How to Cut Tree Limbs Over a House?

How to Cut Tree Limbs Over a House

It may seem harmless or even nice to have tree branches hanging over your house. It may seem as though the branches provide extra protection to the home and further shelter your roof.

However, having tree limbs over your house can pose problems for the conditions of your roof, and may even be hazardous.

Here are some reasons to be concerned about tree limbs over your house:

Physical damage to the roof

On windy days, swaying branches may scrape against the roof of your house, damaging shingles, asphalt, or gravel on the roof.

Fostering moss and mildew

As leaves fall onto your roof, or create a moist, shady environment, they can contribute to moist conditions that are ideal for moss, fungi, mildew, and other damaging organisms to grow on your roof.

tree limbs over your house

Clogging the gutters

While leaves in roof gutters are inevitable when you enjoy trees in your landscape, when branches overhang your roofline, then fallen leaves, twigs, and other tree debris can quickly clog your gutters. When your gutters aren't working properly, you are at greater risk for erosion and water damage.

Giving access to wildlife

Tree branches that overhang a roof give easy access to squirrels, raccoons, and other animals that may enjoy living in your attic or walls.

Risk of tree branches breaking and falling on your house

The most dramatic risk of having tree limbs over the roof of your house is that during a storm, large branches or limbs may break and fall onto your roof, causing serious damage to your roof and perhaps even to your home.

While some tree-related risks to your home may be fairly serious, it isn't always practical or desirable to remove the tree entirely. For example, the tree may be on a neighbor's property, or contribute to the value and aesthetics of the landscape. You may need to simply cut the branches that are overhanging your roof and allow the rest of the tree to grow and thrive.

risk of having tree limbs

How to Cut Tree Limbs Over a House?

If you have tree limbs that extend over the roofline of your house, it is probably a good idea to remove them. Here is how to do it:

Determine whether you can do the job safely

No matter what tools you are using as you trim a tree, you need to be sure of your own safety. Here are some common things to check for:

Your footing

If your roof is steep, slippery, wet, or has any surface that will prevent you from having a stable, secure footing, then hire a professional to remove the tree.

Your ability to use the tools

Never have your first experience using a tool be from a height in an unfamiliar situation. Whether you are using pruning shears, a chain saw, or a pole saw, make sure that you are extremely comfortable safely using your tools before you get onto your roof.

The weight limit of your ladder

Remember that you will need to carry any and all tools up the ladder with you, so be mindful of safe use and weight limits on your ladder.

The size of the tree branch

Tree branches can be surprisingly heavy, and you need to prevent them from falling when cut and landing on your roof. Most homeowners who have experience with their tools can safely manage a tree branch that is 2-3 inches in diameter. If the branch is much larger than that, consider hiring a professional.

Have a buddy

Having another adult with you helps provide additional safety and gives you an easier way to clear debris as you go.

Determine how to trim without harming the tree

Some species are best trimmed in spring, others in fall. Research how to trim your species of tree without harming the health of the tree and creating more hazards down the road.

Cut in sections, not the entire branch at once

Tie a rope around each piece of the tree to be cut, making a series progressive cuts from the end of the branch toward the trunk. Ensure that every cut piece is held by the rope, and not allowed to fall onto your roof. Use your friend to hold the rope while you make cuts, and to help safely clear debris before making the next cut.


By working carefully, in manageable sections from the end toward the trunk, you should be able to clear the tree branch from your roofline using your pole saw.

How to Use a Manual Pole Saw?

How to Use a Manual Pole Saw

Part of maintaining a healthy garden and landscape means taking care of your trees. Healthy trees look attractive, add value to your home, and can even improve energy efficiency.  However, un-trimmed and unhealthy trees can be unsightly and potentially hazardous. Pole saws are an excellent way to extend your reach, so that you can trim and prune branches and twigs you couldn't normally access with conventional tools.

There are different kinds of manual pole saws with different features to help with different garden chores, and each has slightly different features, capabilities, and different ways they can be used.

kinds of manual pole saws

How to Use a Traditional Manual Pole Saw?

