9 Reasons To Cut Down Your Maple Tree (And When To Do It)

Old maple tree in a public park

While looking out your window you admire the beautiful maple trees out there and feel life is good. But then you take a closer look and realize you can’t trust those trees…they’re looking mighty shady. Jokes aside, sometimes you have to cut down maple trees, for one reason or another!

You should cut down your maple tree if it is too close to your house, attracting significant pests and insects, has received major storm damage, or it’s roots have become invasive. Maple tree roots can span up to 25ft wide, which can cause issues with underground wires and drainage systems.

Though it may be hard to think about because many trees have sentimental value, there are valid reasons to cut down your maple trees. Read on to find out why you should have your maple tree cut down, and when would be the best time.

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Your Maple Tree Is Too Close To Your House

Large trees like maples need a minimum of 20 feet away from your house or structures. That doesn’t mean everyone follows this recommendation. Many people plant a tree based on how tall it is at that moment, failing to realize many trees will soon tower over the house, and be too close.

They could have been thinking more about how the shade is going to help with cooling bills in the summer, or how they will be having picnics underneath their tree in a few years instead of wondering if it’s too close to the house. 

Chances are you bought your house with that maple tree already fully established, but sitting a little too close for comfort. If you have a maple tree that’s sitting closer than 20 feet away from your house it could be sitting in the “danger zone.” 

According to the University of Missouri Extension, smaller trees can be placed about 15 feet away, but large trees need to be planted 20 feet or more away from the house. 

Trees sometimes fall on their own for several reasons. They also can drop large branches without the courtesy of giving a decent notice. To prevent major tree damage to your house or other structure, you might want to have that maple tree cut down. 

You Have A Maple Tree With Invasive Roots

Beautiful mighty maple tree trunk with great fleeced with moss roots on a cloudy day. Beautiful nature scene at fall season

Not all maple trees are considered to have invasive roots, but the silver maple and Norway maple do fall into that category. Maple trees in general tend to have shallow roots, so depending on what kind of landscaping you have, any tree can present root problems.

Shallow roots can lift sidewalks, driveways, and paving stones in your garden path, or make it a nightmare to mow. Anyone who has accidentally run over a tall, thick, tree root with a lawnmower knows what I’m talking about. It’s a jarring experience, to say the least.

Norway and silver maples are fast-growing trees that can have extensive root systems. They will get everywhere in their insatiable quest for water. These roots can dig into fine cracks in foundations, basements, and water lines.

Once they find a water source, more roots quickly crowd into that area causing more damage. Whether they increase foundation damage or get inside pipes causing them to clog and back up, there’s not much that can be done to mitigate this damage aside from removing the tree.

When a maple tree starts to ruin your hardscapes, driveway, or even your brick retaining wall, you’ll probably have to get it cut down. You can try cutting the roots back, but often the maple will just grow those damaged roots back.

Maples are known to have invasive and damaging roots. Our article on 9 trees that can damage your foundation can help you choose a tree that is good to plant near your home!

Your Maple Tree Is Ruining Your Grass

Grass can be difficult to grow underneath trees. You could have patches of weeds, weak grass, or a big brown patch that looks like a scar on your lawn.

Most grass varieties require full sun and plenty of water to keep them healthy. The broad expanse of a large maple tree’s canopy can deter both of those requirements. This leaves large patches that can be an eyesore.

In the spring and summer, a maple’s canopy can restrict rainwater from falling through. A large quantity of rainwater will run off the leaves and fall around the edge, leaving the soil directly underneath too dry for grass.

Along with providing shade for most of the day, typical grass can’t cope.

You can cover the ground with mulch, but if the dead grass patch is 20 feet or more in diameter, a huge mulch bed will simply look awkward.

Along with the grass problems, you could be dealing with raised roots that cause trip hazards. Or maybe you’ve had to replace a lawnmower blade for the X-teenth time because of shallow, protruding roots. When enough is enough, it’s time to cut your maple tree down.

Oh, and maple trees often leave helicopter seeds on your lawn, which can be quite annoying and another reason to get rid of them since they drop them in large amounts.

A Big Storm Broke Your Maple Tree

Trees grow and develop ways to withstand fierce storms, but occasionally Mother Nature brews up a special kind of storm. When this happens even the strongest trees can succumb.

Whether the ground has been soaking in a constant barrage of torrential rain and the tree topples, roots and all, or there was a lightning strike, you might have to get rid of the tree.

It doesn’t have to be summer storms that ruin trees to the point where they have to be removed for safety. Heavy snowstorms or especially freezing rain can cause tree limbs to break off, or topple trees.

Most ice storms that result in a quarter or half an inch of ice will break off smaller limbs. Hardwood trees like maples can often withstand this much ice, but if the storm continues to dump freezing rain, large limbs or even the tree itself can fall.

