constitute severe risks of accidents and legal consequences.

2. The Importance of Professional Expertise

Hiring a professional tree removal service for residential tree services mitigates the risks of injury and property damage through their expertise and experience. They have the right tools and training to safely and efficiently remove a tree.

Certified Arborists

Arborists are individuals trained in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining trees. Certified arborists conduct detailed tree health assessments, considering factors like:

  • cracks
  • root issues
  • insects
  • diseases
  • decay

These elements contribute to the structural integrity and vigor of the tree.

Upon assessing a tree, arborists recommend treatments to restore its health or ascertain risk factors to the property or individuals, ensuring both safety and beauty on the property. Arborists also play a pivotal role in safe tree removal, particularly when decaying wood affects tree stability, and in advising on the management of heritage trees, which require permits and approval for any work.

Proper Tools and Techniques

Professional tree services have access to a range of specialized tools and equipment essential for safe and efficient tree work. Chainsaws are the main tools deployed for cutting down larger trees, and professionals are trained in operating these tools safely and efficiently.

Beyond chainsaws, professionals also use climbing and rigging equipment such as helmets, gloves, ropes, and ladders for safe tree navigation and work. They also utilize pole saws to cut thick branches high up in the tree, and they have loppers and pruning saws for trimming. They also have the means to handle tree debris after cutting, such as powerful gas models of wood chippers.

Insurance and Liability

Engaging in tree work yourself exposes you to a variety of insurance and liability risks, as you do not have the same level of coverage or protection as professional tree care companies, which is a crucial aspect of professional tree services. 

Here are some key considerations regarding insurance and liability when doing tree work yourself:

  1. Personal Liability: If you cause injury to yourself or others, or damage to property (including neighboring properties), you are personally liable for any resulting medical bills, property repairs, or legal expenses. Without proper insurance coverage, you are financially responsible for these costs.
  2. Homeowner’s Insurance: While homeowner’s insurance policies typically provide some coverage for property damage and personal liability, the extent of coverage varies depending on the specific policy terms and conditions. DIY tree work-related incidents are or are not covered under your homeowner’s insurance, so review your policy and understand what is included.
  3. Exclusions and Limitations: Homeowner’s insurance policies often have exclusions or limitations regarding certain high-risk activities, such as tree removal or cutting down trees near structures. Engaging in these activities without proper training or equipment voids coverage or imposes higher premiums.
  4. Worker’s Compensation: If you enlist the help of friends or family members to assist with tree work and they sustain injuries, you are liable for their medical expenses and potentially face legal action. Worker’s compensation insurance typically covers injuries to employees, but it does not apply to unpaid volunteers or non-licensed workers.
  5. Environmental Damage: Improper tree care practices, such as over-pruning, topping, or improper disposal of tree debris, exacerbate environmental damage or violations of local regulations. You are held responsible for any environmental cleanup costs or fines incurred due to your actions.

3. Time and Cost Factors

DIY tree work is an expensive endeavor when you factor in the costs of equipment rental, safety gear, and the risk of property damage, the costs quickly augment.

DIY tree removal is time-consuming. It requires significant planning, preparation, execution, and an extensive, labor-intensive cleanup process. The lack of apropos tools and disposal means a substantial increase in the time and cost of DIY tree removal.

Equipment Rental and Purchase

DIY tree work has high costs in equipment rental and purchase. The average cost to rent this equipment ranges from $75 to $150 for half a day and from $150 to $400 for a full day.

On the flip side, if you decide to buy the equipment instead, you’re looking at a substantial initial investment. And even then, you’ll still need to factor in maintenance and repair costs over time. So, comparing these costs against hiring professional tree services, it becomes clear that DIY is not the cost-effective solution it initially appears to be.

Time Investment

Apart from the financial costs, DIY tree work also demands a huge time investment. Tree work requires significant planning, execution, and clean-up time, which varies greatly between professional services and DIY efforts. For instance, a job that takes a homeowner all weekend is completed by a professional in a single day.

Considering the quick and efficient service professionals provide, the time investment for homeowners undertaking DIY tree work does not justify the cost savings. Remember that your time is valuable, and spending hours or even days on a task finished by a professional in a fraction of the time is a cost in itself.

Potential Mistakes and Additional Expenses

DIY tree work also brings about potential mistakes and additional expenses. For example, renting stump removal equipment for DIY tree work is not cost-effective if only a single stump needs to be removed, as the rental costs are high. Extra expenses are incurred when renting tree stump grinders, which usually require the renter to have a trailer hitch for transportation or to pay extra for delivery.

After tree removal, homeowners face unexpected issues, such as messy debris, broken roots, and potential septic problems that require additional cleanup and repair costs. These potential mistakes and expenses further inflate the cost of DIY tree work, making it a less-than-ideal option for most homeowners.

4. Environmental and Legal Considerations

Improper tree removal has serious consequences, such as habitat destruction, species displacement, and increased soil erosion. These negative impacts disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems and result in long-term environmental damage.

Legal consequences include fines if tree removal is conducted without proper permits or consent. Tree removal experts have the expertise to assess the impact on the environment and take steps to minimize harm. Often, they suggest the transplantation of younger trees or coordinate extraction during specific times of the year.

Ecological Impact

Trees are vital to biodiversity, hosting a vast array of species. The decline of certain woodland wildlife species and the risk of extinction for others signal a troubling trend for biodiversity due to habitat destruction and other human-caused pressures.

