Maple Tree Removal


Maple trees range in size and shape from small, ornamental Japanese maples to 60-foot-tall red maples. With a wide range of maple tree varieties, it's no wonder that maples are used for a large number of purposes, from dressing up a front yard to producing sap for maple syrup. A maple tree may decline in health due to compaction of soil around the roots, injury in the bark, fungal infection or invasion by pests. When a maple tree has become damaged to the point it won’t recover, removing the tree is the only option.

Step 1

Measure the maple trunk’s diameter in order to determine which tools to use for removing the tree. A tree trunk with a diameter of 6 inches or less, such as a Japanese maple, may be removed with a hand saw. Tree trunks larger than 6 inches will require an axe or chainsaw.

Step 2

Examine the tree’s shape to determine which way it will fall. Most maples have an upright shape with a central leader. A few, such as Japanese maple, may be shaped asymmetrically. These trees will fall on the side that the most weight. You can cut down a tree, however, in such a way that you can control the direction that it will fall.

Step 3

Look over the drop zone where the tree will fall. Remove any objects that could be damaged by the falling tree, such as lawn ornaments, children’s toys, or parked cars. Examine the area beneath the tree for obstacles that could trip you as you work, such as tree roots or large rocks. Remove these obstacles. Plan an escape route that you can retreat along once the tree begins to fall to get you out of the way of flying debris. Clear any obstacles that could trip you as you retreat.

Step 4

Make a wedge-shaped cut, called an undercut, near the base of the maple tree’s trunk with your axe or chainsaw. The wedge-shaped cut should be between 45 and 90 degrees and should open in the direction that you want the tree to fall. The undercut should extend into the trunk no more than 1/3.

Step 5

Make a narrow cut, known as a back cut, in the tree on the side opposite to the undercut. The back cut should be located slightly higher on the maple tree trunk than the point of the undercut. The tree will begin to tilt and fall in the direction of the undercut. Move away from the tree at this point and do not return until the maple has fallen and all debris has settled.

Step 6

Observe the terrain that the tree has fallen on. A tree will be easier to remove if it is on flat terrain. Trees on hillsides are dangerous to remove because they can shift and roll. Never stand downhill from a tree that is on uneven terrain. Always stand on soil and not branches when you remove a tree’s vegetation so that a shifting tree cannot pull your footing out from beneath you. Never stand beneath a fallen tree. Never cut a branch or log located higher than your shoulder height.

Step 7

Remove limbs from the tree’s trunk by cutting them flush with the trunk. Always stand across the trunk from the limb to make the cut. Then section up the trunk. Cut a maple trunk on level ground by slicing straight through from top to bottom. Remove an elevated trunk in two sections by cutting 1/3 of the way through the trunk from the bottom side, then slicing through the remaining wood from the top side of the trunk to meet the first cut. This will help prevent binding the blade.

Step 8

Dig a trench around your maple stump with a mattock to remove it. The trench should be 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Cut through any roots you encounter with your mattock. Maple trees have shallow, flat roots that radiate out from the stump within the top 2 feet of soil. Once you have cut through the roots surrounding the trunk, you should be able to lift the trunk from the soil and carry it away. Fill in the hole left by the stump with dirt.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure Hand saw Axe Chainsaw Mattock


  • Ohio State University Extension: Ohio Trees
  • Lousiana State University Extension: Stump Removal From Home Grounds
  • University of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees
  • NC State University: Red Maple
  • Iowa State University Extension: Tree Roots

Who Can Help

  • Oregon State Universtiy Extension: Safe and Effective Use of Chain Saws for Woodland Owners
Keywords: cutting down maples, removing maple stumps, felling trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."