Also called a “pole pruner,” this kind of pole saw is simply a sharp saw blade at the end of a pole. These usually have curved blades, 12 to 16 inches long. In many models, the pole is telescoping, or can be extended with additional pieces. Here's how to use it:

  1. Place the curved edge of the blade on the top of the branch you want to trim. These blades cut as you pull them toward you, so it's an intuitive gesture.
  2. Working slowly and carefully, pull the blade toward you a few times to make a groove in the branch.
  3. Once you have a groove and the blade will not slip sideways, you can speed up and cut through the branch. Try to cut cleanly without splitting or tearing at the end, and make sure that the freed branch can fall safely.

When using a traditional manual pole saw, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The longer the pole is, the less control you will have over the cutting end. Ensure that you have stable footing and excellent visibility on the surface you will be cutting.
  • Because they are manually operated, it can be physically strenuous to cut through a large branch with this type of pole pruner. Work carefully and take breaks if needed.
  • Because these types of pole saws are designed to cut downward from the top of a branch, it is difficult or impossible to remove vertical growth, like water sprouts.
  • Remember to make jump cuts for larger branches by rotating the blade to beneath the branch and working from below to create a groove. This will prevent the bark from tearing and injuring the tree.
How to Use a Traditional Manual Pole Saw

How to Use a Pulley-System Manual Pole Saw?

These kinds of manual pole saws usually combine a set of pruning shears with a saw blade, so that you can clip off smaller twigs and branches and saw off larger ones. They use a pulley system so that you can operate the shears from several feet away, at the end of the pole.

These kinds of pole pruners often have different types of pulley systems, or even double pulley systems, to transmit more force from your hand to the shears and enable you to lop off even larger branches. Here is how to use one:

  1. For the sawblade portion of the tool, simply follow the directions above to saw off larger branches.
  2. To lop off smaller branches and twigs, place the “hook” portion of the tool over the branch at the precise place you intend to cut.
  3. Pull the rope smoothly and evenly, and the blade will lever closed and cut off the branch.
  4. Release the rope to open the tool and move on to another branch.

Here are some things to keep in mind when using a pulley-system pole pruner:

  • Pulling on the rope can easily tire your arms and damage the skin on your hands. It's best to wear thick garden gloves.
  • Do not attempt to lop larger branches than are recommended for your tool. When loppers are used on branches that are too large, they can mangle the bark without cutting cleanly, or even bind in the branch. Because these tools are on a pole, it's more difficult to control or extract a bound tool, so don't exceed the recommended branch diameter.


Manual pole saws can be a great way to manage routine tree trimming and maintenance safely and take care of the health of your trees. They can save money by making it easy to do garden tasks yourself, instead of calling a professional.

But remember to always work safely, by ensuring that you have safe and stable footing, making sure that fallen branches and debris can safely fall to the ground, wearing protective gear, and avoiding power lines.

How to Use a Pole Chain Saw?

How to Use a Pole Chain Saw

A pole chain saw is a great way to remove high tree limbs and branches without dangerous tree climbing or risky ladders. Pole chain saws, as the name implies, put the cutting teeth of a chain saw at the end of a pole, while it can be controlled from the ground at the opposite end.

However, removing the risk of climbing doesn't mean that pole saws are completely safe, and it's still important to ensure that you use a pole chain saw correctly.

When to Use a Pole Chain Saw?

A pole chain saw is a specialty tool and is better suited to some conditions than others. Here's when a pole chain saw is the right tool for the job:

When to Use a Pole Chain Saw

If you have stable footing on the ground

When using a pole chain saw, much of your attention is directed upward, at the point of cutting, and you need to be mindful that branches and debris are likely to fall down near and around you. Because of this, you cannot also be paying attention to your feet placement and balance.

If the ground is on a steep slope, slippery or muddy, or extremely rocky and uneven, it is not a good idea to use a pole chain saw.

If you are nowhere near a power line

One of the primary risks of using a pole chain saw is that you are allowing branches and debris to fall uncontrolled, unlike a professional arborist.

This uncontrolled descent poses a risk to you from things potentially falling and hurting you, but also the risk that you may suddenly move or jerk to avoid a branch, and briefly lose control of the chain saw. A pole chain saw should never be used anywhere near a power line.

If the branches you need to remove are less than 2 inches in diameter

A pole chain saw should only be used on smaller branches and limbs, and not on large, heavy branches.

If you already know how to safely make preliminary cuts and jump cuts

Preliminary cuts reduce the weight of the branch before you cut it, reducing the risk of injury from a falling heavy branch. Practice preliminary and jump cuts with a conventional chain saw, on the ground, with easily accessible limbs, so that you know exactly what to do with the pole chain saw.

