So, There’s A Big Tree That’s Way Too Close To The House

In the words of Cher… “If I could tuuuuuuuuurn back tiiiiiiiime. If I could fiiiiiiiiiind a waaaaaaaay. I’d plant this pretty oak tree not on top of the house.”

No doubt it started out a lot smaller, but it grew, and with it grew the danger of it messing with our house. So when the home inspector crawled out from having assessed the roots and their proximity to the foundation, we were sad (but not surprised) to hear him say “this tree has got to go.”

Even if we could somehow do a root-growth-suppression-rain-dance to get them to avoid the house’s foundation, we couldn’t deny that about 50% of the tree’s canopy was precariously suspended right over our house. So even if just one branch came down in a storm, it would most likely damage our new roof.

And it would be a lot worse than that if the whole thing came down. We’ve seen some pretty bad storms over the last couple of years here…

We even saw a tree come down on the house right behind ours in Hurricane Irene back in 2011.

So once we knew we needed to remove the deck tree, we seized the opportunity to take a closer look at other trees on the property that we feared were dangerous/dying with the help of an arborist friend and some notes left by the inspector, which ended up identifying a few other troublesome trees, including three in the front and another one in the back near the deck. Those in particular were too close to the house (and too big) for comfort or had holes/rot in the base or were partially hollow (YIKES!) which meant they could come crashing down a lot more easily than healthy, solid trees could.

We had actually used this crew way back in 2007 at our first house, where we had a crazy giant split tree that was dead in the middle. They’re called Shady Tree Service, and William is the head dude. He’s a really nice guy and I feel like we’ve watched each other grow up or something. He wasn’t married back then, and now he’s married with two kids. Of course John and I have since tied and knot and had Clara (and Burger) so it was fun to catch up with him.

It’s a pretty hardcore job if you ask me. Dude, there’s a man up there – even higher than the house. You know, just swinging a chainsaw around.

Here’s William in the bucket, taming the lower portion of the deck tree. There’s actually a whole lot of math going on in tree work (angles, momentum, trajectory, etc) – you know, just to make sure nothing swings INTO YOUR HOUSE, so it’s pretty amazing to watch.

This was the view out of the guest room window. No zoom here, this is just how close the tree was (and how careful William had to be).

It was also crazy to see how hollow some of the trees were. This picture doesn’t do this any justice (one Clara and approximately four Burgers could have fit into the hole).

Here’s an “after” of the back, now that those two trees are gone. Still leafy, but less tree-on-house action.

And here’s a front view when we bought the house…

… and the front view now that those three are gone. It’s a more dramatic difference than I think we were expecting (we were so hoping we could keep at least one of them) but we’re glad they’re taken care of and we don’t have to stress every time we hear that a storm is coming. It has also let more light into the house, should help us grow more grass to fill in our patchy hair-plug-ish yard, and is going to help keep our new roof dryer (which lengthens its life) along with discouraging any more rot in our siding and trim (we already have some of that to deal with).

So a few thousand bucks later (ouch), those five trees are gone and we have some nice peace of mind. Tree removal costs definitely vary by the size of the tree, how hard it is to get to (will they need a crane, etc), and where you live. But a general range for getting a medium sized oak tree down that’s near a house in our area might be between $1K-$2K. If you add others, each additional tree tends to be a lot less since a lot of the cost is just getting the crew and machinery out to your house. So you could get a $1K quote for one tree, but negotiate a $3K total to get five of them taken care of (especially if a few of them are smaller/easier to wrangle).

Oh and I have a few tree negotiating tips:

    1. get a bunch of estimates if you don’t already have a favorite tree guy (we didn’t get others this time because William’s the best and every friend we recommend him to confirms that his prices are always better than the rest)
    2. make sure they’re licensed and insured (seriously, I wouldn’t mess around with this because it’s such a dangerous job)
    3. if you’ve used the company before, you can score a better price by reminding them you’re a repeat customer
    4. save competitor coupons (in our area some tree folks put out coupons and most of them will honor someone else’s to get the job themselves)
    5. in general whenever I negotiate (John hates that part, so it’s all me) I like to smile after they toss out an initial number and say “is that your best price?” (then I just shut my mouth and listen, which usually results in some amount of money off, free stump grinding, or some other perk)

As far as projects go, this might have been Clara’s favorite to watch. She loved gazing at the wood chipper, seeing the guys up in the trees, and standing on the stumps. This one’s the big deck tree, which she loved most of all. We thought about leaving some of the stump on the deck to create a table base, but the location would put the table a bit too close to the house for it to be functional.

So instead, we decided to “keep” the tree in the form of a few fun little stepping stones that I asked the guys to cut before hauling the rest off to be chipped/recycled as mulch.

Those might look like you could lift them up and place them in that clean little line, but they each weighed a ton and could only be moved with the tractor that the guys had for hauling stuff, so it was fun to watch them shove them all into place with heavy machinery.

And how about this for an epilogue? Remember when John mentioned that we have some deer friends at the new house? Well, apparently they like us, because they love to sneak up on us. Take this shot for example. I was taking after photos of the trees gone and John saw this one hanging out right behind me. I didn’t even notice.

And then I did, and I took this picture. Sherry Petersik, wildlife photographer.

Then Burger barked and off it ran. So evidently we live in Fairy Tale Forest. Thank goodness we still have a bunch of leafy trees around to maintain the title…

Anyone else getting trees limbed up, trimmed, or removed? Couldn’t you watch a 24/7 show of people doing it? If HGTV’s wondering what programming to add, I’d totally watch an hour of guys taking giant trees down. Their lever-systems and crazy swinging contraptions are no joke.


