Are you a homeowner who is about to begin a major landscaping project? If so, you should know how to properly trim and prune to ensure the healthy trees on your property. Keep reading to learn how much it costs to trim trees, the steps or trimming and pruning, and tips for undertaking DIY landscaping projects.

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DIY or Hire

When determining whether to perform tree trimming on your own or hire a professional, it comes down to price and safety.


  • Tree trimming on your own is free if you have all of the necessary tools; however, some pruning and lopping shears may cost up to $50.
  • It’s often faster to address a limb that needs to be trimmed yourself rather than scheduling an appointment with a certified arborist.
  • It may be more dangerous and difficult to trim limbs longer than 4 inches in diameter.


  • Professional tree trimming services will usually charge $250–$500 on average (the total cost will depend on the scope of the project).
  • An expert will safely and efficiently remove problem limbs during a scheduled appointment.
  • Arborists and other tree trimming experts have experience trimming and pruning limbs of all different sizes.

How much does Tree Trimming Cost?

On average, tree trimming costs $460. Most customers pay between $200 and $760 for tree trimming.

Tree Trimming Cost Breakdown

Tree trimming for trees under 30 feet costs as low as $75 and tops out close to $400. Large trees cost more, however. Trees measuring more than 60 feet can cost up to $1,500 per trim.

What is The Difference Between Tree Trimming and Pruning?

Although the terms “tree trimming” and “tree pruning” are regularly used interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. Here’s how you can distinguish between the two terms:

What is Tree Trimming?

Tree trimming refers to the act of cutting overgrown branches or leaves for aesthetic purposes. It additionally assists in propelling the proper growth of a plant.

What is Tree Pruning?

Tree pruning is the process of cutting back dying, cluttered, and dead branches and leaves on your trees. It is a selective process that takes into account the whole structure of trees and helps to promote their growth and wellness. Pruning is usually used to remove infected and diseased branches, which helps to protect trees from infections.

What are the Benefits of Trimming or Pruning a Tree?

Tree trimming is necessary to prevent old or weak branches from falling and causing injury or damaging property. Here are a few reasons why you should trim your trees each winter.

Safety—By removing broken and dead tree limbs before they fall, you avoid the potential for injury — either to yourself or a passerby. You also prevent tree limbs from falling and damaging your car or house. If you notice a dead tree branch at any time of year, cut it down or have it removed.

Appearance—Another reason to trim your trees is to keep them looking beautiful. A good rule of thumb is to trim trees according to their natural shape rather than trimming them to grow in an unnatural shape or form.

Tree Health—When done right, trimming a tree to remove diseased or dead limbs is an effective way to keep your trees healthy. Annual tree trimming encourages proper growth and allows trees to maintain a strong structure. Even removing a few leaves and smaller branches can improve tree health by allowing more air and sunlight to filter through.

How to Trim or Prune a Tree The Right Way

When pruning or trimming a tree, it’s safe to remove the following branches:

  • Branches that cross and intersect
  • Lower branches that get in the way of walking
  • Branches that block windows and light
  • Branches that block intersections or interfere with street signs
  • Branches that block or obscure your home’s entryway

Tools and Materials Needed for Tree Trimming or Pruning

Here is a list of materials you need when tree trimming:

  • Pruning or lopping shears
  • Small chainsaw
  • Hand saw
  • Chisel or sharp knife
  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Single-pole ladder or extension ladder

Tree Trimming Steps

Before trimming a tree, gather the necessary tools and make sure all supplies are clean and sharp. Rinsing them with warm water and soap and rubbing them with a good oil stone (for sharpness) should do the trick.

