Can I Remove a Tree from My Backyard? (Read this First!)

Cut tree in backyard

Trees have become our shield against the bright rays of the sun, rain, and a place to stay under to relax. It is easy to become attached to trees on your property. Aside from the aesthetic and shade the trees provide, they have become a shelter for some wildlife that may visit your property, making it hard for you to remove a tree from the backyard.

Some states and countries require you to acquire a permit for tree removal, even if the tree stands on your property. Illegal and unauthorized tree removal can constitute a violation and force you to pay a fine and a replanting fee. It is always safe and worth checking whether you need a permit or not, as fines related to illegally removing a tree can be hefty. Indeed, they can cost you from $2,000 to $50,000, varying from state to state. 

In this article, we will tackle the reasons why people remove trees from their properties. We will also cover whether you need to acquire a permit to remove a tree from your backyard.


Reasons for Removing a Tree from Your Property

Trees are magnificent, beautiful, provide us and the wildlife with shade, and protect us against the harsh sun and rain. It’s hard to picture a backyard without any trees and that familiar view when a tree is being removed. Just like humans, trees get old and decay.

An old and decaying tree can damage your property. Even though tree removal is a hard decision to make, you need to look at the bigger picture and wonder what would happen if you didn’t put down an old, decaying tree. Here are few signs that a tree in your backyard needs to be removed.

  • The Tree Is Dead

The first reason why you should cut down a tree on your property is that it is dead. One way to determine if you have a dead tree is through a scratch test. To perform such a test, beneath the dry outer layer of the tree’s bark in a trunk lies the cambium layer of bark. Scratch it. If it shows a brown and dry bark, the tree is likely dead.

  • The Tree Is Sick and Infested

The common signs of an unhealthy and sick tree are a decaying trunk, dead branches, and dead and dying leaves. These signs can be found in non-deciduous trees as well. A diseased and unhealthy tree can infect the neighboring trees and plants in your backyard.

Termites and other bugs are trees’ common nemeses. They can damage the structure of a tree, causing the trunks and branches to fall off with just a brisk breeze. These bugs can also evade your property, causing more serious and beyond-repair damages.

  • The Tree Is Leaning, Close, and Damaged

Leaning trees are more harmful than trees that grow vertically. A leaning tree indicates breakage and weak roots which, if not removed, can cause accidents and hazards. It is best to remove a leaning tree to avoid any hazards it may cause you and your family.

If a tree’s roots are barging in your neighbor’s property, foundations, solid structures, or pavements, you must remove it as well. If the tree is growing close to the power lines and other structures, removing or pruning it could be an option.

Trees are prone to natural disasters that could break and damage them. Sometimes, they can’t be repaired and cause high risks of hazards, like falling branches. The only option in such cases is to knock off the tree.

  • The Tree Drops Excessive Debris and Blocks the View

If the tree is in the wrong position on your property, blocks the view, or creates too much shade, hindering the growth of your lawn and garden, you might need to knock it down. The same goes if it drops excessive leaves, branches, sap, fruits, and seeds, leaving an eyesore mess. This debris can sometimes damage your lawn or garden and invite hazards, like fires.

If you notice these signs on your property, you should remove the tree as soon as possible. The longer you neglect the issue, the more problematic it will become.

However, tree removal should be done with professional help. Tree care professionals are equipped and experienced individuals who understand the different tree species in different situations. They are also trained to remove trees safely and efficiently.

They can help you execute the tree removal to avoid risky encounters. They have the equipment to remove the branches and wood that often leave a mess on a property.

You may also like our article: What You Need to Know Before Planting Oak Trees.


Do I Need a Permit to Remove a Tree?

Removing a dead and damaged tree is a tedious task, and it’s recommended to call a tree removal professional to execute the job. However, it isn’t that easy. You have to check the rules and regulations with your local office when planning on removing a tree as some states require permits for preservation reasons or to abide by the city’s ordinances.

With few exceptions, most states and countries require you to obtain a permit for tree removal, even on your property. Illegal and unauthorized tree removal can represent a violation and cause you to pay for the charges and replanting fee. It is important to obtain a permit and pay the fee to know if you’ll be allowed to remove a tree on your property.

