As an Oak tree owner, you will need to carry out remedial pruning periodically to keep your tree in good health. Removal of dead or crossing branches and even canopy thinning helps to improve the structural health, vigor, and overall aesthetic appeal of your tree. Not doing so can pose a safety hazard and increase instances of common oak diseases such as Oak wilt or branch failure.

The end of winter is the best time of year to trim Oak trees. You are best waiting until the coldest parts of winter are over just before spring. This will ensure the tree has sufficient time to heal wounds from the trim before the following winter sets in.

Below are a few of the most common questions about trimming Oak trees that are worth a read before you proceed.

oak tree in front yard

As a thumb rule winter is the best time for most trees including Oaks. For the most part, this has to do with the way a tree reacts to pruning. Depending on how much you are taking off, pruning a tree is quite a shock to their system.

By opting to prune your Oak tree in winter while the tree is essentially in hibernation, ensures the tree will not immediately react and will only really notice the prune once it begins to slowly switch on after winter.

If your tree is less than 10 years old it is considered a juvenile tree and can bounce back better after heavier prunes. Although I do not directly recommend it, you might be able to get away with a prune in spring on younger specimens. I would not try this with a mature Oak tree though.

How often should I trim?

Remedial pruning should be carried out on your Oaktree every 2 – 3 years. This includes removing dead branches or any other branch that looks structurally unsafe.

Every 3 – 5 years you should have a qualified arborist out to inspect your oak tree and remove 15 – 20% of its foliage.

There are a couple of factors that would decide how often your Oaktree should be trimmed.

The age of your tree – This a big factor as younger trees require frequent trimming to help them to take the desired shape as they grow, while in the case of older trees it is more about management.

Why are you pruning? – The aim behind your Oaktree trim will determine when you decide to prune it – if you have dead branches or those that pose a hazard to persons or property, you need to get the trimmed as and when required.

If you are looking to thin the trees canopy to let more light into your home, then a canopy reduction would be in order. For heavy prunes, I would not recommend more than every 3 – 5 years.

How much do I take off?

The amount you need to cut off will again depend on your motives for pruning, but for a remedial prune done every other year, no more than 5% of the tree’s foliage should be removed.

For larger prunes planned every 3 – 5 years, you can prune up to a maximum of 20%, but a good number to shoot for is 15% of the tree’s foliage.

It is easy for me to give you a number or percentage of what needs to come off, but it will depend on the size, age and rate of growth of your tree.

Mature Oak trees respond well to a heavy prune, but every 3 years might be too often as their rate of growth is slower than a juvenile tree. Also the time it takes to heal old wounds on mature trees is slower. You will need to make sure their old wounds have had a chance to heal before you go ahead with another prune.

Can I do this myself?

Trimming trees especially large ones is not something I would advise a novice to try. If you have a very small Oak tree that is less than 15ft. in height, you can try your hand at pruning it. I suggest you watch some DIY videos on tree pruning techniques before you start though or you might end up doing more harm than good if you don’t know what you are doing.

Hiring an arborist or a tree surgeon if you have a tall mature tree is a better option as they bring in the required skills and knowledge for the job.

Trimming large trees comes at considerable risks and requires the use of the right equipment and safety gear.

A certified arborist would assess the trimming requirements and suggest you the best option. It is important to keep in mind that tree trimming can go wrong and result in damage to your property as well as injuries, especially working from heights.

Don’t risk it, get in a qualified arborist from a tree cutting service near you to do the job for you.

How much does Oak tree trimming cost?

The cost to trim an oak tree will depend on:

  1. The size of the tree
  2. They type of prune you are carrying out
  3. How many branches you are taking off
  4. Ease of access to the tree
  5. Number of obstacles around the tree

Below I have laid out some cost estimates based on size. It is important to remember that other than the size of your tree, the ease of access is a very big factor. A tree that is in a front yard with great access for heavy equipment will cost half the price to trim than one in a backyard with poor access (via a narrow side gate).

Here are some average prices for trimming an oak tree by size:

  • Small trees – Trees that are 1-1.5 storey tall would cost you $250 – $350
  • Medium trees – Trees 2+ storey high will cost $350 – $550
  • Large trees – Trees 3+ storey high will cost $600 – $1000
  • Extra-large trees – Trees 6+ storey high shall cost $900 – $1800

We have touched on the size of the tree and how access can also affect prices, but the type of prune needed is also going to be a deciding factor.

For more information on tree trimming cost, visit our complete tree trimming cost guide here.

Remedial pruning – This is a very simple type of prune that involves the removal of deadwood or the odd crossing branch. You will pay the below-average price for this type of prune.

Canopy lift – This requires the removal of the lower branches of your oak tree. This is a pretty easy trim and will cost you close to the average price.

Canopy thinning – This type of prune involves removing selected second and third-order branches from the trees canopy. This is a little bit more time consuming and will cost you above average price for this prune.

Canopy reduction – This is the hardest and most time consuming of all. It is the pruning of 3rd, 4th and 5th order branches from the outermost limits of the tree canopy. An arborist will have to either climb to all extremities of the tree or an Elevated work platform will be needed. You will pay well above the average price for this type of prune.

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What are the laws for Oak tree trimming?

Oak trees are protected in some states, so you will need to look at your local city tree ordinance to know whether you’ll need a permit before you start.

You can find more information on tree pruning laws for your local area here.

If you are short on time, local qualified arborists are a wealth of information and will be able to tell you whether you need a permit or not. Click here to fill in a 2 minute for and request 3 x obligation-free quotes. When they are pricing your job, just ask if you need a permit.

Is pruning good for Oak trees?

Pruning is an important exercise that you should undertake periodically. Not only does trimming your Oaktree increase curb appeal and the value of your home, but it also has a host of other knock-on benefits.

  • Trimming dead and decaying branches can save the healthy portion of the tree from the outbreak of diseases and infections.
  • Tree pruning helps in making the roots of the trees stronger which promotes new growth.
  • Pruning helps in reducing leaf diseases as there is more circulation of air through the canopy and thus your leaves look greener and healthier.
  • Tree trimming helps in the control of insects and pests. Dead or damaged branches are colonized by pests and insects and you can control them by trimming.
  • Trimming allows more light through to your lawn which will grow thicker.
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.