Tree trimming is occasionally necessary not just to make trees and gardens look great, but also to ensure the long-term health of the trees. Tree trimmers typically remove dead limbs and tree branches that affect the overall health of the tree or that could pose a safety hazard. While homeowners can trim small trees themselves, professionals have the experience and equipment to make sure any size tree is trimmed safely and in a way that benefits the tree. For larger trees, most experts recommend always working with a professional tree trimmer. Tree trimmers can also offer expertise in tree care, which could extend the overall life of your tree in the long run.
Tree trimming costs vary widely, depending largely on the size and location of the tree, the type of tree, whether it's healthy or needs treatment, and whether there are power lines and other potential hazards nearby. A tree trimming company will typically provide an estimate of the work required and assess the overall health of the tree before they do the work.
Costs for tree trimming services range from a low of $75 to more than $1,000; the national average cost ranges from $250 to $500. Here are factors that can affect the overall cost of tree trimming services.
Tree trimming estimates
Few trimming companies are likely to have a standard price list. Most tree trimmers will want to come out and see the tree before they provide a free estimate. At this point the tree trimming company will also likely alert you to any additional tree pruning or dead branch removal that may be required. They may also tell you if they need to bring any special equipment such as a bucket truck for very large trees. Be sure to get an estimate in writing before you have the tree trimmer start work to ensure there are no surprises.
Size of the tree
Not surprisingly, typically the larger the tree is, the more it will cost to trim — not just because of its height, but also because it likely has more, and stronger, branches and limbs. Generally, trees that are shorter than 30 feet tall, such as Russian olive trees and dogwood trees, cost between $75 and $450 on average, to have pruned. Trimming trees that are between 30 feet and 60 feet tall, such as crabapple trees, is likely to cost between $150 and $875 on average, while trees that are taller than 60 feet will cost between $200 and $1,000 or more on average to have pruned. Any exceptionally tall tree, such a red oak or an older pine tree, or a heritage tree should be assessed by a professional arborist before you consider having it trimmed. Smaller trees will typically cost less. If you have several trees that need trimming, it's generally more cost-efficient to have several trees trimmed at once.
Condition of the tree
Has the tree been pruned recently? If so, trimming will likely cost less than for a tree that hasn't been pruned in a while or that has never been pruned. Prices can also increase if a tree is diseased, damaged or infested with pests.
Timing and travel
If the trimming isn't urgent, expect to pay a standard price. Tree trimmers can help with emergencies but often charge more — either a higher hourly rate or an added surcharge for a quick turnaround. Some companies also charge a travel fee for drive time if a job location is far from their home base.
Location of the tree
If the tree is close to a house, power lines or another structure, it makes the job more difficult. Tree trimmers can't just let the branches fall to the ground, but must manually lower all of the branches. Expect to pay more to accommodate this extra labor and time.
Be aware, too, of any possible conflicts with your neighbors over a large tree. If the tree trunk is on your side of the fence, it likely belongs to you and you can have it trimmed or removed (assuming it's not protected by local heritage tree laws). If the tree trunk is divided by the property lines between two houses, then it could be a boundary tree owned by both property owners, which can typically only be trimmed or removed if everyone agrees to it. If the tree belongs to your neighbor, you are usually allowed to trim the branches up to the property line, but you may not go onto your neighbor's property or destroy the tree. Because property laws and community standards vary, it is recommended that you adhere to local custom and notify your neighbors of any tree trimming that could affect them. Most trees have a replacement value of between $500 to $2,500, on average, depending on the size and type of the tree.
Many towns and cities have a tree preservation ordinance that defines the policies and procedures for maintaining trees within the city, including having trees trimmed on private property. The rules are usually determined by the height and circumference, as well as the type of tree. In some parts of California, for example, a heritage tree is defined as any tree with a trunk circumference of 55 inches or more when measured at a point 4.5 feet above ground level or any tree that is at least 35 feet tall. Other municipalities define a heritage tree as any oak, bay, redwood, buckeye, or cedar tree that has a trunk diameter of 10 inches or more when measured at a point 4 feet above ground level, or any tree with a trunk diameter of 16 inches or more measured at 4 feet above ground level.
Removing or even trimming a heritage tree requires a permit. Removing a heritage tree without approval can incur a fine of between $20,000 and $60,000, on average. If you do receive a permit, you may be required to replace the tree you remove.
Broken or dead limbs
Some tree trimmers charge extra to remove broken or dead tree limbs. Make sure you ask about this when getting an estimate.
Typically, the most expensive tree service is tree removal, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars on average depending on the size of the tree and how it'll be disposed of. Trees most often need to be removed if they've been felled by a storm, if 30 to 50 percent of the main branches or the trunk has split or broken, or they've become too diseased to save. Tree companies will need to "disassemble" the tree, removing its branches and limbs carefully, one by one, and then haul it all away. Like having a tree trimmed, the cost of having a tree removed often depends on the size, health and location of the tree; emergency removal services, such as for a tree that went down in a storm, tend to be more expensive.
Some companies offer stump grinding or removal services for an extra fee. Some companies charge based on the diameter of the tree, ranging from $2 to $3 per inch, and may have a minimum fee of $100. If you have several stumps to remove, you might be charged by the stump, with discounts for multiple stumps; for example, the first stump may cost $150 for removal, then each extra stump may cost about $50.
If a tree is near power lines, the utility company might come out and trim the tree for free. Contact the company to ask. Keep in mind, though, that the utility company's first concern will be their infrastructure, so they won't necessarily have the tree pruned with an eye toward beauty or the health of the tree.
- Have trees trimmed regularly to keep them healthy and to avoid higher costs down the road. Your tree trimmer can usually recommend the best trimming schedule for your type of trees.
- Consider hiring a professional for trimming or pruning all of your trees. Trimming tall trees poses a safety hazard, and trained arborists have the expertise to trim trees for maximum health and future growth.