When to Remove a Tree Vs. When to Keep a Tree

Wondering when to remove a tree and when to keep one in your yard? It can be a difficult decision for homeowners, especially if they don’t know much about arboriculture.

As arborists, we love trees, and we want to see more and more of them in residential yards and in public places around our cities. But there are many locations and situations when having a tree, especially a large one, is a bad idea.

If you want to know how to tell when to remove a tree and when it’s a good idea to keep a tree, then keep reading below to find out now.

Reasons to Consider Removing a Tree

So how do you know when to remove a tree? There are countless reasons for you to consider tree removal. Here are some of the most obvious.

1. The Tree Is Growing Too Close to the House, Driveway, Sidewalk, or Power Lines

One of the biggest reasons to remove a tree, even if you like the tree, is the threat it poses to structures like homes, power lines, or driveways. If a tree is growing too close to the home, it can cause extensive damage if a branch breaks off or if the entire tree falls during a storm.

Likewise, if it’s growing under or close to power lines, it can damage them, resulting in power outages, fires, or other dangerous problems.

If you suspect one of your trees is growing too close to structures, have a local arborist inspect the trees for you, as this can save a lot of money and heartache down the road.

2. The Tree Is Leaning

If a tree is leaning aggressively, it’s likely going to fall at some point. If you don’t want it to damage anything below it, it’s best to have it removed before gravity does its work.

A large tree with multiple trunks growing in different directions, which are weaker and subject to breaking.

3. The Tree Doesn’t Have a Single, Central Leader

Trees with a strong, central trunk are the most reliable, particularly in severe weather. Trees that don’t have one single trunk, but rather numerous trunks that grow in different directions,  are less structurally sound and more likely to split and fall.

4. The Tree Suffered Heavy Storm Damage

If your tree is in bad shape after a storm, with noticeable damage, cracks in the bark, large broken or missing branches, there’s a chance that the tree’s structure is no longer sound. It may be best to have it removed before the next storm causes even more damage.

5. The Tree Is Dead or Decaying

If the tree is dead or decaying slowly, it should be removed to eliminate the risk of it falling, and to beautify your yard. Not sure if your tree is truly dead (perhaps it’s just dormant)? Check our article about how to tell if a tree is dead versus dormant.

Sometimes homeowners will choose to keep smaller dead trees in their yard, also known as snags, as they can provide valuable habitat to wildlife. But this is best if the tree is far enough away from any structures and in more “wild” areas of your yard.

6. The Tree Makes Too Big of a Mess

Certain tree species are messier than others. If you’re unlucky enough to have a messy tree in your yard, requiring weekly or even daily cleanups, consider having the tree removed. While there’s an upfront expense to this, it can save countless hours each year, making it worth the cost.

Have a messy tree that you don’t want to get rid of? Consider removing the section of lawn surrounding the tree and planting shrubs underneath. Instead of raking the leaves, twigs, and flowers, let them decay into the soil and enrich the new plants.

7. The Tree Is Blocking a View

If you had a good view from your yard that is now blocked by a tree, it may be worth removing. You can’t create a new view, but you can replace a large tree with smaller trees or shrubs that won’t encroach on your view.

Rayzor's Edge crew remove a large branch during a tree removal in New Haven County, CT.

8. The Tree Is Too Large

If your yard is too small for a large tree, you may want to remove it as soon as possible. The larger a tree gets, the more expensive it will be to remove it from a small or confined space.

9. The Tree Has Cracks or Other Structural Problems

If you notice cracks, cavities, or other deformities on a tree, it may be a safety hazard. At the very least, have the tree inspected, as there may be ways to make the tree safer, either by pruning, cabling, or bracing the tree.

