The Pros and Cons of ‘Topping’ an Oak Tree

The Pros and Cons of ‘Topping’ an Oak Tree

Is an overgrown oak tree in your landscape causing you problems?

Maybe it’s blanketing your lawn with acorns – some oaks can drop 10,000 acorns per year – or perhaps its large branches are overhanging your front porch.

In cases such as these, many homeowners assume that topping the problematic oak tree is the best approach. While topping may work, it has both advantages and disadvantages.


Cleaner Lawn

Topping an oak tree will promote a cleaner lawn.

Not to be confused with pruning, topping involves the complete removal of the top of a tree.

By removing all the top branches, the oak tree won’t drop as many acorns or shed as many leaves. The branches will likely regrow, but it can take years or even decades for this to occur.

Improved Aesthetics

In addition to promoting a cleaner lawn, topping can improve the aesthetics of an oak tree.

When left unchecked, oak trees will grow a large and dense canopy that looks somewhat disheveled. If the oak tree is directly in front of your home, this may negatively impact your home’s curb appeal.

Topping, of course, will significantly reduce its canopy to improve your home’s curb appeal.


Increased Risk of Infection

On the other hand, topping can increase the risk of infection in an oak tree.

All trees are susceptible to viral, bacterial and fungal infections – and oaks are no exception. When topped, however, a tree’s risk of infection increases dramatically.

Difficult and Laborious

Topping is both difficult and laborious, which may deter some homeowners from using this method to deal with an overgrown oak tree.

Assuming the oak tree is mature, you won’t be able to top it using a pair of shears. Rather, you’ll need to use a chainsaw.

And because topping involves the removal of the top part of a tree, you’ll also need a ladder and safety harness.

Stress Sprouts

Furthermore, topping an oak tree can lead to the production of many small sprouts on and the trunk.

Known as stress sprouts, trees develop them when suffering from extreme stress. The sprouts will quickly grow in an effort to keep the tree alive.

This means you’ll have to spend even more time maintaining the oak tree.

As you can see, topping usually does more harm than good. If an overgrown oak tree is causing you problems, consider pruning it rather than topping it.

The Woodsman Company offers tree planting, tree pruning and shrub trimming, tree removal and stump grinding as well as a tree wellness program.

If we can help with any of your tree care needs give us a call at 512-846-2535 or 512-940-0799 or

Request a Quote / Schedule an Appointment

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