Responsible replanting after tree removal is key to sustaining local biodiversity, ensuring the health of new trees, and maintaining the stability of the ecosystem. Consulting with professionals for replacement planting strategies ensures the environmental reverberation of previous trees is balanced and aligns with sustainable practices.

Legal Requirements

Tree removal is regulated by law, and failing to comply with these regulations attracts hefty fines. Fines are imposed if tree removal is carried out without proper permits or consent, with average penalties as high as $10,000, and documented cases of fines reaching up to $212,500, especially for trees near utility lines or on a neighbor’s property.

Permits are often required for the extrication of street trees and sometimes even for trees on private property, with varying legal restrictions such as those prohibiting unlicensed individuals from performing tree trimming near primary power lines. Professional tree services, often accredited by organizations like the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) or the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), are proficient in local tree removal laws, thus helping homeowners navigate the permitting process and ensuring that all tree work is legally compliant.

5. Alternative Solutions to Tree Removal

While tree removal might seem like the only solution in some cases, there are alternative options to preserve trees and maintain the aesthetics of your property. Some viable alternatives to tree removal include:

  • Pruning: This supports the removal of deadwood or crowded branches, bolstering the overall health and appearance of the tree.
  • Cabling and bracing: This technique involves installing cables and braces to support weak or structurally compromised branches, reducing the risk of breakage.
  • Landscape design: By incorporating trees into your overall landscape design, you enhance the environment aesthetically and ecologically.

These other options resolve issues like deadwood or crowded branches, address structural weaknesses, and ameliorate the environment aesthetically and ecologically.

Pruning and Maintenance

Pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of specific parts of a plant, such as branches, stems, or roots, to promote healthy growth, improve structure, and enhance aesthetics. Pruning is one of the most standard alternatives to tree removal. Consulting with a professional for strategic pruning advice helps homeowners manage their trees to:

  • Prevent future problems
  • Extend the life of the tree
  • Maintain a tree’s structure, health, and appearance
  • Contribute to the prevention of broad or weak branches that may necessitate removal.

Beyond maintaining the health and appearance of your trees, pruning also prevents prospective safety mishaps. Thinning the crown as a pruning technique allows new growth and better air circulation, which reduces the likelihood of disease and pest infestation in trees. However, note that pruning trees near power lines is hazardous and is contraindicated for DIY because of the dangers of electrocution; this task is left to professionals.

Cabling and Bracing

Cabling and bracing are tree support techniques to reinforce the structural integrity of trees with weak or compromised branches or stems. These techniques involve the installation of cables, braces, or other hardware to provide supplemental support and reduce the risk of branch failure or tree breakage.

These methods extend the life of a damaged or structurally weak tree by redistributing weight and reducing the chance of limb failure. Cabling involves installing steel cables between major limbs to reduce strain and help support the tree, and bracing uses rods to reinforce weak branches or crotches.

They are typically employed by professional arborists, who have the knowledge and experience to identify the specific needs of each tree. Addressing structural weaknesses and providing additional support, cabling, and bracing diminish the need for complete tree removal.

Landscape Design and Replacement Planting

The other alternatives to tree removal are:

  • Transplanting the tree to a more suitable location.
  • Landscape design and replacement planting to ensure the environmental impact of previous trees is balanced and aligns with sustainable practices.

Consulting with professionals for replacement planting strategies ensures that the environmental impacts of previous trees are taken into account, including changes in soil conditions and nutrient depletion.

It is recommended to wait at least a year after stump grinding and tree removal before planting new trees in the same location to allow the soil to recover and to reduce competition with the decomposing roots. This thoughtful approach to landscape design and replacement planting enhances the aesthetic appeal of your property while also contributing to ecological sustainability.

DIY Is Cool, But Professional Is Better

Take caution before embarking on DIY tree work! While it may seem cost-effective, improper techniques can lead to property damage, personal injury, and tree health issues. For safe and effective tree care, consider consulting with a certified arborist or hiring a professional tree service. Your trees—and your safety—deserve expert care.

Are there any regulations or permits required for tree work on my property?

Local regulations regarding tree care, removal, and pruning may vary, so check with your municipality or homeowner’s association for any applicable permits or restrictions. Certain tree species or protected areas have specific regulations governing tree work.

What are the cons of taking down trees?

The cons of taking down trees include contributing to climate change, desertification, soil erosion, reduced crop yield, increased greenhouse gases, and other problems. Additionally, it leads to a loss of shade, increased risk of rain runoff and erosion, and a decrease in property value.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cutting trees?

Cutting trees provides extra space and improves safety for buildings, as well as making yard maintenance easier. Nonetheless, it also destroys the ecosystem, hence a loss of beauty, and is irreversible.

Why is DIY tree work dangerous?

DIY tree work is dangerous due to the risks of personal injuries, property damage, and utility accidents caused by lack of experience, improper tool use, and miscalculations during the removal process.

What are the benefits of hiring professional tree services?

Hiring professional tree services provides expertise, access to specialized equipment, and homeowners insurance coverage, which guards against accidents and ensures homeowner compensation.

What are the costs associated with DIY tree work?

Doing tree work yourself is costly due to equipment rental, time investment, potential mistakes, and unexpected cleanup and repair costs. Be prepared for these expenses when taking on tree work.

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