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Question DetailsAsked on 7/31/2015

Tree Limbs Cut Irresponsibly?

We have a huge Spruce in our side yard.
Unfortunately, the previous owners cut the limbs at the base and middle, so it is a giant pole with branches only toward the top.
My neighbor recently complained that one branch was hitting her roof, she wanted to have the branch trimmed back.
Of course we gave our blessing.
Instead of only trimming one branch, she cut off all of the limbs facing her house.
Now, only our side of the Spruce has limbs.
The poor tree looks sliced in half.
Aesthetics aside, I am worried that the structure may now be dangerous.
And the huge tree, in time, may start to bow over our house.
Or the wind might now push it over on our house, or twist the tree around and damage it.
Usually, we get strong winds from the North.
The remaining tree branches face the East (over our house).
It looks ok now, but we haven't had horrific winds yet.
Am I being overly anxious?

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2 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Here is a prior similar question or two with answers on neighbor tree issues which should pretty much answer your question - of course, talking to the neighbor in advance and giving them an opportunity to help or do it yourself would be the neighborly way to handle it -

In your specific case, would have been nice to have communicsted with you and let you get the other linbs trimmed your way (subject to her approval regarding overhanging the line), but was probably within her legal rights.

Regarding the safety of the tree, since you said HUGE spruce - I would say it is definitely at risk of dying off if deprived of half its branches, and may start leaning because of the unbalanced weight. Whether it is a hazard or not - in my experience with conifers from knee-high on up to 80 feet or so, unless they are turning brown or you cut or kill the roots on one side, serious trimming of branches will not cause them to be more likely to fall over than they originally were, as long there is enough green to keep the tree healthy - which may or may not be the case now since you said all the lower branches had already been taken off earlier, ,so now it is half a Charlie Brown tree. For an expert opinion for probably about $50-80, contact a Tree Removal service or Greenhouse/Plant Center with a certified Arborist who does site visits and have him give an opinion. Be sure to ask him/her how much growth it is likely to need to survive, in case some but not all the remaining branches start turning brown.

I suspect the advice will be that taking it down now makes the issue go away, but if you still like the tree with its top-only flagged look, then water and fertilize and take a wait and see approach to see if it starts browning up and having a lot of branches dying off. Of course, if you have a specific time of year for the strong winds, then don't water heavily in that short timeframe, as the roots pull out of wet soil a lot easier than dry.

And it is highly stressed now, so deep water it well for a month or more if not wet season for you - or till freezeup, as applicable. Ask arborist or plant center about advisabilitiy of putting some general fertilizer like a 16-16-16 over its root zone to help it out - that might be something you need to do from here on if its branches are largely missing.

Or figure it is history and have it cut down preemptively, especially if you can cut the trunk and branches yourself for firewood so all you need is the felling, not bucking and chipping and cleanup - can cost from a couple hundred $ for felling only on up to $1000 range for complete removal off-site and raked cleanup for a very large tree.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


LCD - thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response, packed with information. I will read it again, and check out your links.

The neighbor did suggest that we pay for the tree branch cutting in her yard, but since we pay to cut back her vines that meander into our yard, we felt that tree trimming on her side was her responsibility.

Answered 5 years ago by 1960


Yes - in most legal jurisdictions, each homeowner is responsible for cutting vegetation overhanging their yard, though some jurisdictions (typically large cities and planned communities/condo properties) do regulate otherwise. Likewise for HOW they do it - generally, they can do it as they please, with the proviso in some jurisdictions they have to give advance notice so the owner can get it done if they want, and there are legal prenotification requirements if the cutting is likely to result in physical damage to the tree owner's property - like if a neighbor is going to cut through all the roots extending into their yard from a tree near the proiperty line, which could make the tree likely to fall into the owner's house or such.

Exception - in utility easements, the street/power companies have the right to cut branches and trees that interfere with their lines or access, and in some cases with trees that are apparent "danger trees" like leaners that could fall on their lines or streets even if outside the easement, though in that case they are supposed to give a specific time period advance notice and request you abate the danger before they go ahead and do it.

More on the issue here -

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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