Preliminary cuts should be placed a foot or more away from your intended final cut, so that they safely reduce weight, and so that if the bark peels away from the tree, you haven't injured or damaged the tree itself.

Jump cuts are small cuts made on the opposite side of where you will finally remove the branch, to prevent tearing and injuring the plant. Jump cuts determine where the limb will finally break and allow you to prune and trim in a way that protects both yourself and the plant you are working on.

using a conventional chain saw

How to Use a Pole Chain Saw?

If you are proficient and confident using a conventional chain saw and have a tree that is in the right position for a pole chain saw, here is how to use it.

  1. Clear a large work area below your intended cut. Remove any debris or trip hazards, and cordon off the area to prevent others from entering your work space.
  2. Plan your intended final cut and any preliminary or jump cuts you will need. Remember that jump cuts are typically on the underside of a branch and require you to work against gravity, so they are the most physically strenuous of your cuts. If you become tired, take a break and come back to the job later, rather than continuing to use a pole chain saw when you are tired or weak and have less control.
  3. Position the saw correctly. Using both hands, place the saw at your intended cut point, resting on the branch.
  4. Position yourself correctly. With the chain saw resting on the correct spot, check your footing for safety and stability, and angle yourself out of the path of any falling debris.
  5. Turn on the saw and make slow, controlled grooves. Making grooves in the branch prevents the pole chain saw from slipping sideways.
  6. Finish your cut. Once your blade is securely in a groove, you can increase your speed and finish the cut.
  7. After every cut, clean up the fallen limbs and give yourself a clear, safe work area before repeating the process.

Pole Saw Cutting Techniques

Pole Saw Cutting Techniques

One of the things people love about pole saws is that they are as simple and intuitive to use as any other saw, except that they extend your reach into a tree canopy. However, there are some special techniques that people should use when trimming their own trees with a pole saw.

Here are some of the most important techniques to help you get the most out of your pole saw, ensuring efficiency and safety.

Identify the Branch Collar

The branch collar is the structural support formed by a tree to hold the weight of a lateral branch and is part of a tree's natural defense system. When pruning a tree, it is important to protect the branch collar; damaging this structure can expose the trunk of the tree to disease, decay, or harmful insects.

While it may seem attractive to prune branches until they are flush with the tree trunk, instead, you need to trim in a way that leaves the collar intact. Study your species of tree and identify where the branch collar is, so you know where to place your cuts.

Using a pole saw

Preliminary Cuts

Preliminary cuts are a series of progressive cuts you make in a large branch to make it smaller and easier to manage.

 If a branch is large and heavy, or positioned in a way that branches may pose a hazard when they fall, then trim the branch with a series of preliminary cuts so you can better control the job. These preliminary cuts can be made anywhere that safely lightens the load, clears visual debris and makes the final cut easier.

Consider Combining Tools

Not all homeowners have both manual and automatic pole saws, but it's a great option to consider if you have to do a lot of tree trimming. For large branches, using a manual pole saw gives you great precision and control over your jump cuts and the groove you will make to cut the tree at the collar.

A pole chain saw, however, whether it's gas or electric powered, has speed and power that make preliminary cuts fast and easy, and can fit into your more precise, manual grooves and make quick work of finishing the job.

Professional arborists often combine manual and gas-powered tools in order to use the right tool for the job, and it's a great technique for the homeowner who has a large area to cover and a lot of ongoing tree trimming to do.

automatic pole saw

Relax Between Strokes

Using a pole saw is a physically strenuous task. The weight of the saw is levered away from you, and you are applying physical pressure on the downward pull, and then lifting the tool again up and away from you.

Over time, this repetitive motion can be taxing, and becoming tired can lead to a loss of precision and control of the tool, which can lead to reduced safety. However, pole saws are designed with a hook at the end that keeps the saw blade from slipping out of the groove, and that feature can help you improve your ergonomics.

Even if you just remember to take a quick breath and unlock your muscles in between strokes, rather than staying in a single, locked body position while you work, you can prevent repetitive strain, fatigue, and possibly even injury.


A pole saw is an excellent tool, widely used by professional arborists, with great results. Using these techniques will help you make the most of your pole saw and use it without damaging your trees or yourself.