The Ultimate Guide to Tree Work

Tree work is essential to creating new homes, keeping public areas safe and maintaining an area's appearance. It's an industry that covers many different types of work, as tree work can involve simply trimming a tree or felling an entire forest. Whether you're a logging company looking to fell and remove trees faster or a landscaping company tasked with removing trees from a client's yard, you want to have the right equipment in your corner.

Learning more about the main types of tree work equipment and the benefits of renting it can help your company meet any new challenge and be as productive as possible.

Jump to a section:

What Is Tree Work?

Tree work involves trimming, pruning, felling and thinning trees in a variety of environments. Trimming and pruning are most commonly associated with aesthetic purposes, such as when an individual or organization wants to improve the appearance of a location. Tree work can also involve felling trees for logging purposes, to clear land to increase a location's safety or to give companies the space to build new structures. In addition to felling trees, moving trees to a new location, or transplanting them, is another type of tree work.

Types of Tree Work Equipment for Tree Removal and Logging

If you perform tree removal and logging, there are a few types of tree work equipment you'll likely want to be aware of. From tree work with cranes to tree work with chippers, there are many different kinds of machines that can complement one another and help you complete the tree removal process faster. High-quality tree removal and logging equipment can also make the work site much safer for workers and reduce the chance of workplace injuries.

Learn more about the primary types of tree work equipment below:

1. Brush Chippers

When you need to get rid of tree limbs, small trees or large branches, brush chippers can help. After feeding the material into the chipper, it transforms the material into wood chips. These wood chips can usually be sold, making them a valuable product that companies can produce while doing tree work. Reducing tree limbs and other material to wood chips also makes the material easier to transport.

Brush chippers, or wood chippers, are built with a collection bin, chipper, collar and hopper. They're powered via combustion or electric engines. Since they're offered in multiple sizes, their engines range in horsepower.

As you look for wood chippers for your work site, you often need to consider their chipping capacity. For smaller jobs and materials, smaller brush chippers have chipping capacities of 8 or 9 inches. If you take on larger jobs, brush chippers with 16-inch or 20-inch chipping capacities are usually the better option.

2. Feller Bunchers

Feller bunchers are a type of machine containing a single cutting head designed to be used as a ground placement, holding and cutting device. The single cutting head can grab more than one stem, making it easy to down, hold and move multiple trees at once. Feller bunchers do not come with processing capabilities, however.

These machines are primarily built for clear-cutting and thinning applications. Feller bunchers are popular due to how well they control the felling process. Their control reduces the amount of stand damage when the felling process occurs. Due to their lack of processing capability, the felled trees usually have to be taken to a landing. Before the tree is extracted, it often has to go through other topping and separate climbing tasks.

Feller bunchers are also self propelled, utilizing either tracks or wheels. Wheeled feller bunchers are faster than tracked feller bunchers, but tracked machines tend to offer more stability. If you're working on steep work sites, the extra stability from a tracked feller buncher is often a good choice. Tracked feller bunchers also come in handy when operators need to move across loose and wet soils since rubber-tired wheels can't operate on this terrain as effectively.

In addition to choosing between tracked and wheeled feller bunchers, you can also decide to operate a swing-boom or drive-to-tree feller buncher. Swing boom feller bunchers only come with tracks and have a boom with a cutting head. Since it has a boom, this feller buncher can cut trees from a distance. The drive-to-tree feller utilizes rubber tires and is driven directly up to the tree, where the carrier-mounted cutting head can cut the tree.

Those utilizing feller bunchers can choose between three different kinds of felling head attachments, which are mounted to the chassis or boom of the machine. Felling heads include processing heads, straight felling heads and bunching heads. Felling heads are perfect for cutting and felling single stems, but they don't have any processing capabilities. Processing heads are designed for felling and processing trees. Bunching heads can't be used to process trunks, but are well suited to handle multiple stems.

3. Tree Spades

If you're looking to transplant rather than cut down trees, tree spades are the go-to choice. Tree spades are popular in the tree nursery industry, as they help to quickly remove trees and transplant them. You can find tree spades designed with single and dual blades, but three or four blades are the most common.

These blades will encircle a tree and dig into the ground around it. Once they've dug deep enough into the ground, they'll lift the tree, taking it out of the ground before transplanting or replacing it.

