Tree Removal

By Don Williams, "The Tree Wizard"

Most jobs are not accessible to a bucket lift truck so on those we use what is called “Rope and saddle” to safely climb the tree needing removal. This is standard procedure on 90% of jobs. I instruct on how each limb is to be removed and what order to remove it. Basically it is a lot of smaller limbs roped down one at a time for safety. Doing this the safe way takes time. Never look at the tree as a large difficult tree, just look at one limb at a time that you are removing and eventually it is down. Every tree you remove has an order to progress with. With the 52 years experience I have, this becomes the process even though it can be difficult and dangerous.

Some trees are alive some are dead and over everything listed below. The dead trees are not predictable as to how a dead limb will be roped down. You do not want to shake a big dead tree when removing dead limbs as the tree or limbs could come tumbling down. All limbs have an order in determining which limbs are removed first (similar to the old childrens game called picking up sticks) but with deadly consequences.

Sometimes when arriving at a job I proclaim “what have I got myself into as this is a huge tree over three houses, house windows to protect, electric wires and plants under the entire area.” One front porch had a 1/3 inch thick glass top patio. (We covered patio top with car tires then with plywood to give some margin of safety). I then settle down and remember it is only one limb at a time and I just need to know in what order limbs are removed. When the tree is dead it is predictable that everything could go wrong. This is when paying close attention is necessary. Hopefully I can get a bucket truck close enough to help on dead rotted trees. When removing trees we cover windows and important things with sheets of plywood. We keep these in our trucks as they are needed weekly. Not that we intend to drop things near your windows, but small broom stick size limbs can bounce into windows or screens. It has been several decades since I messed up a window screen or roof shingle. There have been several times where we covered half the roof with plywood when we remove rotted deadwood that would break off when you touch it. A bucket truck is good in this situation, if you can get the truck close.

It can happen so we try to protect what is obvious. My being on job sites daily, advising, assisting creates a comfortable work atmosphere and allows me to protect and observe the process. I don’t understand how most tree companies just send a crew without supervision for these jobs. Many don’t speak English and are paid cash. This is a good sign there is no workers comp and you should demand a certificate. About twenty years ago at the Stage Coach Inn in Salado I did all their tree work before ownership changed. I gave a price to remove the dead wood from the giant live oak just between pool and back office door. When I returned to do the job they had planted over $1500.00 of small plants completely under the tree. We made sawhorses and covered the entire area with plywood and completed the job without damaging any plants. All things are possible it just takes some extra effort. If you can perceive it then you can achieve it. At that time I donated and planted a live oak tree for them to the left of pool before entering the coffee shop area. Last time I looked it was about two feet in diameter.


Some trees are easier/some impossible to get close enough with a bucket lift truck. We get as close to the house as practical to remove the most difficult trees. It’s still removing one limb at a time in the order which is safest. Our heavy lift bucket truck will remove large limbs at a time, which makes a job faster and much safer. On grass when allowed, we drive over sheets of plywood to get closer to the tree. It is okay to use these trucks on driveways. It may be weeks/months between bucket truck jobs so we seldom have to use them in your yard or driveway. This is more of an emergency method as I do not drive on nice yards on any jobs.

One of our most impressive tree removals was at the Georgetown Country Club Golf course. A very large tree on the edge of the river on the golf course fell over into the river with the top end reaching to other side. The root ball at water edge just washed out and tree fell over. Pictures are in the photo area of our website. We drove a bucket truck across the golf fairway on sheets of plywood and did not damage the golf course. The three feet diameter trunk was under water so we used a $2500.00 Stihl chain saw with a four foot bar to cut through the underwater trunk. The chain saw cuts just as easy under water as above as the river water lubed the chain and bar with no issues.

Have any questions about this tree topic? Give Big Country Trees a call at (512)983-4148.