Ice storms start getting problematic when accumulation surpasses ½” of ice. When severe storms damage your trees you’ll need to get an arborist to check on them. Sometimes the damage is so bad, that the entire tree will have to be cut down.

Most trees can survive moderate storm damage. If the tree sustained damage but is still standing, you might want to have it checked out before cutting it down completely. It might be able to heal itself. 

Your Maple Tree Has Extreme Fungi Or Insect Damage

Rhytisma acerinum fungus on acer platanoides leaf.

Healthy trees are often able to fight off mild insect or fungal damage. But if a tree is getting very old—some maples can live for hundreds of years—or it is going through the wringer it can be more difficult to fight off invaders. 

Maple trees can be infected with fungal afflictions like anthracnose, cottony scale, tar spot, verticillium wilt, and various types of insects. They can become beset with leaf-eating caterpillars, beetles, or boring insects that weaken them.

While some of these problems can be overcome by the tree itself, or be treated with fungicides or pesticides, there are times when you should go ahead and have the tree cut down. Some fungal infections can’t be treated and will lead to the tree’s end.

You’ll need to contact a professional arborist who can let you know if the tree can be treated effectively. The problem with fungal afflictions and insect invasion in trees is they can often be spread to others. If it’s not cost-effective to treat it, or it seems to be sick all the time, then you’ll need to get rid of it.

Your Maple Tree Is Leaning, Lopsided, And Needs To Go

A leaning tree can be similar to a ticking time bomb. It’s not going to blow up everywhere, but it could fall over without warning. Often we don’t notice leaning trees until it’s too late, or it has an odd pronounced lean that catches our eyes.

Many things can cause a tree to grow lopsided, and when the canopy gets heavy and uneven, it can make the tree slowly lean until it falls completely over.

Too much shade on one side can cause this problem. Maple trees are sun-loving trees. If other trees are growing around them, casting shade on one side, they can end up growing more on the sunny side to compensate.

Branches can fall off making them lopsided, or possibly the roots are starting to give way. Whatever the reason, a tree that has developed a prominent lean will need pruning to correct it.

When that doesn’t work, the only other option is to “defuse” the situation by having the maple tree cut down

Go ahead and get the tree before it gets you.

The Maple Tree Is Simply Too Expensive To Keep

There may come a time when the tree has reached the end and will need to be put out of its (and your) misery. Do you have to treat it yearly or more often to keep it healthy? Are you maxing out credit cards to keep it from coming down? 

We hope this isn’t the case, but when you have to constantly pay to keep a tree going, it’s probably best to go ahead and get it out of there.

Maybe the tree is finally reaching its end. Some maple trees have been known to live for 300 or even 400 years; then some varieties will never see ages such as those. The silver maple for example is a variety that grows fast and may only live a few decades in suburban settings.

When a tree is constantly dipping its branches into your wallet, it’s time to turn it into firewood. If you have a firepit you can at least enjoy the tree one last time with a bonfire.

in-fact, maple is one of the hottest burning firewoods!

Your Maple Tree Is Close To Power, Phone, Or Internet Lines

Trees and power lines have never been a good mix, and it stands to reason they never will be. Whether the tree was there first or not, power lines end up getting the right of way.

Maybe the tree grew too close to the lines and now it needs to be removed. New utility lines could have been put in and now the tree is the one that needs to move.

Trees can damage power lines by rubbing against them all the time. The branches can fall and break the lines, or even grow into them if given enough time. Unfortunately for the tree, when they get tangled up around these lines, it’s the tree that loses.

Your Maple Tree Was Topped

Topping a tree is, unfortunately, a common practice, but also an almost always a game ender for large trees. When a tree gets “topped,” all the upper branches get cut back drastically, and most lateral, or side branches, get chopped off. What’s left is a tree without any leaves or small branches.

Trees get topped because they are too close to the house, and they think drastically cutting them back will keep them from causing problems. They want to prevent storm damage so they cut large limbs off, or the tree is too close to utility lines.

These reasons have their merit, but topping a tree stresses the tree out and leaves too many large wounds that can allow an insect invasion or infection that it will no longer be able to fight off. Topping a tree also prevents it from creating food for itself because all the leaves are cut away.

The tree will respond by quickly growing a cluster of new limbs and leaves to heal itself, but these limbs are often weaker than the branches that were cut off. Besides, the tree will often end up growing as tall as it was before, only with weaker limbs.

The Illinois Forestry Conservation gives three reasons not to top a tree:

  • The fast-growing new limbs are weaker, making them more susceptible to storm damage.
  • A topped tree is exposed to decay, insects, and afflictions, and weakens the entire tree. Meaning the tree will probably require more upkeep and it will end up significantly reducing the lifespan of the tree.
  • A topped tree is often a liability, can cause property damage, and possibly reduce property values.

