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How Much Does Tree Trimming Cost?

National Average
$200
Low End
$75
High End
$1,000

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One of the joys of home ownership is having trees, but when their branches get too long and/or they start getting old, your trees need to be trimmed. Homeowners themselves can do this task, but, for the most part, it is best left to the professionals, particularly when dealing with large and/or damaged trees. The risk of injury is high, and professionals are trained and well-equipped to take care of all of your needs. Be sure to get several quotes and have a full understanding of what is included in each estimate before you make a final decision on whom to hire.<

On This Page:

  1. Tree Trimming Cost Factors
  2. DIY or Hire a Pro?
  3. Trimming Tips and Techniques
  4. Pruning vs. Trimming
  5. How to Save Money on Trimming

Tree Trimming Cost Factors

The average cost to trim a tree ranges between $75 and $1,000, depending on a wide variety of factors. While you might be quoted around $150 for a medium-sized tree with no problems, you could pay upwards of $200 or more for a tree with diseases, pests or potential hazards to your home. Here are some other factors that play into the total cost of tree trimming and how to get the most accurate quote from an arborist:  

Size and Location

It’s no surprise that larger trees typically cost more to trim than smaller trees. Larger trees have more branches and may require additional equipment, depending on their height. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay a professional to trim various sizes of trees:

  • 30 feet and under – Trees of up to 30 feet (e.g. Russian olive or dogwood trees) cost between $75 and $450 to trim.
  • 30 to 60 feet –Trees in this range (e.g. crab apple trees) cost between $150 and $875 to trim.
  • 60 feet and taller – Exceptionally large trees cost the most. Anticipate spending anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or more to have large trees (i.e. red oak, pine) trimmed by a pro.

Trees that are near buildings or power lines require additional time and effort because crews cannot simply toss the branches down as they work. Instead, each trimmed piece must be "roped down." During this process, a climber ties a rope around the branch or section that is going to be cut off. After the limb is cut, the section of wood is lowered slowly to the ground. This process takes much longer than simply tossing down branches, resulting in a higher overall cost.

Number of Trees

The number of trees you need to trim will also naturally affect the overall cost of your tree trimming project. Make sure to include the total number of trees and their types in your quote request, so that you can make your decision based on a realistic estimate. You don’t want to surprise the tree removal company when they show up by suddenly revealing that you have five trees that need trimming instead of one.

Health

Trees that have endured some sort of trauma, such as a lightning strike, are not as strong as healthy trees and can become less stable over time. For this reason, unhealthy trees might need more than a minor trim. For instance, an unstable tree might also need to be cabled if it is at risk of falling onto a house or other property. While it may cost more for an arborist to trim and maintain a tree that has some scarring or other issues, the result will be a safer and healthier tree.

Other health issues can affect the amount of work that needs to be done to the tree, driving the price up for care.

Diseases and Illnesses

There are myriad diseases and illnesses that can decrease the overall health of your tree. Here are some examples of the types of diseases that can affect your tree and lead to an increase in the cost of trimming and maintenance:

  • Abiotic Damage — This is damage caused by strong winds, hail, frost or dry spells and can appear in different manners. Dried leaves and cracked or broken limbs are some of the signs of abiotic damage. This type of damage needs to be resolved because parasites may attack the damaged areas of the tree.
  • Fungi/Mushrooms — Wood-destroying fungi diminish structural stability and deplete trees of vital nutrients.
  • Moist Crack — A moist crack in a tree trunk signals internal decay and needs to be evaluated to determine if the tree’s life is in danger.

Pests

While trees are often home to a variety of harmless or even beneficial insects and other animals, some pests can damage and endanger your trees. This kind of infestation can lead to illnesses in the tree, such as rotting or fungal growth. Here are some common pests that can affect the health of your tree:

  • Emerald ash borer —This invasive, wood-boring beetle is killing ash trees across the United States at an alarming rate, making it a serious hazard to homes and landscapes.  If you see emerald ash borers, you need to treat them with specific methods created by researchers and best applied by an arborist.
  • Ants — If you see ants on your tree, watch them closely, as their presence may indicate rotting or foothold damage. Call in an expert if you notice a prevalence of ants at the base of the tree trunk along with sawdust coming out of the trunk, as this is indicative of damage.
  • Mites —  Although they’re tiny, mites have incredible suction abilities that can weaken tree leaves and buds in extreme cases.
  • Shield-lice —  Also tiny, shield-lice damage is often only noticeable after they have formed a shield-like spot on the tree’s bark with their waxy secretions, causing moisture in the bark. They sometimes also attack tree leaves. Extreme cases will require expert attention.
  • Other wood-destroying insects — The larva of other species of insects may breed in the wood, damaging the tree’s bark and wood core, allowing fungi to invade.
  • Woodpeckers —  Woodpeckers do more than give you a headache. They seek out homes in trees that are already rotting as a result of fungal decay. If a woodpecker has recently taken residence in one of your trees, seek out an expert immediately.

Travel

Tree companies often charge for drive-time, and that cost goes up if they are traveling from a distance. To keep costs down, hire a local company to avoid paying a premium for driving time.

Accessibility

Companies that are accustomed to trimming and removing large trees typically have a bucket truck that allows them to easily reach the top of even the tallest tree. However, if the tree lacks sufficient surrounding space for the truck, the trimmer will need to climb to the top, resulting in a higher cost. For example, clearing dead wood from an 80-foot oak costs about $1,050 with the use of a bucket truck, but the cost to clear the same tree is closer to $1,400 if it has to be cut by a climber.