Tree spades are usually mounted on the backs of trucks or onto loaders or tractors. You can find tree spades in different designs and sizes that are better suited for different soil conditions. Typical differences in tree spades include the root ball depth, root ball cone angle, root ball diameter and the inclusion of straight or curved blades. Choosing between different options will come down to the type of soil and tree you'll be working with most.

4. Forwarders

forwarder is a type of tree work machine that transports large felled logs. Usually, they take large felled logs to a roadside landing. Unlike skidders, which are designed to drag logs across the ground from one location to another, forwarders can lift the logs a minimum of two feet over the ground. This lifting ability is perfect for applications in which you don't want to make a large soil impact.

You can usually find forwarders in logging operations, where they need to have cut-to-length results. Those interested in using forwarders should know there are different categories available with differences in the equipment's size and load carrying capabilities. The smallest forwarders can carry loads around 2,000 pounds to 6,000 pounds. Medium-sized forwarders can carry around 24,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds. Larger-sized forwarders can carry around 44,000 pounds. The different load capacities allow you to find a forwarder that can handle a job no matter the size.

5. Harvesters

When you need to process and fell stems, harvesters are the self-propelled cutting machine for you. Harvesters come in both tracked and wheeled varieties so they can handle different terrains. These machines have a cutting head designed to buck, delimb and fell trees to certain lengths. You can find harvesters with fixed or rotating cabs, as well as rear or front cabs. You can also find telescoping booms on a harvester.

You may want to select wheel harvesters when you don't have a steep slope to navigate and work on. Tracked harvesters are the choice for those who need to work on slopes consistently and need greater stability. Generally, harvesters are not designed to be used on multi-limbed trees. Rather, they're made for processing single stem trees, like aspen and conifers. These machines are typically paired with self-loading trucks and forwarders on work sites.

6. Knuckleboom Loaders

Knuckleboom loaders are a type of log loader. They come with fast hydraulic systems that allow for swift boom and swing applications as they handle logs. You can find knuckleboom loaders that are trailer mounted, wheel based or track based. Trailer-mounted knuckleboom loaders tend to be the least expensive since they have to be hauled into a location to handle the logs. Wheeled knuckleboom loaders can move around a work site faster, and tracked wheel loaders move slower but offer greater stability.

Knuckleboom loaders are primarily used for handling and loading trees of average size. Operators use these machines to organize logs and set them in piles. After the piles reach a specified size, the loaders will then place the logs onto a transport truck.

You can purchase log loaders that offer different gross powers and knuckleboom lengths. For instance, a smaller knuckleboom loader designed to handle smaller logs may have a gross power of 75 horsepower and a knuckleboom length of 27 feet. A larger knuckleboom loader may have a gross power of 173 horsepower and a length of 32 feet.

7. Ride-On and Walk-Behind Trenchers

Trenchers are designed to dig into the ground and create trenches used for a variety of applications. The cutting power of trenchers also makes them able to cut through tree roots and assist with the tree felling process. If you need a trencher for your work, you can choose between walk-behind trenchers and ride-on trenchers.

Walk-behind trenchers are the most basic kind of trencher where operators have to walk behind the equipment to dig trenches and cut roots. This configuration is still a powerful option and can often have dig depths ranging from 36 inches to 48 inches. They're often well-suited for smaller work sites where the trencher doesn't have to go great distances and needs to maneuver in tight spaces.

For larger job sites, ride-on trenchers are often a great choice. They keep the operator comfortable as they ride on the trencher, driving it with controls instead of pushing it. Since they tend to be larger, these trenchers are better suited for work sites with fewer obstacles and open spaces. If you have to maneuver around obstacles or operate in a tight environment, ride-behind trenchers may not be your best choice.

It's also important to note that ride-on trenchers tend to have digging depths that go deeper. Smaller models may have a maximum digging depth of 36 inches, while larger models may go as deep as 97 inches. Due to the greater power of ride-on trenchers, they're usually better equipped to handle heavy tree roots and tougher ground conditions.

8. Skidders

Skidders are used in logging operations to pull trees away from a cutting site to a landing. After the skidder drops the logs off at a landing, the logs are loaded into a truck or other type of machine to be taken to a mill. Skidders typically use grapples or cable to grasp and pull the logs, with these devices mounted to booms or arches. Many skidders will also have a blade mounted on the front of the machine to move obstructions out of the way.

