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Frequently Asked Questions about Trees

Here you'll find answers from our certified arborist to frequently asked tree-related questions. Certified arborists have expertise regarding tree species, tree biology and other factors that enables them to accurately assess tree-related situations in order to recommend appropriate courses of action.


Q: A tree threatens my house in a high wind. Can you cut some off the top to make it safer?

A: Tree topping is a common practice, but is very injurious to trees. This harmful practice will make a healthy tree more hazardous over time. Topping cuts away the "food factory", or leaf-bearing crown, of the tree. This triggers the tree’s natural survival mechanism, forcing rapid growth of multiple shoots below each cut to grow a new crop of leaves as soon as possible. If the tree does not have stored energy reserves to survive this threat, it will be seriously weakened and may die.  Concerns about tree safety are best addressed by a certified arborist.

Q: What do they mean by "sunburn" for a tree?

A: Topping can do to a tree what we all dread at the beach. The thousands of leaves in a tree's crown are there to absorb sunlight. Cutting out the leaves as the top is removed suddenly exposes the remaining branches and trunk to the harsh levels of light and heat produced by direct sun. This can sunburn the delicate tissues beneath the bark, leading to bark splitting, cankers and death of some affected branches.

Q: Does tree topping create other hazards?

A: Yes, tree topping does create other hazards. Few trees are able to combat the multiple severe wounds caused by topping. Decay organisms have a free and clear path to move into the tree down the branches. Stubs left from topping usually decay and the shoots produced below the cuts are weakly attached to the tree. As they grow quickly very large, they are likely to break, particularly in windy weather. Thus, the attempt to reduce the tree’s height to make it safer has the opposite result, making it more hazardous than before.

Q: Is tree topping the least expensive way to reduce a tree?

A: No. The true cost of tree topping is not just the initial fee paid to the perpetrator. Within a few years, if it survives, the injured tree will need to be trimmed again, or its new branches may fall victim to storm damage and the resulting cleanup. If the tree dies, it will have to be removed. Because tree topping is an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure in a topped tree may lead to a finding of owner negligence in a court of law. Tree topping is a high maintenance pruning practice to be avoided.

Q: What other costs are associated with topping trees?
Another cost of tree topping that is frequently ignored is the effect on property value. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10% to 20% to the value of a property. Trees disfigured by topping are considered a pending expense, which can reduce the value of the property.

If you have a tree-related question regarding trees in south King County or Pierce County contact us today to talk with a certified arborist. You'll get accurate information from a specialist in tree care for our beautiful Puget Sound trees and shrubs.

Healthy, well-maintained trees
can add 10% to 20% to the value of a property.
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  Thundering Oak Enterprises, Inc.
Local: : 253-288-TREE (8733)

Local: 425-226-TREE (8733)

P.O. Box 1847, Auburn, WA 98071

Serving Pierce County and South King County
Algona, Auburn, Black Diamond, Bonnie Lake, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Dupont, Edgewood,
Federal Way, Fife, Fircrest, Gig Harbor, Kent, Lakeland North, Lakeland South, Lakewood, Maple
Valley, Normandy Park, Pacific, Parkland, Puyallup, Renton, Ruston, Spanaway, Sumner, Tillicum,
Tacoma University Place and all areas in South King County and North Pierce County.

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