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What is Topping?
Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or to lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include “heading,” “tipping,” “hat-racking,” and “rounding over.”
Topping is often used to reduce the size of a tree. A homeowner may feel that a tree has become too large for his or her property, or that tall trees may pose an unacceptable risk. Topping, however, is not a viable method of height reduction and certainly does not reduce future risk. In fact, topping will increase risk in the long term.
Topping Is Expensive
The cost of topping a tree is not limited to only the job cost. Some hidden costs of topping include:
Increased maintenance costs. If the tree survives, it will likely require corrective pruning within a few years (e.g., crown reduction or storm damage repair). If the tree dies, it will have to be removed.
Reduced property value. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10 to 20 percent to the value of a property. Disfigured, topped trees are considered an impending expense.
Increased liability potential. Topped trees may pose an unacceptable level of risk. Because topping is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a topped tree may lead to a finding of negligence in a court of law.