A Practical Guide to Mini Excavator Tree Removal

MattPublished: December 27, 2023
A Practical Guide to Mini Excavator Tree Removal

Key Takeaways
  • Mini Excavators Are Effective for Tree Removal: Mini excavators, traditionally used for digging, are also capable of efficiently removing trees, especially in tight spaces or residential areas.
  • Steps for Safe Removal: The process involves assessing the tree and area, wearing safety gear, digging around the tree to expose roots, cutting the roots, and then gently pushing the tree over with the excavator.
  • Choosing the Right Excavator: For tree removal, select a mini excavator that balances power, stability, and maneuverability. Models like the Kubota KX040-4, Caterpillar 305E2 CR, John Deere 35G, Bobcat E35, and Yanmar ViO35-6A are recommended.

You've got a tree and want it gone. Think a mini excavator can remove it? The answer is yes! 

Mini excavators are not just for digging but also quite effective in tree removal tasks. We've removed more trees than we can count with our John Deere 17G.

Gone are the days of back-breaking labor to get that tree out of your front yard.

Can mini excavators handle tree removal?


While traditionally used for digging and excavation, mini excavators are versatile machines capable of handling various tasks, including tree removal. 

Their compact size allows for maneuverability in tight spaces, making them ideal for residential and light commercial work. 

Most mini diggers have between a 15 and 40 horsepower engine, which is more than enough to remove that stubborn oak from your yard.

How to remove a tree with a mini excavator.

Mini Excavator Digging Around Base of Tree

While a small digger can definitely remove a tree, there are a few steps you should follow to make your life easier.

  1. Assess the tree and area. Check the tree's size and the surrounding area. Ensure there's enough space for the tree to fall without causing damage. Typically, a mini excavator can only handle a 20' tree with an 8" trunk, but it depends on the tree type and whether it's dead or alive.
  2. Safety first. Wear appropriate safety gear and clear the area of bystanders. You'll also want to call your local dig authority to ensure you're not going to hit any lines or pipes.
  3. Dig around the tree. Use the excavator to dig around the tree, exposing the roots. Be careful not to destabilize the tree prematurely. It's okay to cut a few of the roots during this step as long as it does not destabilize the tree.
  4. Cut the roots. Once the roots are exposed, use the excavator bucket to cut through them. You may need a saw for thicker roots. Start on the opposite side you want the tree to fall.
  5. Push the tree over. After cutting the roots, gently nudge the tree with the excavator bucket until it begins to fall. Make sure it's falling in the desired direction.
  6. Remove the tree. Once down, use the excavator to lift and move the tree to a designated area for further processing or disposal.

Now you have the tree removed, and the stump is gone as well.

Best mini excavators for tree removal.

As we mentioned, we love our John Deere 17G; it does a great job. However, there are other diggers who are equally capable.

When choosing a mini excavator for tree removal, you want a balance of power, stability, and maneuverability. Here are a few models that excel in these areas—

Mini Excavator ModelDescriptionApproximate Horsepower
Kubota KX040-4Power and efficiency, ideal for heavy-duty tasks, tight tail swing.40.4 HP
Caterpillar 305E2 CRExcellent lift capacity, comfortable operator station, good for precision tasks.40.2 HP
John Deere 35GGood balance and lifting power, user-friendly for all skill levels.23.3 HP
Bobcat E35Versatile, compact, and offers good maneuverability and lift capacity.33.5 HP
Yanmar ViO35-6AZero tail swing, fuel-efficient, and suitable for a range of tasks.24.4 HP

These are some of the ones we've used over the years, so we can definitely vouch for their capabilities.

Some other significant brands include Hitachi and Komatsu. Both make great excavators and should be able to handle 10-20' trees with ease.

Tips for effective tree removal.

Exposed Root System of a Oak Tree

Never take out a tree? Don't worry; our experts put together a few of their best tips for effectively, efficiently, and safely removing a pesky tree.

  • Know your equipment. Familiarize yourself with the excavator's controls and capabilities. Each model is different. If you are renting, the rental company will show you how to use it properly.
  • Plan your approach. Every tree is different. Plan your digging and cutting strategy based on the tree's size and root structure. Having a plan in place will make life a lot easier when taking down the tree.
  • Stay alert. Always be aware of the tree's movement during the process to avoid unexpected falls. There's a reason they call big trees "widow makers."

With that, you'll be able to knock down a tree in the afternoon.

Come up with a plan and remove that tree!

Using a mini excavator for tree removal can be efficient and time-saving, especially for smaller trees and in tight spaces. 

Sure, there's the old-school method of taking down the tree — cut the branches, cut the trunk, then grind out the stump — but this way is much easier and less labor-intensive. 

Remember, safety and planning are essential. With the right approach and equipment, you can confidently tackle tree removal projects.



Excavation Expert

Matt is a highly experienced heavy equipment operator with over two decades of experience in the construction industry. His expertise covers a wide range of machinery and project types, and he is known for his focus on safety, efficiency, and problem-solving. Matt's commitment to delivering high-quality work within deadlines and budgets has made him highly respected at Centex Excavation and the excavation industry.

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