How to Tell If a Tree Is Dead

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Fall has arrived. Your trees are changing color and leaves are falling. It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year. But this beauty can obscure the threat of a dead tree. How do you know if you have healthy trees? Would you be able to identify if one were dead and therefore a potential hazard to your family and property?

With the proper information, you can easily identify a dead tree, and Neighborly can help. This article will equip you with the information needed to decide when to remove a tree, dead or alive, and how to remove one yourself if necessary.

Group of tree stumps

Why Remove a Dead Tree?

Dead trees pose a threat to your property and should be removed. They topple easily in strong winds and can even fall over for no particular reason. In addition to falling hazards, they can host fungi, molds, pests, and other creatures you don’t want hanging out in your yard.

Here are some of the top reasons to remove a dead tree from your property:

  • Dead trees attract pests.
  • Dead trees are a fire hazard, especially in dry, wildfire-prone areas like the West Coast.
  • Dead trees may carry contagious “tree diseases” that can kill nearby healthy trees.
  • Dead trees are unattractive and negatively impact your property value.

Is My Tree Dead?

You know it’s important to remove a dead tree, but do you know if your tree is actually dead? Here are some key indicators that you need to take action:

heaving soil at tree base.

  • Heaving soil at the base of the tree

fungi at the base of a tree.

  • Fungi at the base of the tree

chipped and peeling bark on a tree.

  • Chipped/peeling/cracked bark

Dead and hanging branches.

  • Dead or hanging branches

Skinny twigs without buds at the end of branches.

  • Skinny twigs without buds at the end of branches

Still can’t tell if you have a dead tree? Try the twig test! Break a twig in half – if it’s green inside, it’s alive, and if it’s brown, it’s dead. In addition, if you can break the twig easily with little arching, you know it’s dead wood. For larger trees, you can perform a similar test by scratching the bark at the base of the tree to see if it is green or if it leaks sap.

Why Remove a Living Tree?

Did you know? There are instances when a living tree should be removed, too. You might be thinking, “It’s alive! Why should I get rid of a perfectly healthy tree?” Sometimes, cutting down a tree has nothing to do with its health. You should fell a living tree if it interferes with:

  • Other trees
  • Buildings
  • Driveways
  • Utility wires

If you’re hesitant to remove a tree for sentimental or aesthetic reasons, consider if there are other alternatives to removal. For example, a tree that grows too close to utility wires may not need to be taken out entirely. Frequent branch trimming can allow you to keep the tree without risking fires or power outages.

How to Remove a Tree by Yourself

You’ve identified a tree in your yard that needs to be removed. What’s next? Use these simple step-by-step instructions to help remove a tree by yourself if necessary.

Remember, never try to remove a large tree on your own. Felling trees is dangerous and can damage your home, tear down power lines, and severely injure you or others if done incorrectly. A DIY approach is only acceptable for small trees.

Note: These are simplified steps to get you started. You may want to consult the professionals before proceeding. Continue reading – we know some good ones!

  1. Check to make sure the area is clear of objects.
  2. Identify which way the tree is leaning.
  3. Establish two escape routes in the event the tree doesn’t fall as you anticipate.
  4. Choose your saw – a handsaw for small trees, a chainsaw for larger trees. We recommend hiring a professional for any tree over 10 feet tall.
  5. Cut a 45 degree “V” into the tree in the direction you want it to fall.
  6. Cut a small notch into the opposite side of the tree.
  7. Move out of the way!
  8. Remove all branches and cut out the tree stump

Dead Tree Removal FAQs

How do you tell if a tree is completely dead?

A great way to tell if a tree is dead is to use the twig test. To do this, break a twig off a tree. If the twig has green inside of it, the tree is alive. If the inside of the twig is brown and dry, the tree may be dead. Feel free to try multiple twigs or try to scratch the bark to see if it reveals any green/non-dry growth.

Can a dead tree be revived?

If the tree is truly dead, it cannot be revived. However, sometimes trees that are in the process of dying indicate being dead. These trees have a chance of being saved through effective care, gardening techniques, and professional tree services.

Call Neighborly for Dead Tree Removal Services

If you need to remove a large tree, you should call a professional. The Grounds Guys, a Neighborly brand, are qualified and ready to help with any of your tree-related needs. Whether it's residential tree removal or commercial tree removal, they’ve got you covered!

Have a different home service need? We have a brand that can help! Explore our trusted Neighborly brands today.

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