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Tree Removal, DIY Style

by Jackie Beck

Tree removal can be expensive. According to, typical tree removal costs can range from “$250 to as much as $15,000 a tree. A typical job at house is going to cost anywhere from $600 to $3,500.”

We’ve gotten quotes for tree removal in the past (we used to have about a dozen Italian Cypress trees in our backyard) and I do remember it being pricey. So when our poor pine tree suddenly keeled over…

we didn’t even bother getting a quote.

Instead, we marched on down to the Home Depot to check out prices on both renting and buying a chain saw. At about $50 to buy and $44 to rent for 4 hours, we were soon the proud owners of a small chainsaw, which my husband then put to use.

Our tree removal, step by step

After that, it was a matter of:

  1. Making sure we understood how the chain saw worked (plus a second trip back to buy some bar and chain oil for it, since it didn’t come with any)
  2. Making sure there was space in the yard for the tree to come down safely
  3. Cutting off the lower branches so they wouldn’t damage our cactus or house as the tree fell
  4. Using the chain saw to cut a wedge out of the trunk on the side where we wanted the tree to fall:
  5. Cutting most of the way straight-through on the opposite side of the tree trunk to meet the wedge
  6. Pushing on the trunk to get it to fall where we wanted it (and yelling “Timber!” because I’m a dork like that)
  7. Removing the rest of the branches and then cutting them and the trunk into 4 ft or smaller lengths for bulk pickup
  8. Making a little temporary fire pit around the stump, surrounding the stump with charcoal inside the pit, and burning it out:
  9. Covering up the spot where Mr. Tree used to be:

Worth it

It did take us a few hours to get all that done (plus a day of having the stump smolder down to nothing while the neighbors stopped by to ask where the marshmallows and s’mores were) but it was kind of fun too. Of course, I’m sad that the tree died, but at least we saved money on its removal and got a chainsaw out of the deal. (Which I’m sure we’ll use again.)

Have you ever done a DIY tree removal? Was your process the same? Obviously we are not experts at this, so if you’re a potential tree-remover and reading this: beware and get professional advice — but that’s how our experience went.

Posted in How to Save Money on 10.31.11 with 12 comments.

12 Responses to “Tree Removal, DIY Style”

  • When we added a dining room to our house, there was a 50′ tree in the way, so we dropped that in the backyard. It was a bit nerve racking, because it leaned over our house, and we have a backyard that’s approximately 50′ deep.

  • Money Beagle says:

    We’ve got a few trees in the backyard that we want to have come out. One in particular died and is too close to the deck and house for me to feel comfortable doing it myself. We’ll definitely have to call in a pro. I love the idea about burning out the stump. That is not something I had thought of, but sounds like it could be useful. I’m thinking that a stump from a ‘live’ tree might not burn, though, and some of the trees we want to get rid of are still live.

    • Jackie says:

      Yeah, you would probably have to wait until it died and dried out before burning it out would work. It does do the trick though, so long as you don’t want to plant anything in the same spot again in the near future.

  • MC- Very timely for me. I just lost half of a big Holly tree during the snowstorm in the Northeast this weekend (I know….snow in October?). Anyway, I’ve been cutting apart branches like a champ today and I’m strongly considering tearing what’s left of the tree out of the ground. I never heard of a stump firepit though….very interesting.

  • Niki says:

    Great idea about burning out the stump. We had these huge bushes in front of our house that were basically trees and the worst part was the stump and root system. It was too close to our house to burn so we had to dig them out. Not fun!

  • Bas says:

    Tomorrow I’ll be cutting up a 40 ft branch that collapsed under the snow. I just bought a fire pit 10 days ago…

  • Jackie says:

    Wow that’s huge branch. Guess you’ll have plenty of firewood for the new firepit!

  • Julie says:

    We cut down a 35-foot tree in our front yard that was dying. We researched where to make the wedge cut, estimated exactly where we wanted it to fall to avoid a large cactus, and went to work. It came down where we wanted, and we saved hundreds. You have to be extremely careful, because a falling tree or limb vcan kill you. Like all home-improvement and repair projects, you have to educate yourself and

    • Jackie says:

      Yes, that’s very true. When things go well it’s great, but they could go very wrong. We did the same as you, and also wore safety glasses (for the chainsaw), made sure there was as little in the way as possible, and monitored carefully as it fell.

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