In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook and certified arborist Matt Foti show how to judiciously cut back an overgrown tree.
1. To thin the tree, start by finding parallel branches, then use a chainsaw to remove one of the branches.
2. Saw through branches using the three-cut method: Make an undercut about one-third into the branch, followed by a top cut just beyond the undercut.
3. Continue the top cut until the branch falls away.
4. The third and final cut is to trim the remaining branch from the trunk without slicing into the branch collar. Don't trim the branch flush with the trunk.
5. When choosing not to remove an entire branch, make a drop-crotch cut: saw away the heavier of the two branches, leaving the fork.
6. While pruning, keep in mind that you only want to reduce the foliage by 20 to 30 percent. Removing any more foliage could permanently disfigure the tree.