The term “lopping a tree” or “tree lopping” is often misunderstood in the UK. Some people mistake it for “lopping a tree down”, as in, felling it and having it removed entirely, while others mistake it for pruning. However, tree lopping refers to something very different. 

In this article, we’re going to explore tree lopping in greater depth, establish why it’s so expensive, and look at when it is best to have a tree lopped (and if and when it should be avoided altogether). 

If you are familiar with the term but you don’t quite understand what’s involved, read on and we’ll explain all! 

What is lopping a tree?

What is lopping a tree

So, what is lopping a tree? First, let’s define the word “lop,” – what does it mean? 

To ‘lop’: 

  • cut off a branch, limb, or twig from the main body of a tree.
  • remove branches from a tree.

Tree lopping is the process of trimming a tree’s branches in order to reduce and modify the size of the tree. This is done purely for aesthetic purposes. 

One of the reasons why people often confuse lopping with pruning is because the word ‘lop’ is defined as “removing branches from a tree.” 

The trouble with that is, technically, the process of pruning involves removing branches from a tree. However, there is a different method entirely – and indeed a whole different purpose behind it. 

  • Lopping is intended to reduce a tree in size with very little attention being paid to its overall health. Often, tree lopping involves removing a significant amount of the limbs from the tree, thus putting a serious amount of strain and trauma on the tree, sometimes leading to its slow decline and ultimate death. Lopping can be done safely, but it’s a gradual process that requires an expert touch. 
  • Pruning a tree, on the other hand, refers to the process of carefully removing dead or dying branches from a tree. This is done with the intention of promoting strong future growth, reducing hazards, and preventing the disease from spreading throughout the tree. When executed properly, tree pruning can also be used to reduce a tree’s size and/or promote additional growth. For example, you can prune certain shrubs in order to encourage additional growths to grow back, thus creating a thinker, ‘bushier’ growth effect. 

Why is tree lopping so expensive?

Why is tree lopping so expensive

So, why is tree lopping so expensive? Particularly when it can be so detrimental to the tree’s health. 

Tree lopping is expensive because it is a labour-intensive job. When pruning, the arborist is only removing a set number of branches. With tree lopping, however, in most cases, the majority of the tree’s limbs will be removed in order to significantly reduce its size. 

This process involves specialist equipment (such as working with a chain-saw at great heights), including extra precautions to ensure that no falling branches damage neighbouring power lines or any other surrounding structures. 

Ultimately, because tree trimming is a job that requires a significant amount more effort, the labour costs will tend to be higher. 

The larger the tree and the more you want it reduced in size, the more it is going to end up costing you in the long run.

When should trees be lopped?

In truth, a tree should never be lopped – not unless you care for its health and eventual appearance. 

While you may be reducing it in size in the short term – if a tree does survive extensive lopping, it will suffer for it in the future. 

First, ask yourself why you want the tree to be reduced in size. Is it blocking your view? Is it preventing natural sunlight to enter your home? Or are you simply tired of having to look at it? Because either way, there are alternatives. 

  • Tree relocation: If a tree is blocking your view or preventing sunlight to enter your home, you can have it relocated entirely. While this is a big job that requires professional arborists who can safely dig up and relocate a tree and its root structure, it is entirely possible. Not only that, but it can save you from having to cause any unnecessary damage to the tree.
  • Gradual tree pruning: Again, if you do care about the tree’s health and don’t want to put it under too much stress, you can always opt for gradual tree pruning. This is certainly a lot slower than tree lopping as it will have to be done over a much longer period in order to prevent unnecessary trauma, however, if you are in no immediate rush, it will be far safer for the tree’s health. 
  • Tree removal: As a last resort, it may be worth having the tree removed entirely. The fact is, if you opt for tree lopping and invariably inflict too much trauma on the tree, it will likely die. Then, you’ll be left with a dead, unsightly, and hazardous tree anyway – in which case it will need felling and removing. However, if you would ultimately prefer to have it gone, avoid lopping and go straight for tree removal instead. Just make sure to double-check that the tree species in question isn’t on the protected tree list. 

Final thoughts 

You may be tempted to try and save money by lopping a tree itself. Just bear in mind that the likely outcome will be the eventual death of the tree. 

If you are concerned about the tree’s health but wish to reduce its size, we strongly recommend taking the gradual pruning approach with a reputable arborist. 

Tree lopping isn’t a healthy practice. It’s dangerous for trees and often ends with unsatisfactory results. 

If you are unsure how best to proceed, speak with your local arborist and get their expert advice before you make any final decision.