The cold, hard truth about black walnut tree removals

By Jay C. Hayek, Extension Forestry Specialist

Many people who have black walnut trees or other trees in their yard may wonder if they can sell the trees for lumber or veneer. The following information should provide some insight.

First of all, very few individuals are going to pay a homeowner to physically remove a yard tree. The physical act of removing a yard tree is a “service” provided by a certified arborist. Don’t confuse yard tree removal with traditional timber harvesting – they are not the same! Certified arborists are in the business of tree removal and tree care – they are not loggers, nor are they in the business of buying yard trees from homeowners. Similarly, loggers are in the timber business and they buy standing timber from woodland owners – they are not certified arborists, nor are they in the business of buying or removing yard trees from someone’s front yard.

Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes, of course! Exceptions to this rule include: (1) large, very high quality, high value black walnut yard trees located on large lots and in more rural areas and (2) large, extremely high quality, high value black walnut yard trees found on lots where tree removal is not encumbered by vertical or horizontal hazards or structures (for example, power lines, houses, garages, patios, landscaping, etc.).

It may be possible to market or sell the merchantable sawlog portion of your yard tree after the certified arborist has taken it down. The sawlog portion of the main stem may contain useable lumber for making conference tables, executive desks, high-end custom furniture, flooring and gunstocks. The task of marketing this recently taken down tree will require some significant effort on you part, as you will need to find and locate a willing buyer for your log or logs.

Homeowner options for finding and locating a willing “log” buyer:

1) Contact a portable/custom sawmill operator or custom wood worker to determine if they have any interest in your standing or recently felled black walnut yard tree. http://illinoisurbanwood.org/sawyers/. Be prepared to supply them with the diameter measurement of your tree, or logs, and multiple high-resolution digital photos of the main stem.

2) Contact a local timber buyer: http://dnr.illinois.gov/timberbuyers/.

3) Contact a local certified arborist: http://illinoisarborist.org/services-we-provide/find-an-arborist/. Some arborists may be willing to negotiate the potential log value of your black walnut yard tree as part of their tree removal service/fee. Some certified arborists even have their own portable sawmills.

4) Place an advertisement in a newspaper or on a website such as: www.woodweb.com or www.woodfinder.com.

In summary, you will more than likely have to pay someone to remove your yard since the physical act of removing a tree from someone’s yard is both dangerous and expensive. However, you may be able to sell, barter, or trade the useable sawlog portion(s) of the tree to offset a portion of the tree removal cost.

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