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Tree Trimming 101: What You Need to Know

Published: March 2018

Trees can make the outside of your home beautiful. Having trees in your yard may create opportunities for a shaded lounge area, a place to hang a tire swing and somewhere to build a tree house. As much as trees can add to your property, maintaining them is an important step to helping protect your property.

Man outside trimming tree with pruning shears.

Why Is Trimming Your Trees Important?

Trees need to be trimmed or pruned regularly, and sometimes branches must be cut off to help ensure the health of the tree and your family's safety. There are many reasons tree trimming can be a vital part of yard maintenance. According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), trees need to pruned first for safety, next for health and finally for aesthetics. Let's look at each of these benefits:


Removing branches that may cause damage to property or people if they fall can be a primary reason for tree trimming.

Tree Health

Cutting dead or diseased branches may help benefit the overall health of the tree. In addition, pruning may also encourage trees to develop stronger core structures to help withstand the elements.


Trimming a tree may help accentuate its physical appearance and improve flower or fruit production.


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How Often Should You Trim Your Trees?

Arbor Day Foundation suggests pruning or trimming trees once per year during the dormant season, which can vary depending on the species of your tree. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, circumstances such as these may prompt an immediate trimming:

  • The tree's growth obstructs visibility for pedestrians or vehicles, especially at intersections.
  • The tree's limbs interfere with power lines. Make sure to contact your local utility company to handle the job, as it's simply too dangerous to even get close to power lines.
  • The tree's growth may threaten your home or property. If you feel a tree needs to be pruned because it may cause damage to your home, or causes safety concerns, it's important to contact an arborist to help with the trimming.

How Do You Safely Trim Your Trees?

The most important rule when cutting a tree, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is personal safety. The best way to help ensure safety is to hire an arborist to clip back your trees. Trimming may often require a ladder and sometimes puts the trimmer in close proximity to power lines, posing a potential danger. The safest course of action is to leave tree-trimming to a professional.

However, if you do decide to trim your own trees the USDA provides the following size guide to help you determine if it's safe or not to cut the branches:

  • Branches smaller than 2 inches (or 5 centimeters) in diameter: Proceed.
  • Branches between 2 and 4 inches (or 5 and 10 centimeters) in diameter: Think it over.
  • Branches larger than 4 inches (or 10 centimeters): Contact an arborist.
Once again, if you have any doubt in your ability to properly assess the situation and conduct the pruning, call an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. An arborist has experience and expertise, and can complete the job in a safe and fast manner.

Overall, yearly tree trimming may help keep your yard beautiful and safe for years to come.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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