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How to Remove Ice From Tree Branches Safely

Winter chills can cause ice to build up everywhere, including on the limbs and branches of your beloved trees. This buildup of frost can pose a hazard, both to the tree itself and to people standing underneath it. Should you decide to remove the ice, you’ll need to be equipped with the right skills (and materials) to perform the job safely.

Here, we’ll not only discuss how to remove ice from tree branches safely but how to be aware of when it’s necessary to do this and when it’s not.

First, Decide If You Really Need to Remove the Ice

Remember, of course, that trees have been dealing with ice buildup for millions of years and doing just fine. They are hardy plants and able to withstand quite a lot. In some cases, removing ice that has built up on the branches of your trees may do more harm than good.

mr-tree-how-to-remove-ice-from-tree-branches-safelyNevertheless, it’s still true that ice buildup can harm trees, and some trees aren’t as resistant to icy conditions as others. While evergreens and conifers can handle a lot of ice due to their unique shapes, other trees, such as oaks or maples, don’t have that advantage. As a result, the ice may cause the branches to bend and eventually snap. The places where the branches break off then become wounds on the tree, which can be vulnerable to infestation from bacteria, fungi, and pests such as ants and termites.

If ice builds up to more than a quarter-inch thick, or if you see the tree’s branches bending due to the weight, it may be time to attempt to remove the ice.

Know What Not To Do

Many people’s first instinct when they see ice and snow built up on the branches of their tree is to simply grab the tree and shake it. There are several reasons why this is not a good idea. First, those branches will have been weakened by the cold, and shaking them may cause them to break unnecessarily. Second, if there is indeed heavy ice built up in the trees, you may cause it to fall directly on top of you, putting your safety at risk.

You also don’t want to grab a chisel and start trying to scrape the ice away that way. That chisel could also end up damaging the tree and lead to worse problems than the ice itself has caused. By the same token, de-icing products, such as salt should never be used on trees, as they can prove to be toxic to trees and do a lot more harm than good.

Make Safety Your First Priority

When you’re learning how to remove ice from tree branches, you need to remember to make safety the number one priority, both yours and that of others nearby. There’s no sense in getting injured yourself trying to protect a tree from the winter frosts, so take a meticulous, detail-oriented approach to safety. Never rush tasks involving trees.

Before you do anything, inspect the area thoroughly. Take note of any hazards nearby. This includes limbs and branches that appear compromised. Damaged tree limbs are heavy and a major safety hazard. Those must be dealt with quickly by a professional arborist if you see them.

You’ll also want to check the tree’s surroundings. For example, are there any power lines nearby? If there are, the tree might have a limb or branch that touches them, and an electrical current could travel through it, so once again, contact a professional arborist if you notice this.

Removing the Ice

As we’ve mentioned, it’s difficult to remove ice from tree branches without either risking the tree or risking harm to yourself. In most cases, it’s best to simply wait for the ice to thaw. Once the weather warms up, the ice will melt, and often enough, the tree will recover on its own quickly.

If there’s a light dusting of snow, as opposed to a full-on freeze, you may be able to brush it off easily. Only do this if it’s a very mild amount of snow, however. Too much and you can risk harming the tree once the branches are beginning to bow from the weight.

When the tree is really looking the worse for wear as a result of the ice buildup, your best option is to contact a professional arborist from Mr. Tree. Through careful pruning, we can remove branches that have been harmed by the ice in a safe and effective manner while allowing healthy branches to remain and simply wait out the cold.

Prevention Is Key

In many cases, taking preventative steps is your best option when it comes to protecting your tree from the ice. Pruning the tree ahead of the winter season means that there will be fewer weakened branches that can then become vulnerable to the buildup of ice and snow. Once again, it’s best to secure the services of a professional arborist to perform this task.

For saplings, smaller trees, and shrubs, you may be able to protect them from the ice by wrapping them in burlap before the coldest days of the year. This burlap wrapping will then serve as a barrier, with the ice building up on it instead of on the tree itself.

If Your Tree Does Become Damaged

If your tree becomes damaged by the weight of the ice and snow, you should contact an arborist to prune away the injured branches. If a limb is cracked and looks like it could fall at any time, consider this an emergency situation and have the limb removed immediately, before it falls and harms someone or damages property.

Mr. Tree has 24/7 emergency services if a tree does become so compromised by the ice that it’s at immediate risk of hurting someone. Otherwise, you can schedule an appointment to have your tree pruned back into a healthy state so that it can resist the ice and snow for many winters to come.