How to Repair a Broken Tree Branch

Updated November 21, 2016

Fast-growing trees are common around homes, as homeowners plant them for shade. However, these trees also tend to have brittle bark, limbs easily broken during snow, ice and windstorms and the damage can be severe. Should a branch break, your goal is to repair the damage to ensure the tree does not suffer from torn bark and that diseases don't invade through this access point. Remove broken branches to keep the tree healthy.

Use pruning shears to remove branches less than 3 inches in diameter, recommends Michigan State University Extension.

Use the three-cut procedure for large branches. Removing heavy branches with only one cut could tear healthy bark, which further injures the tree.

Make the first cut on the underside of the branch about 12 to 18 inches from the trunk. Don't cut all the way through the branch, but only about halfway. Whatever the distance, be sure to remove the saw blade before the branch begins to bind it.

Make the second cut on the top of the branch, one to two inches beyond the first cut. This releases the tension holding the branch. Cut all the way through.

Make a third cut to remove the stub. Stubs should never be left on the tree because they are an opening for disease. Cut just outside the branch collar, which is the slight ridge where the branch extends from the trunk.

Cut ragged edges of torn bark away, should the three-cut procedure result in tearing. Remove as little healthy bark as possible.

Make a repair cut with a sharp knife to cut around the ripped bark. This is called "bark tracing." The cut, according to University of Illinois Extension, should resemble "an elongated football." The pointed ends of the cut should be at either end of the damaged area and the connecting cuts should be as parallel as possible to the original damage. This will ensure that very little healthy bark is removed.


Work slowly and methodically. Use common sense. If the branch looks too heavy to manage on your own, it probably is. Hire a tree service or another professional to do the job for you. If the branch is touching, or anywhere near, power lines, call a professional. Make sure the falling branch won't hit nearby fences, cars or buildings. Wear gloves, a helmet and eye protection at the very least. Have a partner hold the ladder.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Sharp saw
  • Step stool or ladder
  • Sharp knife
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About the Author

Based in Fort Collins, Colo., Dannah Swift has been writing since 2009. She writes about green living, careers and the home garden. Her writing has appeared on various websites. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of New Hampshire and is currently pursuing a certificate in paralegal studies.