  1. Eliza says

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that you left the tree stumps for Clara–that is awesome!!! And those photos of the deer freaked me out. Here in Raleigh they are not at all afraid of people, so when I am out walking and come upon one it doesn’t budge, just stares at me. Just like cats do. This is why I am not a cat person!

    • says

      We did something similar when we moved into our house about 6 years ago. I finally removed them this Spring because they had decomposed too much, but I have tons of pictures and loads of memories of my kids playing on those stumps. Watch them close for rot since it’s not always obvious at first (they decompose from the inside out)

      Ours were different heights and sort of in a circle, so it was almost like a little stepping stump maze.

    • says

      Thanks Kelly! I was thinking about using some sort of sealer on them, but it would mean flipping them over to get all sides (they’re CRAZY heavy, so I don’t know if I can…)


    • KathyG says

      Some gravel under them, and then sealer on top will help. I think the sealer on the bottom will break down quickly with the constant ground contact. It’s the only way they’ll last more than a few years. You guys have never rented one of those little yard backhoes from HD have you? Sounds like it’s time — they are so much fun I asked for one for my birthday!

  2. says

    That has to be a relief! I would worry about that every time a storm came through. We were looking at a great house a few weeks ago and there was a huge tree WAY too close to the house and your estimate confirms about what we thought it would take to get it removed. I LOVE the deer come up there! I know some people don’t agree but I would leave corn or something on one of the stumps for them. (Especially if I was going to plant a garden to hopefully keep them out of it.) :)

    • Pam the Goatherd says

      Leaving food out for them won’t keep them out of the garden, it will just draw in even more deer. The best way to keep deer from eating your plants is to fence in the places you don’t want the deer to go. Letting Burger have run of those areas will also deter the deer from hanging out there.

  3. says

    Way to take care of your home! I know it’s pricey, but you know, it’s worth it!

    One of our homes had a backyard with many trees that needed to be removed. I used to spend my after school days working on digging out tree stumps. (Digging out stumps is a great break from homework by the way!)

    Oh, and the deer remind me of that home. The mother deer would give birth on our compost pile which was fenced in. Warmth, food supply, and a soft place meant we had constant entertainment with fawns and moms. The random 2-5 point buck would also make an appearance.

  4. Megan F. says

    Oh no! How heartbreaking! I thought the tree in the porch was super cute. Too bad it had to go. It would have made excellent patio tables a la Katie Bower, though. Please tell me you kept some smaller stumps to surprise us with! ;)

    • says

      Those five stepping stones are what we kept since we made a DIY stump table at our first house (in the sunroom) and it got a little buggy/gross underneath.


    • says

      Tree stump table! I never knew you did one of those! Did you blog about it back in the day? I’d love to see, even if you did have to chuck it later.

      And the front yard is so much more inviting now! Do you know what the smaller trees are that are still there?

    • says

      It was waaaay back in the day and we definitely had some bug/rot issues on the bottom and eventually just rolled it off into the woods while bidding it a fond farewell. Haha! I’ll have to see if it’s in any pics from way back when! As for the smaller trees, they’re dogwoods. LOVE them!


  5. Abbey says

    On your trees in the front, when they got down to the stump did they just use a stump grinder for the remaining part or did they actually pull out the stump, roots and all?

  6. says

    I love that you guys made giant stepping “stones” for Clara with one of the trees. I’m going to remember that for down the road when we get our dream house near a magical forest. Love that the deer aren’t afraid! I once lived with equally friendly deer – one came and tried to peek in our front door!

  7. ShellyP says

    Great post! We had major storms in MN this past weekend and thousands of trees are down. I have a box elder leaning at nearly 45 degrees making a bee line for my sun room that is coming down today. Yes, hiring an arborist is expensive. I’ve received numerous bids to remove my leaning box elder in the past year and the bids are all over the map. I plan on making pavers from the trunk, inspired by this lovely garden path.

  8. Jo says

    Do you back onto a National Forest? Or do deer just roam your suburb like that?

    I’m sad to see that deck tree had to go, but I totally understand your reasoning – we’re having to look at taking down a couple of trees at our holiday home also. Storms can be scary enough without the added tree russian roulette of will it fall, won’t it.

    • says

      We’re on a cul-de-sac that backs up into a woodsy area (not a National Forest though, I wish!) but since we’re in the more private/quiet part of the neighborhood I think the deer like it back there.


    • Marcy says

      Deer roam our suburb. We kind of like seeing them running around (right now one has twins) but it makes me nervous to try and start a garden. We also have bunnies, racoons, coyotes, chipmunks, and there types of squirrels! Feels like we must be in the country but we’re definitely suburbs. Not even a wild park nearby.

  9. Maureen says

    We had a crazy tree just outside our fence line that angled towards the house and every storm that blew brought we were SURE it was going to fall and take out the nursery (we always put baby in the basement those nights). After the derecho last year took down sme big branches (that took out our fence) we called the HOA and since it was technically on their property, not ours, they took it down for us. Score! My little boys loved watching it happen!

  10. Tiffany says

    I can’t imagine having to REMOVE trees. Where I live, it’s a miracle to get them to grow. We built a house and our neighborhood is in the middle of sagebrush fields…as most neighborhoods are here in the desert! I daydream about having a lush, forresty (?) yard like that! You are so lucky!

    • says

      We actually made one of those years ago in our first house’s sunroom (no legs though, it just sat on the flat bottom and worked as a side table) but it got a little buggy and gross under it over time, so we got rid of it.


  11. Stacey says

    I work in a beautiful old house that has been declared a National Monument. Last year the 115 year-old cedar tree on the boundary was felled in order to prevent any damage to the house. I felt ill watching the men out my third storey window swinging chainsaws. Whenever a piece of the trunk came down the whole house shook! I gained some beautiful pavers for my garden, though! It took three of us to load one into my car at a time!

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