Oak trees are fast-growing tree, so will need to be trimmed from time to time to ensure it is structurally sound and maintains their curb appeal.

Trimming a mature Oak tree every 5 – 7 years helps to enhance the health and vigor of the tree. Younger specimens might need a little more often as formative pruning in the early stages is critical.

A younger Oak tree under 10 years old should be checked by a certified arborist every 3 – 4 years and pruned if needed.

trimming oak tree by pro arborist

Oak trees are undoubtedly beautiful and have a myriad of benefits for you and your community. Oak branches, however, grow heavy with time thus, posing a safety risk to your home and pedestrians. To keep your oak in good stead and structurally sound you will need to prune it from time to time.

Generally, you should always trim your oaks during winter. This is the dormant season for oaks when the leaves have fallen off and invasive bugs are not about.

Can you trim an Oak in summer?

It is not recommended to trim your oaks during summer. This is the period when oaks can easily get oak wilt, a disease that easily spreads during the warmer months. Oak wilt is a fungal disease spread by insects that are quite active during summer (April to the end of October). When the insects land on an oak freshly trimmed and open wounds, the disease quickly spreads.

If you have had a branch failure or there is an emergency and you must prune your oaks during summer, then you should immediately apply latex house paint to the trimming cuts. It helps to keep boring beetles away from your oaks.

However, you can spare yourself extra expenses by trimming during winter, as tree trimming services are normally 20% cheaper on average due to lack of work.

How much do you trim?

How much you do need to trim largely depends on your end goal of the trim.

  • How much shade do you need in your home?
  • Is the oak blocking your view?
  • Is it growing into your roof or into power lines?
  • Dropping acorns in your car.

As a general rule of thumb, you should not prune any more than 25% of the trees canopy in one go, but before you trim make sure you have a clear objective to communicate to your tree-cutting service.

What you are doing when pruning is essentially taking away your tree’s ability to feed itself through photosynthesis. This can be positive for the tree as it will spur new growth, but pruning too much can have the opposite effect.

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How much does it cost to trim an Oak?

The cost of trimming an oak varies depending on several factors. This includes;

  • How many branches are being trimmed
  • the size of the tree
  • it’s location on your property (front or back) and access
  • Obstacles – Is it hanging over a roof, fence or shed?
  • Time of year

As there are so many factors that determine the cost of Oak trimming it’s hard to give an exact price, but it ranges from $300 to $1700.

Resource: Check out our Oak tree trimming cost guide here.

Will my Oak dies if I cut the top off?

Cutting your oak tree top off or topping is not recommended. While an oak tree may survive the first top-off cut, it is not healthy for the tree.

This is because topping increases the tree’s susceptibility to internal decay or rot, diseases including fungal and insects. It also compromises the structural integrity of the tree.

Once it is topped, sucker shoots are sent out which will grow quite large. These are not connected to the tree-like regular branches and will come down in heavy winds after a few years of growth.

Topping also reduces the aesthetic value of an oak tree including the curb appeal of your property and any value the tree added.

Storm damage trimming

In the event of storm damage, you don’t have any choice but to trim the branches that have broken.

You will not benefit from leaving these until winter as you need to make the tree safe for people and property, plus you need to make a clean cut so the tree heals correctly.

In the event of storm damage in the summer, it is important to use a pruning sealer. Live oaks thrive in warmer climates and it is the same time when beetles and fungus can easily spread causing infections.


No large woody tree such as Oak, Maple, Pine or other should be topped. This is a very bad pruning technique that is being phased out. You can top smaller trees like fruit trees and small bushes, but topping an Oak tree is just going to lead to issues in the medium to long term which will result in poor tree habit, lessened structural integrity not to mention other health issues.

Yes, you should not let a “gardener” touch your oak tree. Arborist are trained professionals who know exactly where and how to prune Oak trees for best results. Using the local handy man will just cause you issues in the future for which an arborist will be needed to resolve. You are best getting an arborist in to do the job right the first time.

It is not advisable. One of the main reasons is the fungal infection known as Oak Wilt is a lot more active. By removing branches you are opening up your tree to infection. You are best waiting until the cooler months.

There are many things you can do to keep your oak tree healthy. One of them is to give the tree a good prune every 3 – 5 years. This bolsters the tree’s root system and gives the tree a lot more reserves to work with for future growth. In dry states you are best giving your oak tree a good water. If the tree is older than 10 years, you can do this once per month by leaving the hose running under the tree for a few hours. You can also consider organic fertilizer such as horse manure every other year.

You need to have a strict watering program for very small trees. Once a tree reaches a certain size, its roots would have penetrated deep and be getting moisture year-round, but small trees are still trying to get there. Watering programs can be found here under tree maintenance tips.

You should not trim more than 10 – 15% of branches off a mature Oak tree. The reason is that you will be removing too much of the canopy the tree uses to produce its food. Trees use their leaves to convert light into usable energy through a process called photosynthesis. If you were to remove more than 30% of the foliage of the trees, you would be putting unnecessary pressure on the tree. Keep it below 15% to be on the safe side.

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.