DIY Tree Work? Draw the Line at Ladders and Saws

January 13, 2021 · 2 minute read
DIY Tree Work? Draw the Line at Ladders and Saws

I have a confession. I am a “do it yourself-er” to a fault. The other day, our upstairs bathtub started to leak and we had water running through a light fixture in our kitchen. My wife said hopefully “maybe we should call a plumber this time.” 

“No, I think I can handle this,” I said. 

Her shoulders slumped a little as she decided to let me give it a try. I’ve solved some problems in the house and yard, and I’ve had some pretty remarkable DIY failures. Through those failures, I like to think that I’ve gained the wisdom to know when to tackle a project and when to call in the pros. I’ve learned the hard way where to draw the line with electricity, plumbing, carpentry, and yard work. Experience has harshly taught me not to cross that line.

As an arborist, there is a hard do-it-yourself line I see people cross. If you’re standing on a ladder using a saw in a tree (handsaw, chainsaw, sawzall, any saw) you have crossed that line. I don’t usually judge what somebody else can tackle.  That said, if you are climbing a ladder with a saw you have crossed the line and are risking a catastrophic DIY failure.

To the Do-It-Yourself-er on a ladder: The limb you are about to cut is heavier and longer than you think it is. The limb is going to fall to the ground differently than you imagine it. The chance of that limb hitting the ladder that you are standing on is great. The tree will also shift when you release the weight of the limb you are cutting. Things are not going to happen the way you think they are.   

The internet is full of horrific videos of tree cutting failures involving ladders. I can not bring myself to watch these videos. Watching people fall with sharp objects gives me chills. Don’t be like the people in these videos.

If you are removing that limb because you think it a risk for failure, you should know that the risk that you are taking on that ladder far exceeds the risk of leaving that branch alone. As a DIYer, I know the defeat that comes with paying a professional when you think that you can tackle something yourself. I understand. As a small consolation for this, I would like to remind you that most tree companies will give free estimates. It will cost you nothing to find out how much money a project will cost. You may even find out that the limb that you have been thinking about removing is not the risk you think it is.