Topping trees may have seemed like a good idea some time ago, but the practice is quite detrimental to tree health and should be avoided if possible.

Contact a tree professional to come up with good alternatives to topping your tree. If you have a tree that was topped, then you may have to get it removed and replace it with a new, healthier tree.

After dealing with the troubles of such a large tree, you may want to consider smaller trees like these Japanese maples. They won’t get nearly as big as red or sugar maples, and they provide beautiful colors all season long.

Maybe you would rather go even smaller. If that’s the case, why not get into a bonsai hobby starting with a Live Juniper Bonsai Tree. With these, you won’t have to worry about property damage from falling limbs, power lines, or having large patches of grassless yard.

What You Need Before Cutting Down A Maple Tree

Big maple trees with orange and yellow leaves

While the tree may be on your property, there may still be ordinances or other obstacles to overcome before having the tree removed. An HOA may have restrictions on tree removal, the tree may be located on an easement or other hindrances.

Don’t be nervous if this is your first time cutting down a tree; many people cut down trees for a bunch of reasons. If you are interested to learn more about this, check out our article on 6 reasons why people cut down trees!  

Are You Part Of An HOA?

When you have a Homeowner’s Association, there may be rules in the community guidelines that prevent you from cutting trees down.

Before having your tree removed, go over the rules to make sure you won’t be getting a nasty letter or any fines. If you’re unsure, reach out to an HOA official to make certain you’re in the clear. 

Is The Maple Tree On An Easement?

An easement is a part of the property that you can use but don’t own. It can be a driveway that goes through a neighbor’s property that allows you access to your property, an alleyway, or another section of land. 

Since you don’t own that section of land, you can’t cut trees off it without permission, even if they are posing a hazard to the property. 

The Maple Tree Straddles A Property Line

Sometimes it happens, that a tree ends up sitting on a property line between you and your neighbor and it needs to be cut down. How do you handle that?

In this case, you’ll have to reach an agreement with your neighbor. You both will have to agree upon if the tree can be safely removed, and how that will happen, and you may have to figure out how to split the cost.

We just hope you have reasonable neighbors and at least have a friendly repertoire with them.

Is The Tree On Or Near A Culvert?

Maple trees during autumn in a public park

The drainage area near the road is technically an easement but it may be owned by the city or county where you live. You are responsible for the upkeep but you’re not supposed to build, landscape, or fill this area in.

Trees usually aren’t allowed to grow here, but there’s always that exception. If you happen to have a maple tree, or any tree for that matter, growing along this area and it needs to be removed, you should reach out to your officials to find out the proper procedure.

You may be able to find information on your town, city or county website about this subject.

If you can’t find the proper information you may have to call or email someone to find out for sure. Since the tree is on town or city property, you may be able to get it removed by them.

The Best Time To Cut Down A Maple Tree

When it comes to cutting trees down, leave it to the professionals. Unless of course, it’s a little sapling. The minor cost savings compared to the potential damage that can occur aren’t worth the risk.

That being said, when is the actual BEST time to cut down your maple tree?

Simply put, if your maple tree is presenting an immediate issue such as insect damage, extreme rot, storm damage, branches hanging etc., then you should call a professional ASAP to remove the tree.

If it’s something where the maple tree is just messy, then you may be able to wait and put it off until the Fall when prices from local arborists may be a bit cheaper as it’s usually not as busy for them. You could also wait to save up for the expense as well!

So go ahead and call the professional arborist, they have the equipment, the trucks, and the manpower to handle any job with the utmost safety. Peace of mind can be priceless.

Wrapping Up!

While it might hurt your heart to have your favorite maple tree cut down, sometimes it simply can’t be avoided. When the tree starts to lean, it’s just too close to the house, or the roots are causing you endless headaches, it’s time to get it “outta there!”

If you want to start new with a small maple sapling, you should read out article on the 9 best maple trees to plant!

Once that tree is gone, maybe it’s time to replace it with something a little smaller. A nice dogwood possibly, a Japanese maple, or if you prefer evergreens, you can’t go wrong with a dwarf cypress or small blue spruce. 

References

Lusk, Anne C., Demóstenes Ferreira da Silva Filho, and Lea Dobbert. “Pedestrian and cyclist preferences for tree locations by sidewalks and cycle tracks and associated benefits: Worldwide implications from a study in Boston, MA.” Cities 106 (2020): 102111.

Morgenroth, Justin, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, and Luis A. Apiolaza. “Redevelopment and the urban forest: A study of tree removal and retention during demolition activities.” Applied Geography 82 (2017): 1-10.

Campanella, Bruno, André Toussaint, and Roger Paul. “Mid-term economical consequences of roadside tree topping.” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 8.1 (2009): 49-53. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1618866708000587 

McKenzie, Rita, and Urban Forester. What’s Wrong with Topping Trees?. Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources, 2000.

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