How do You Know When a Tree Needs to be Cut Down?

Last updated on October 19th, 2023 at 09:03 pm

An unhealthy looking or heavily leaning tree could be an indicator that it's time to have it taken down. Here are a few warning signs to look for.

Trees are amazing things that we tend to grow fond of, especially if we spend a lot of time in the same area. They become part of the landscape that makes a place familiar to us. That familiarity brings comfort.

But trees are living things and as all living things do, trees die. So if you think your tree is dead, or dying, this post a few ways to determine if it’s time to have the tree removed.

The area the tree lives could have an effect on each of the following methods. For instance, if you live in a dry area of Texas like Fort Worth, some of these tips may not be valid for your specific case and you’d want to find a service like The Local Tree Experts to help you.

How do You Know When a Tree Needs to be Cut Down?

There are 4 common things you can look for yourself before reaching out to a tree removal service or an arborist for help.

1. The Obvious: Is the Tree Still Producing Leaves?

It’s surprising how many people assume they have a dead tree and yet the tree still produces leaves each season. If your tree still produces leaves, it’s probably not dead. If it only produces leaves in a small section, it may be sick or dying but it’s definitely not dead yet. An arborist can tell you if the tree can be saved or not.

2. The Scratch Test

For tree species with thin bark, scratching it with your fingernail and seeing green underneath the bark could be enough to let you know the tree is still very much alive. This is known as ‘the scratch test‘. While that doesn’t always give you a good idea of the tree’s overall health, it could be enough to let you know that the tree may be fine to leave alone for a while.

3. Fungus Growth

Fungus growing at the base of a tree can be a sign that the tree is in trouble. Fungus adapted over millions of years to be able to break down the dead wood cells of trees and so it normally attaches to dead wood and its presence can indicate that the tree is rotting.

Clump of mushrooms on a rotten tree stump
Clump of mushrooms on a rotten tree stump.

Removing the fungus will not save your tree. The fungus is there because the tree contains dead wood. The tree might be savable, but removing the fungus won’t do it.

4. The Tree is Leaning Dangerously

One nightmare for homeowners is that a tree falls onto their house. Every year thousands of homes across the US are damaged by falling trees and injuries from these falls are not uncommon.

If you believe you have a tree that’s leaning dangerously over your property, or a tree is suddenly leaning more than normal, this could indicate an impending fall. Contacting a certified arborist or tree removal service is the best way to figure out the right course of action. In many cases, an arborist may be able to save the tree.

Can a Dead or Dying Tree Remain Standing?

Absolutely! In some cases, dead trees can remain structurally sound for many years. Deceased trees can carry a tremendous amount of beauty and provide a habitat for insects, squirrels, and birds.

If a dead tree on your property is still solid, consider allowing it to stand a bit longer before hiring a tree removal service to take it down.

Final Thoughts

While the death of a tree can feel like you’ve lost an old friend, the safety of your home and the protection of your property may require that you have the tree cut down. You can use the methods from this article to get a good start on the health of a questionable tree, and then reach out to a professional if necessary.

Alex Michaels
Freelance Writer

I'm a freelance writer from Israel. I like to write about just about anything. English is my 2nd language so please forgive me if my writing isn't perfect.

1 thought on “How do You Know When a Tree Needs to be Cut Down?”

  1. Zachary Tomlinson

    I never knew that a dead tree could eventually lean and fall into your property if left unattended. My friend was tending to his flower garden lately, and he noticed a couple of dead branches from his favorite oak tree. I think he should consider having it removed by an expert to prevent it from causing harm to his home.

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