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DIY or Hire a Pro?

It can be tempting to jump into tree trimming as a DIY project, and in some cases it is perfectly safe and reasonable to do so. However, without taking the proper precautions and having the right equipment, trimming a tree can quickly turn from a quick DIY project to a hazardous or even deadly venture. In the case of very large trees (over 60 feet), there’s no question about it; go with a pro. Here are some things to consider before deciding whether to call in a pro for your shorter tree(s):

Materials Needed

A tree trimming company already owns all the equipment and materials necessary to get the job done. Unless you have trimmed trees in the past, there’s a good chance you’ll need to make an expensive trip to your local hardware store before you can begin your project.

Simple pruning and trimming jobs require hand-held pruners and loppers, which will cost you around $40 or $50. A gas pole pruner will get the job done more efficiently than the hand-held options, but will cost more than three times as much, around $180. For more extensive jobs, you may want to rent a heavy-duty gas tree trimmer. For safety reasons, you will also need safety goggles and a helmet to protect your eyes and head from falling limbs and branches, and gloves to protect your hands.

Risks

The safety hazards are significant in tree trimming, especially when working with larger trees. If you need to climb the tree, you risk falling and hurting yourself without a proper safety harness. Pruners can be sharp, so you need to be cautious when you use them, both for your own safety and that of those around you.

You can’t always control where tree branches and limbs fall. In fact, a 2009 study performed by The U.S. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries found that the primary cause of injury related to tree trimming was branches and limbs falling in unexpected directions. Finally, if your tree is anywhere near a power line, don’t even consider trimming it on your own.

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Tips and Techniques

If you decide to trim your tree yourself, here are some tips and techniques to keep in mind during the process:

Tree Trimming Tips:

  • Trim during the tree’s dormant season — While you can technically trim a tree any time of year, it’s best to do so while it’s dormant. This will make it easier to see what you are doing. Further, removing dormant buds will invigorate the remaining buds. One exception to this rule is if you are trying to slow down the growth of an overly vigorous tree. In that case, you will want to prune while the tree is in an active growth cycle.
  • Think about the size of branch — Don’t just jump into trimming branches. Look at the size of the branch before removing it. A branch that is five centimeters or less in diameter is safe to remove. One that is between five and 10 centimeters is less ideal. Any branch over 10 centimeters in diameter should only be removed if absolutely necessary.
  • Check the angle — Only remove branches that have a weak, v-shaped angle. Keep branches with strong u-shaped angles.
  • Ratio — When you’re done trimming, the ratio of living crown to tree height should be two-thirds.
  • Trim when branches are young — Prune regularly to make sure you are pruning branches while they are young. As branches get older, the risk of scarring increases. Young branches are also much easier to manage than older branches.
  • Don’t trim too short or too long — When you trim, avoid leaving a large stub or removing the branch collar.

Tree Trimming Techniques:

  • Look first — The branch collar grows from the stem tissue at the bottom base of the branch. Make sure to locate this before you begin making a cut. Look for the branch ridge, which is on the upper surface, parallel to the branch angle at the stem.
  • Make the cut — When you do make a cut, do it outside the branch bark ridge. Keep your cut angled down and away from the stem, making sure you aren’t injuring the branch collar along the way. This technique can be used to prune both dead and living branches.
  • Long stems — If a stem is too long, use the three-cut technique: First, make a notch on the side of the stem that faces away from the branch being retained; make the second cut inside the crotch of the branch and above the branch ridge; the third cut will remove the stub by cutting through the stem parallel to the branch bark ridge.
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Pruning vs. Trimming

While the terms “trimming” and “pruning” are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different methods for keeping trees healthy.

Trimming is typically done for aesthetics and convenience and is performed when there are no concerns of overgrowth, disease, pests or other hazards to the tree. Trimming tree branches keeps trees looking great while removing long branches that can get in the way. Tree trimming can be done by a professional in cases of large or multiple trees, or by a homeowner who just wants to tidy up the look of the tree.

Pruning is done to keep trees healthy and involves the selective removal of particular parts of a tree or plant, such as buds, roots, and branches. In order to keep the tree healthy, pruning involves the targeted removal of plant tissue that is diseased, damaged, dead or otherwise structurally unsound or unwanted. Because of the specific nature of pruning, it is best left to a trained individual who can recognize damaged and diseased tissue and make sure that only healthy buds, branches, and roots are left behind.

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How to Save Money on Trimming

Hiring a professional team to come out and trim your trees costs more than doing it yourself, but it is the safest option. There are some ways to save money on your tree trimming service:

  • Power Lines — Utility companies will generally come out and trim trees that are near power lines for free, since it is a safety issue. Utility companies are also better equipped and trained to deal with electrical lines than tree trimming companies are.
  • Routine Maintenance — As with most home improvement projects, routine maintenance can fend off expensive repairs down the road. Annual tree trimming, for instance, can prevent diseases, growth and pests that can require more intensive and expensive repairs later on if left untreated.
  • Quick Action — Having someone come out to remove dead, overhanging limbs and/or take care of older trees now instead of waiting for further damage will save you money in the long run. Don’t wait for a problem to get worse before you get it resolved.
  • Water Trees — It seems basic, but making sure your trees are getting enough water is essential for their overall health and longevity. Adding mulch around the base will help to preserve root moisture around the tree.
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