How to Remove a Small Tree in 8 Steps!

Trees, whether big or small, provide a range of benefits, from aesthetic appeal to environmental contributions. However, sometimes it becomes necessary to remove a tree, especially if it poses a hazard, is diseased, or is simply in an undesired location.

Removing a small tree is a manageable task for most homeowners, but it’s essential to proceed with care. Here’s a step-by-step guide to safely and effectively remove a small tree.

1. Safety First: Before starting any tree removal process, ensure you have the appropriate safety gear, including:

  • Safety goggles or glasses
  • Thick gloves
  • Sturdy boots
  • Long-sleeved shirt and pants
  • Helmet or hard hat (if available)

2. Assemble Your Tools: You will need a few tools to help you in the removal process:

  • Pruning shears or loppers
  • A sharp saw or small chainsaw
  • Shovel or spade
  • Ax (optional)
  • Rope (if the tree is near a structure)

3. Survey the Area: Before cutting, identify the tree’s natural fall direction. Ensure there are no structures, power lines, or plants that could get damaged when the tree falls.

4. Clear the Area: Remove any obstacles around the tree and create a clear pathway for a quick exit when the tree starts to fall.

5. Trim the Branches: Starting from the bottom, use your pruning shears or loppers to cut off smaller branches. For thicker branches, use the saw or chainsaw. This process is known as “limbing.”

6. Plan Your Cut:

  • Notch Cut: Make a horizontal cut on the side of the tree facing the direction you want it to fall. This cut should be about one-third of the way through the tree’s diameter.
  • Felling Cut: This is the final cut that will bring the tree down. Position your saw slightly above the bottom of the notch cut, on the opposite side, and saw horizontally, meeting the depth of the notch cut.

7. Push and Clear: As the tree begins to lean and fall, use your hands to push it in the desired direction (if safe to do so). Step back quickly and to the side, away from the falling path.

8. Removing the Stump: Once the tree is down, you’ll be left with the stump. Here are your options:

  • Digging Out: Use a shovel to dig around the stump, revealing its root system. Sever the roots with the shovel or an ax. Once detached, you can pull the stump out.
  • Grinding: If you have access to a stump grinder, this is a more efficient method. Grind the stump down to just below ground level.
  • Chemical Removal: Some chemicals, usually in granule form, can help break down the stump. Drill holes in the stump, pour in the granules, add water, and wait. The stump will soften and can be removed after a few weeks.
  • Natural Decay: If you’re not in a rush, you can let nature take its course. Cover the stump with soil or mulch and let it decay over time.

9. Cleanup: Gather the fallen branches, leaves, and logs. Depending on local regulations, you can choose to compost, burn, or dispose of the debris.

10. Fill the Hole: If you’ve removed the stump, you’ll be left with a hole. Fill it with topsoil, pack it down, and plant grass seed or another desired plant.

Conclusion: Removing a small tree is a hands-on project that requires safety precautions and patience. Whether you’re looking to clear space in your yard, make room for a new planting, or eliminate a potential hazard, following these steps will ensure you do so effectively and safely.

If you’re ever unsure or feel the task is too big, don’t hesitate to hire a professional arborist or tree removal service.

ALSO SEE: How to Remove Hardened Tree Sap from a Car Windshield


1. Why might I need to remove a small tree?

  • Sometimes trees are diseased, pose hazards, or are simply in undesirable locations.

2. Can I remove a tree by myself?

  • Yes, small trees can often be removed by homeowners. However, always prioritize safety.

3. When is the best time to remove a tree?

  • Late winter or early spring, when the tree is dormant, is generally best.

4. Will I need a permit to remove a tree?

  • Depending on local regulations, a permit may be required. Always check with local authorities.

5. How can I tell if a tree is diseased?

  • Look for signs like discolored leaves, fungi growth, or bark abnormalities.

6. What should I do with the tree after cutting it?

  • You can compost, burn, or dispose of it, depending on local regulations.

7. How deep are tree roots typically?

  • Most tree roots reside in the top 12-18 inches of soil but can spread horizontally.

8. Can I replant a small tree after removing it?

  • It’s challenging but possible if the root ball is preserved and the tree is healthy.

9. What safety gear is essential?

  • Safety goggles, gloves, sturdy boots, and long-sleeved clothing are a must.

10. How do I dispose of the stump?

  • You can dig it out, grind it, apply chemicals, or let it decay naturally.

11. How long does chemical stump removal take?

  • Several weeks to a few months, depending on the product and tree type.

12. Can I use the removed tree for firewood?

  • Yes, but ensure it’s adequately dried before burning.