Many skidders come with cable drums and grapples. You can find skidders with both of these options, while some will have one or the other. A skidder with a grapple can pick up multiple trees at once. A cable skidder features chokers attached to a skid line, with the number of chokers ranging based on the size of trees the operator plans to work with. These cable skidders will also feature a fixed arch and a cable running over it, which helps lift logs.

Skidders typically come with either wheels or tracks. Wheeled skidders will be faster and create less soil movement. Tracked skidders tend to be able to handle steeper terrain with greater stability. The tracked machines can be used to create roads and landings. If you're primarily looking for speed and are on fairly flat terrain, wheeled skidders are a great choice. If you're working on steep slopes and need to build landings or roads, the tracked skidders are usually the better option.

Since there are various trees and jobs, you can find skidders with different grapple capacities and gross power. A smaller skidder may have as little as 136 horsepower, while a larger one may have a gross power of 275 horsepower. You can also see differences with grapple capacities, with the smaller machines having a grapple capacity of around 14 1/2 feet and the larger machines having a grapple capacity of around 22 feet.

9. Stump Grinders

Stump grinders are designed to get rid of tree stumps in a location by using a rotating cutting disk. These machines usually have a cutter wheel featuring fixed carbide teeth. The cutter wheels in these stump grinders can be controlled with hydraulic cylinders. The cutter head relies on the hydraulic cylinders to help it push through the stump of the tree.

Since tree stumps vary in size, you can find stump grinders in different sizes. Some of these stump grinders can be as large as a vehicle or as small as a lawnmower. The stump grinder uses its high-speed rotating cutting disks and their teeth to grind up the roots and stumps. The stump grinder also generates small chips from the roots and stump.

There a few types of stump grinders available that can be pulled along by excavators and tractors. Some may need to be transported with a more heavy-duty trailer or machine. This tree work device can recover the central part of roots or remove the roots entirely in only a few seconds.

Why Choose a Rental for Tree Work?

If you're a company that regularly works with trees, you've likely wondered if you should rent tree work equipment. There are many benefits to renting equipment, which makes it a great financial decision for many companies. Renting can also improve productivity and open up new client opportunities as you can quickly access equipment for almost any tree work project.

Check out some of the following benefits to renting tree work equipment:

  • Greater flexibility: If you don't use certain machines on an everyday basis, rental machines can be a solid option. Renting tree work equipment allows you to select machines for a single job, paying for them as long as you need them and returning them once you're done. The short-term commitment of rental equipment means you can be prepared for any job, swapping out equipment as needed for your changing jobs and requirements.
  • Reduced costs: Rental tree work equipment doesn't require you to put down a large investment or make any long-term payments. These lower costs can be ideal when you don't plan on using a piece of equipment for a long time or very often. You also don't have to worry about transportation or storage expenses, which can add up over time and may put a financial strain on a company.
  • More access to a range of machines: Renting also gives you the option to select various tree work machines. As you plan out your projects for a set period, you may need to use different types of tree work equipment at various work sites. A rental company should have many tree work machines available to rent, meaning you never have to go into a project without the most efficient equipment in your corner.
  • Last-minute availability: Sometimes when you're doing tree work, you may run into a challenge you hadn't anticipated that your current equipment can't handle. Instead of having to use a machine that's not equipped to handle a type of tree or job, you can reach out to a rental company and get an optimal piece of equipment to your work site quickly. This availability reduces downtime and helps you get jobs finished on time without delays in the project timeline.
  • Upgraded equipment: New technology is continuously being added to tree work equipment. This upgraded technology makes it easier for some companies to complete jobs faster, improve the operator's comfort and tackle new challenges. When you rent equipment, you'll have access to the newest technology and upgraded equipment whenever you require it. By having more technology available to you, you can always stay ahead of the competition. And if you prefer to use less technically advanced models, you can still rent this equipment.

Choose Tree Work Rentals From The Cat® Rental Store

If renting equipment appeals to you, The Cat® Rental Store can help. We have a huge inventory of tree work equipment you can choose from to find the right machine for your upcoming project. Our machines are reliable and able to get to your job site promptly. Our offline and online support team will be happy to walk you through the rental process, helping you select a machine at the price you require.

Ready to get started on your next tree work project? Browse our selection of tree work equipment. If you're ready to rent a piece of equipment or have any questions, find your local dealer today.

Find The Cat Rental Store Near You