  1. Before beginning the tree trimming process, put on gloves and protective eyewear to prevent injury.
  2. Climb up a single-pole ladder or extension ladder to begin a visual inspection of the tree limbs from the top of the tree. Make sure it’s planted firmly on the ground and stable against the tree. When trimming limbs, always work your way down and make sure there’s nobody beneath you that could get hurt from falling debris.
  3. Before sawing off an entire tree limb, make a ¼-inch notch cut with a hand saw two to three feet away from the trunk (this keeps the bark from splitting during the next cut).
  4. Just outside the notch cut, use a hand saw or small chainsaw to make a relief cut completely through the branch. This removes the weight of the branch and helps you make the final cut without the branch splitting and falling.
  5. Next, identify the branch collar, or the area that grows from the stem tissue at the bottom base of the branch. Never cut into the branch collar — this part is responsible for forming scar tissue and healing the tree after the cut.
  6. Cut just outside the branch collar with a chainsaw and angle your cut downward and away from the stem. A good place to make your cut is just beyond the enlarged or swollen region where the tree trunk meets the branch.
  7. When pruning small tree branches, use pruning shears to cut about ¼ inch beyond a bud in order to encourage growth.
  8. If a broken branch leaves a stub or torn bark, remove it with a chisel or sharp knife to protect the health of the tree and prevent insects from entering.

Tree Pruning Steps

Pruning is an important process that helps to keep your trees healthy. It is important to keep using proper techniques when pruning because an improperly done pruning job can actually increase your tree’s susceptibility to disease and decay. If you really mess up, you might kill your trees and have to call a professional for tree removal.

The three-cut pruning technique helps you make clean and effective pruning cuts:

  1. Start by making a cut on the underside of the branch you want to prune. Your cut should be made around 12 inches from the branch collar and nearly a quarter to halfway through the branch. If you cut a heavy limb only from the top, the bark can peel and tear away from the main branch or trunk that is being left. You can avoid this damage by making the first undercut.
  2. Next, make a cut on the top side of the branch. This cut should be close to 6 inches from the first undercut. Continue cutting until the branch snaps down to your initial cut and falls away cleanly.
  3. Finally, trim the limb back to the root collar. You should avoid making flush cuts because this can cut into the growth layer of the tree and prevent healing. Make sure that the cut is at a 45-degree angle to prevent water from pooling on the open wound of the tree.

How Often Should You Trim or Prune a Tree?

Most fully-grown trees should be pruned and trimmed every 3-5 years and younger trees should be trimmed every 2-3 years. Fruit trees should be pruned and trimmed yearly and some evergreens can go years without needing to be pruned or trimmed at all.

When is the Best Time for Tree Trimming or Pruning?

The best time to take on this task is in the late winter or early spring (check out our springtime lawn care manual) after the coldest days have passed and just before new buds are about to form. However, you don’t want to trim your trees when the weather is extremely cold.

If you prune in the fall, tree growth is stimulated, which might not be ideal before the harsh, winter months. Fungi also tend to spread more frequently in the fall, negatively affecting healthy trees after the pruning or trimming process.

Additionally, it’s not a great idea to prune your trees when it’s raining or damp since moisture can breed bacteria and diseases. For the best results, wait until the sun is shining and tree branches are dry.

Tree Trimming Safety Tips

Since tree trimming can be dangerous, here are a few safety tips to keep you out of harm’s way during the process.

  • If branches have fallen on a power line or if your pruning requires you to work in close proximity to electrical lines, you are facing a safety hazard and should call in professional help. You may even have to call the utility company because of the threat to public safety.
  • If a tree branch is greater than 4 inches in diameter, it may be more difficult to remove. Call in an expert if this is the case.
  • Any time you feel uncomfortable when trimming a tree, call in a certified arborist or other tree trimming professional for assistance with tree maintenance. Ask neighbors and other locals for a recommendation and research different tree trimming and removal services online. Many companies will offer free estimates before helping you out.

Final Thoughts

By now, you probably can’t wait to begin your tree maintenance project! Don’t forget to follow the tips presented in this article and make sure to call a professional if you are ever in doubt.

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Editorial Contributors
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Elisabeth Beauchamp

Senior Staff Writer

Elisabeth Beauchamp is a content producer for Today’s Homeowner’s Lawn and Windows categories. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Journalism and Linguistics. When Elisabeth isn’t writing about flowers, foliage, and fertilizer, she’s researching landscaping trends and current events in the agricultural space. Elisabeth aims to educate and equip readers with the tools they need to create a home they love.

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Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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