13. What’s the cost of hiring professionals?

  • Costs vary but expect to pay between $50-$400 for small tree removal.

14. How do I know if a tree is too big to remove myself?

  • If the tree’s height or girth feels overwhelming, or if it’s near structures or power lines, consult a professional.

15. How can I ensure the tree falls in the right direction?

  • Notch and felling cuts guide the tree’s direction, but always have an escape route.

16. What can I plant in place of the removed tree?

  • Grass, shrubs, or a new tree are all options. Consider native species.

17. Are there alternatives to tree removal?

  • Sometimes pruning or disease treatment can save a tree. Consult an arborist.

18. Is stump grinding safe for the surrounding lawn?

  • Yes, but clean up thoroughly to prevent the spread of wood chips.

19. Will the tree roots continue to grow after removal?

  • Once the tree is cut, root growth typically stops.

20. Can I sell the wood of the removed tree?

  • Depending on the type and condition, local lumber or firewood sellers might be interested.

21. How can I repurpose the removed tree?

  • Consider woodworking projects, mulch, or natural garden features.

22. Are there legal ramifications for damaging neighbor’s property during removal?

  • Yes, you can be held liable for damages. Ensure safety and clear communication.

23. What if I find bird nests in the tree?

  • It’s best to wait until birds have left the nest or consult local wildlife guidelines.

24. Can tree removal affect soil health?

  • Removing a tree can alter soil nutrients and moisture levels. Monitor and amend soil as necessary.

25. How soon can I replant after stump grinding?

  • Immediately, but remove as much sawdust as possible and replace with topsoil.

26. Can I rent tree removal equipment?

  • Yes, many home centers rent out chainsaws, stump grinders, and other tools.

27. What precautions should I take when using chemicals?

  • Always follow label instructions, keep away from children and pets, and avoid contaminating water sources.

28. How do I sharpen a chainsaw?

  • Using a chainsaw file or professional sharpening kit, regularly maintain the chain’s sharpness.

29. How can I protect nearby plants during removal?

  • Cover them with tarps or move them temporarily, if possible.

30. Why is tree removal cost variable?

  • Costs depend on tree size, location, hazards, and local market rates.

31. Should I remove a tree leaning towards my house?

  • It’s advised to consult an arborist to assess potential hazards.

32. How can I fill the hole left by stump grinding?

  • Use a mix of sawdust and topsoil, then compact and plant over it.

33. Can pets be around during the removal process?

  • For safety, keep pets indoors or at a safe distance.

34. How do I know if a chainsaw chain is too dull?

  • If the chainsaw produces more dust than chips, it’s likely dull.

35. Are there eco-friendly stump removal methods?

  • Natural decay and manual digging are eco-friendly options.

36. Can I transplant a small tree to another location?

  • With proper root ball handling and immediate replanting, it’s possible.

37. Is tree removal typically covered by homeowners insurance?

  • Only if it poses an immediate danger or after a storm. Check with your insurer.

38. Should I water the area after tree removal?

  • Yes, especially if you intend to plant something new, to help settle the soil.

39. How do I prevent regrowth after cutting a tree?

  • Ensure complete stump removal or regularly check for and cut off sprouts.

40. What if I discover termites or pests during removal?

  • Consult a pest control specialist to prevent infestations in your home.

41. Can I remove a tree stump with fire?

  • Burning is an option but poses fire risks and may not be allowed in all areas.

42. How do I choose the right chainsaw size?

  • For small trees, a chainsaw with a 10 to 14-inch bar should suffice.

43. How deep should I dig to remove the stump?

  • Aim to sever the main roots, which may be 12-18 inches deep or more.

44. What if the tree is near power lines?

  • Never attempt to remove trees near power lines yourself. Contact local utilities or professionals.

45. How do I maintain my tools post-removal?

  • Clean, sharpen, and store them in a dry place.

46. Can heavy machinery be used for small tree removal?

  • It’s generally unnecessary and could cause more harm to the landscape.

47. Should I use herbicides for stump removal?

  • Herbicides can prevent regrowth, but consider environmental impacts.

48. How do I handle trees with thorns or spines?

  • Wear thick gloves and protective clothing, and handle with care.

49. Can I grind a stump if it’s next to a structure?

  • Exercise caution. The grinder can damage foundations or structures if not used carefully.

50. How often should I inspect trees on my property?

  • Annually, or after major storms, to identify potential risks.

Remember, while many tree removal tasks are manageable for homeowners, always prioritize safety and consult professionals when in doubt.

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