Tree removal rules and regulations vary from state to state, so it is best to consult your local office to check whether obtaining a permit is necessary. In some states, a certain tree classification can be removed without a permit. However, dead trees can be removed without any permit.

Some states, cities, and countries send someone to inspect the tree you wish to remove and ask you about its replacement. However, you will be responsible for the deed. If you are hiring someone to assist you, make sure they’re insured and licensed. Usually, when you remove a tree, you are obliged to replace the tree with one or more trees of the same size and species.

Here are some of the tree removal criteria that you might need to know:

  • The Circumference of the Trunk

The standard measure for a trunk’s circumference is usually taken from 13m’ above ground level. If the tree’s trunk is below 6 inches or less, you don’t need a permit to remove it.

  • The Species of Tree

Certain tree species are endangered and kept for preservation reasons that might require you to obtain a permit before removing one. In some cases, you also need to obtain a permit when knocking off a native tree. Here’s a list of the protected trees in the United States that require a permit for their removal, even if they are on your property:

    • American elm  ​​​
    • ​Bald cypress
    • ​Black gum/black tupelo​
    • ​Black mangrove
    • ​Black olive
    • ​Bluejack oak
    • ​​Buckthorn/Tough bumelia
    • ​Buttonwood
    • ​Cabbage palm
    • ​Cat claw          ​
    • Chapman oak
    • ​Cherry laurel   ​
    • ​Coastal-plan willow
    • ​Coconut palm  ​cocos
    • ​Dahoon holly
    • ​Florida privet   ​
    • ​Geiger tree      ​
    • ​Gumbo limbo   ​
    • ​Hackberry       ​
    • ​Hercules club  ​
    • ​Ironwood         ​
    • ​Jamaica caper
    • ​Jamaica dogwood
    • ​Joewood
    • ​Laurel oak       ​​
    • ​Live oak
    • ​​Loblolly bay
    • ​Long-leaf pine
    • ​Mastic  ​mastichodendron
    • ​Myrtle oak
    • ​Paradise tree  ​
    • ​Persimmon
    • ​Pigeon plum
    • ​Pignut hickory ​
    • ​Pond apple      ​
    • ​Pond cypress
    • ​Pop ash
    • ​​Red bay          ​
    • ​Red mangrove
    • ​Red maple
    • ​Red mulberry  ​
    • ​Red stopper
    • ​Royal palm      ​​
    • ​Sabal palm
    • ​Sand live oak
    • ​Satinleaf
    • ​Sea grape
    • ​Short-leaf fig   ​
    • Silver palm
    • ​Simpson stopper
    • ​Slash pine
    • ​Spanish stopper
    • ​South Florida slash pine
    • ​Southern magnolia
    • ​Southern red cedar
    • ​Southern sumac
    • ​Strangler fig
    • ​Swamp bay     ​
    • ​Swamp dogwood
    • ​Sweet Acacia  ​
    • ​Sweet gum
    • ​Sweetbay
    • ​Sycamore
    • ​Tallow wood
    • ​Turkey oak      ​
    • ​Water hickory​
    • ​Water oak
    • ​West Indian mahogany
    • ​White stopper
    • ​White mangrove
    • ​Wild tamarind
  • The Height of a Tree

If the tree on your property is less than 10 feet tall, you don’t need a permit for its removal. The height of a tree is taken into consideration when applying for a removal permit.

Some states have regulated what trees can be removed or pruned. There also are other guidelines about the ideal number of trees that should be planted on a lot of a certain size.

Each state and country has different native trees, climates, and ecosystems. The rules and regulations implemented surrounding tree removal laws vary from location to location. It is always safe and worth checking whether you need a permit or not, as fines related to illegally removing a tree can be hefty. It can cost you $2,000 to $50,000, varying from state to state.

You might like our article: Having Sequoias in Your Backyard.



Removing a tree is a tedious task and isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. When deciding to remove a tree on your property, make sure to check whether you need a permit, and hire some professional help. It is best to leave this kind of work to professionals to avoid any accidents and hazards.

Before cutting any trees on your property, make sure you have the right reason to knock it down. Impulsiveness can lead to sanctions or cost you a lot of money. Even if the tree is on your property, you don’t hold any right to it because of its benefits to the community.

Recent Posts