How to Save Money Trimming Your Tall Trees

Do you have mature trees that need pruning or branches that are hanging over something they shouldn't be? Do you want to avoid the $ of a professional tree trimmer and do it yourself with a rental man-lift? We trimmed tall trees on our property this week. It went smoothly and we saved $700-800 in labor costs.

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from City of Orono, MN website

This work is not for the faint-hearted, anyone who has a fear of heights, or who is inexperienced operating a chain saw. The tree trimmer should also have good stamina and upper body strength. This is hard work!

STAY AWAY FROM POWER LINES. High voltage power lines can arc many feet from the actual line. When using an aerial truck, you can easily hit or come into close contact with a power line. Not good!

FOLLOW OSHA SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS. See my notes below concerning safety gear.

LOOK OUT BELOW! Make sure your spotter, friends, family and pets do not get under your equipment or where the branches will fall.

ALWAYS KNOW WHERE YOUR BRANCH WILL FALL. Make sure you know where the debris is going to fall. You have not saved anything if you drop a big branch into your house roof or have it spear the roof of your new hybrid vehicle.

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SELECT YOUR EQUIPMENT and GET ANY APPROVALS YOU NEED

Equipment:

  • Determine the maximum height you need to reach. See if there are obstacles you need to reach over or around when in the lift. - Decide if you need a straight boom lift or one with an articulating boom. If you're not sure, talk to a knowledgeable employee at the rental center. - Use Google or the Yellow Pages to find rental companies in your area. - Get prices for half day and full-day rentals, depending on how many trees you need to trim. We averaged an hour of trimming per tree at 42 feet in the air. We trimmed 3 large mature trees in just under 3 hours and THEN picked up and moved the massive piles of debris for 3 hours. We didn't have to use a chipper, but if you do, add that cost into the equation.
  • Follow OSHA standards for using aerial work platforms. Make sure the rental includes a personal fall prevention harness to protect whoever will be in the bucket from a fall.

Approvals:

If you have a homeowner's association that might restrict this activity, be sure to contact them first. If you live in a jurisdiction that requires a permit to do this work, be sure that you have one.

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GET A HELPER and MAKE SURE YOUR TOOLS ARE in ORDER

Get at least one 'spotter' (friend or family member) to work with you, but on the ground. Their job is to help you set up the equipment, learn how to operate the machine from the ground control panel (in case something happens to you while raised in the bucket), verbally guide you from the ground as to which branches need to be removed, move falling debris off the equipment and keep it untangled from power cords running from the ground to the bucket.

Have your saws/equipment well maintained, blades sharp, gas in the chain saw, etc. Have your extension cords ready if using a power pole saw.

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PREPARE TO TRIM TREES

When you arrive home with the rental, unhook the trailer, set it up as instructed by the rental company. Familiarize yourself with the operation of the equipment BEFORE you begin work. Take your time and learn to maneuver up and into areas of trees, and how to get back down. Get your safety gear on; hardhat, eye protection, hearing protection, and safety harness linked to the bucket.

Locate the equipment where the extended arm will be able reach the area you want to trim. Closely examine/decide how you intend to raise the articulating arm--double check for power lines and make sure none are anywhere near the vicinity you are working in. Using the controls in the basket, and with extension cords long enough to reach the ground if you have an electric saw, raise yourself to the first branch to be cut.

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TRIM ... SLOWLY and WITH CARE

Use extreme caution. Until you get experience, only cut branches that are 2-3 " thick. Cut long branches in 2-3 foot pieces, do not attempt to make one cut to a 20' long branch, for example. Only cut branches on your level, don't reach over your head while sawing or cutting. Have loppers in the basket and a hand-saw.

Make sure your spotter knows how to operate the control panel from the ground in case something happens to you in the basket. Remember to make your cuts in sections along the branches. Make your final branch cuts parallel to the trunk, don't leave unsightly stubs.