How to Cut Branches From a Tall Tree

So, you want to learn how to cut branches from a tall tree, do you? That’s awesome because that is exactly what I am going to show you how to do in this quick step by step article!

Not every tree job requires you to call an expensive tree service company, and truth be told, a lot of jobs (like trimming tall trees yourself) can be done pretty easily with a little knowledge and practice, which can end up saving you a ton of money in the long run.

Check out my article on the best tool for cutting tree branches fast and easy. From small twigs to monster branches, I share all the tools I recommend for each job! 

If you’re already searching for ways to cut tree limbs that are too high to reach from the ground, it tells me that you are a savvy DIY’er and should be able to handle this job without any problems.

By the end of this guide, you should have a clear idea of the tools that you’re going to need, the process of cutting those high tree branches, and some safety precautions and common questions that are usually asked. 

Let’s get into it!

How to Cut Branches From a Tall Tree - A Simple Step by Step

Tree Pruning Tools You'll Need

There’s a lot of different tree trimming tools out on the market; from small pruning shears and loppers, to pole saws and chainsaws. Each is made for a different job and you choosing the right tool is important. 

Since we’re dealing with trimming branches from a tall tree, you’re going to need tools that can help you get into those high, hard to reach areas:

  • Ladder (required depending on height)
  • Pole Pruner, Pole Saw or Chainsaw
  • Someone to help you

Now that you’ve got an idea of the few tools that you’re going to need, we can move on and talk about examining your area, the branches and making your first cut.

Examine Your Area

Wait! The last thing you want to do is start hacking away at the branches in that tall tree without checking out your surrounding area. 

Ask yourself some quick questions:

  • How big are the branches that I am trying to cut? 
  • Where will the branches fall when they’ve been cut?
  • Am I (or anyone else) potentially in the way of falling branches? 

Once you have a general idea of where and what you’re working with, you’ll be able to not only work safer, but smarter.

Cutting Small Branches

Cutting smaller branches out of a tall tree is usually pretty easy. As long as the branches are not too thick, you can use a pole pruner from the ground or on a ladder to reach much higher areas into the tree. 

Step #1) Start from the bottom of the tree and work your way up, sawing off dead branches and debris which negatively affect the tree’s health.

Step #2) Once you’ve managed to get most of the dead branches cleared from the desired areas of the tree, you can continue trimming to give the tree an appealing, finished look. 

Cutting Large Branches

Cutting large branches off of a tall tree takes a more strategic approach. Unlike small tree branches, large branches are going to require specific types of cuts: the first cut, the second cut, and the final cut.

Usually, trimming the largest of branches is also going to require that you use a handheld chainsaw or a pole saw. 

Making the first cut – Cut a shall notch (in a V shape) on the bottom of the branch. Doing this will allow the falling branch to leave a clean cut on the tree and not leave any tears on the surrounding stem area.

Make the second cut – You should make this cut beyond the first cut, cutting all the way through the branch and only leaving a small stub remaining. 

The final cut – You can now cut the remaining stub from the base of the branch, right before the branch collar.

Sounds pretty painless, right? 

For those of you that are visual learners, you can see the video below:

Tree Trimming Safety (Important!)

Safety when cutting tree branches from a tall should be your #1 priority. Even though some of the branches may look small, they can still cause considerable damage to yourself, others and surrounding property. 

Below are some important tree trimming safety tips you should keep in mind when attempting to do this yourself: 

  • NEVER cut branches directly overhead as you risk the branch falling on top of you.

  • If using a ladder, it’s recommended to use a tripod style and always have a spotter who can hold the base of the ladder while you’re climbing.

  • When using powered tree trimming tools, make sure to wear PPE such as gloves, safety glasses, and hearing protection.

  • Never cut branches from a tall tree that has telephone or power lines running through it. This is a job for a professional only!

  • Be alert for changing weather conditions such as wind as this can cause unwanted branches to break or fall.

  •  You (and whoever is helping you) should never turn your back from falling tree branches.

  • Always hold your equipment with two hands at all times.
For more safety tips, you can see this tree work safety guide

FAQ - Common Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions about trimming high tree branches:

How far should tree branches be from house?

Tree branches should be kept a distance of 10 feet away from your roofline. Any branches that hang over onto your roof can pose a risk if they break and fall. Also, many animals and critters take home to trees, and those branches can act as passageways to your roof and ultimately, your home. 

How to cut tree limbs over house?

Step 1 – Use a ladder that you can easily set against a wall to access your roof. 

Step 2 – Find the branches that are hanging over your house and cut them in small sections making sure they are light enough for you to grab and throw down to the ground.

Step 3 – Continue cutting the branches overhanging your house until you can no longer safely reach the branch(es).

Step 4 –  Continue cutting the branch from the ground or a ladder until you’ve trimmed off the desired amount. 

When can you cut branches off trees?

The best time to cut branches off trees is in the late winter and early spring. With that being said, you can still cut them any time of year if you want to. 

Should you seal cut tree limbs?

No, you should not use a healing sealer for cut tree limbs. According to the University of Arizona, it has actually been shown to prevent trees from naturally healing themselves. 

What’s Next? 

If you’ve made it to the end, you should now have a good idea of how to cut branches from a tall tree, whether they’re big or small. 

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let me know if you have any other tips for trimming those limbs high up in a tree, or if you’re going to tackle this DIY project yourself. 

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