How to repair a split tree branch

Updated November 21, 2016

Tree branches are often damaged as the result of heavy ice and storm winds. It is necessary to completely remove some damaged limbs in order to save the tree. However, it is possible to save limbs that split--especially those in the fork of a tree. Repairing a split branch restores stability to the tree, prevents insect and moisture damage and helps maintain the overall appearance of the tree.

Put on gloves to protect your hands while working on the tree. Locate the split limb on the tree. Inspect the entire limb for breaks and damage that cannot be repaired. Cut damage from the end or along the length of the limb with bypass pruners.

Trim the damaged bark at the point of the split on the limb. Use a knife to trim away ragged or torn bark. Avoid cutting deep into the tree and only remove what is necessary to join the two parts of the limb so they fit flush together.

Place a ratchet tie-down strap around the limb and main trunk of the tree, or another undamaged limb. Connect the hooks on the end of the ratchet strap together and tighten the strap to pull the split limb halves back together. Position the strap 6 feet or higher above the split for good leverage.

Drill a pilot hole through the limb and into the trunk of the tree. Use a drill and drill bit that is slightly smaller in diameter than the bolt you will use. Insert the bolt through the limb and into the trunk of the tree. Use a wrench to help drive and tighten the bolt to hold the split together.

Apply a coat of tree wound dressing along the split where it is pulled back together. Apply the dressing liberally to seal the wound and help prevent insect and water damage.


Adjust the position of the ratchet strap periodically to prevent damage to the tree. Adjust the position of the strap slightly up or down the tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Bypass pruners
  • Gloves
  • Ratchet strap
  • Drill with bit
  • Bolt
  • Knife
  • Tree wound dressing
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About the Author

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.