10. The Tree is Invasive, Noxious, or Prone to Problems

We have many beautiful trees in Connecticut that grace our yards, parks, and natural areas with colorful leaves, fragrant flowers, and lush foliage. But, unfortunately, there are also a number of non-native and invasive tree species that can out-compete native species or host destructive insect pests. Some are even prohibited from sale, distribution, or cultivation. Plus, there are plenty of tree species that cause a range of other problems when they’re planted in your landscape. If you have any of these problem trees, we recommend removing them as soon as you can.

11. The Tree Shows Signs of Infestation or Infection

Symptoms of tree diseases or insect infestation can take many forms, such as:

  • discoloration of foliage
  • a thinning canopy
  • premature leaf drop
  • peeling bark
  • oozing sap
  • shoots growing up from the trunk
  • fungal growths around the tree base

See these signs of a sick tree for more ways to identify trees that are infested with pests or infected by disease.

If you notice anything unusual going on with your trees, it might mean they are under attack from pests or pathogens.

If problems are detected early on, there may be treatment options available to save the tree. Otherwise, removing the tree before problems spread to other trees is often a good idea.

A large oak tree providing valuable shade to a home in Fairfield County, CT.

When You Should Keep a Tree

If you’re undecided, here are a few good reasons to keep a tree if there aren’t any obvious signs that it should be removed.

1. The Tree Provides Valuable Shade

Never take shade for granted. Even in the Northeastern climate of Connecticut, shade is vital in the summer to make our yards enjoyable and to keep our homes cool. The more shade in your yard, the less you’ll need to run the AC unit in the summer, saving electricity and money.

2. The Tree Cools the Air Around Your Home

Not only do trees keep our homes cool by the shade they provide, but trees and other plants cool the air around our homes through evaporation and transpiration. If you like cooler air inside and out, keep more trees in your yard, especially if they shade the south or west side of your property.

3. Trees Support Mental Health

Studies show that spending time looking at trees and nature can support mental health by helping to lower stress and anxiety. Choosing to keep trees in your yard may be an investment in the mental health of you, your family, and even your neighbors.

A beautiful street lined with mature trees in Connecticut.

4. The Tree Boosts Home Value

Trees don’t just provide intrinsic value. Trees can provide economic value as well. By simply having mature trees near the street, you can experience a boost in property value by as much as 15 percent. 

Keep in mind that savvy homeowners may avoid buying a house if a tree is too large or planted too close to the home, since they assume the tree will need to be removed soon.

5. The Tree Supports Wildlife

Trees are extremely important to beneficial wildlife species like birds, butterflies, bees, and even animals like squirrels and deer. If you appreciate the sights and sounds of wildlife in your yard, consider keeping the trees that provide the food and habitat that keeps them around.

6. The Tree Provides Fruit to Eat

Fruit can be a positive or negative aspect of trees, depending on who you ask. If you have fruit trees that you benefit from, allowing you and your family to pick fresh fruit and enjoy it together, while also teaching kids to appreciate where food comes from, it might be best to keep them.

On the other hand, if you have fruit trees that you don’t care for, it’s best to remove them. If you let the fruit fall to the ground and rot, you’ll attract pests like raccoons, rats, and other unwanted guests to your yard.

A large tree with a tire swing, which provides endless entertainment for outdoor kids.

7. The Tree Provides Entertainment

If there’s nothing inherently wrong with the tree, think about the entertainment value of the tree:

  • Kids can climb the tree
  • You can hang a tire swing or swinging bench
  • It might provide a shady spot in the yard to enjoy lawn games

If they’re structurally sound and safe, trees can provide an opportunity to make lasting memories, while encouraging children to spend more time outside in nature.

Need Help Deciding if You Should Keep or Remove a Tree?

If you’re still unsure about removing a tree, it’s best to consult local arborists who can advise you on the best options. Our certified and highly experienced arborists here at Rayzor’s Edge Tree Service can provide you with expert guidance when it comes to trees in your yard.

We don’t like cutting down trees unless it’s the only option, so we will always work with you to find the best solution for you, your yard, and your trees. Call us today at 203-258-5584 or use this online form to schedule a free tree inspection in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, Connecticut.

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