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Last updated: 03/03/2017
IMAGE - Élagage
Pruning and topping

Tree topping

Tree topping is prohibited.
You could be liable for a fine!        

Tree topping consists in cutting the crown of a tree (or upper main branch) to reduce the tree’s height. However, this practice often leads to a tree becoming unhealthy and unsafe. This is why tree topping is a municipal by-law violation which may result in a fine.

The consequences of tree topping

— Tree topping often leaves a large wound which will never heal. Open wounds also expose the inside of the tree to bacteria, funghi and insect infestations. Decay sets in and spreads to the trunk and roots: consequently the tree’s life expectancy is reduced by half or more. This cavity has a disastrous effect on the strength of the tree. 

— Such drastic pruning also immediately reduces the tree’s reserves (essentially starch and soluble sugars). A topped tree becomes very weak and more vulnerable to external aggressions such as pollution, cold, draught, salinity, subsequent pruning, etc. In addition, its resistance to disease is  lessened.

— A tree’s response to topping is often to quickly grow suckers. This is why some people claim that topping “reinvigorates” a tree: THIS IS TOTALLY FALSE.  These new shoots which are meant to replace the cut-off crown are not as solidly anchored as the original crown. They grow from the cambium located under the bark. They are therefore very weakly attached compared to the old crown which was entirely supported by the trunk and are highly susceptible to breakage from strong winds or weight from excessive growth.

— Given the depletion of the reserves, the roots regress which translates into less anchorage into the soil (risks of windthrow).

— Topping also changes the specific and natural outline of the tree. In winter, the rows of trees transformed into posts have a most unaesthetic appearance. 

—A topped tree is an impending expense. The costs of keeping an eye on unsafe trees, of carrying out restoration pruning and of replacing a dead tree are very high. 

However, if you believe topping is required, for example to clear power lines or to remove a dead, diseased or unsafe crown, please ask the Town for an authorization certificate.

There are many reasons for pruning a tree. Often there are dead and dangerous branches that must be removed. You may want to reshape or lighten a tree. Diseased branches can sometimes be removed to help prevent further spread of the pathogen. Whatever the reason for pruning, be sure to do it or have it done correctly.

If there is a considerable amount of work to be done, you may wish to hire a professional arborist. In this case, consult the Website of the Société Internationale d’Arboriculture du Québec (SIAQ) or the yellow pages. Keep in mind that some entrepreneurs are specialised in the felling of trees while professional arborists are trained in tree maintenance and conservation. In general, professional arborists will avoid harmful practices such as topping and over-pruning.

On the other hand, if the pruning job does not entail climbing, you may want to do the work yourself. In this case follow these guidelines:

  • Never cut branches near power line
  • Avoid pruning trees in the spring and fall
  • Do not top large healthy trees
  • Avoid removing large branches
  • Use the proper tools
For more information, consult our green file on pruning mature trees.


The use of climbers is only allowed for tree cutting or when the security of pruners is compromised. (By-Law 771)


Under the “Environment” Chapter of the Zoning By-Law, every owner has the responsibility to protect
the trees on his or her property. Indeed, every owner must take the appropriate measures to
adequately protect the branches, trunks and roots of trees located next to his or her house, garage,
cabana and every other secondary building. Pruning must be done in a way not to impact the tree’s
growth and health. Topping a tree which consists in cutting the main leader to reduce its height is an
illicit practice. Fines issued in such circumstances start at $600, for each tree, to which court fees of
$255 are added. The fine can reach $5000.
Ville de Saint-Lazare © 2002-2018
1960, chemin Sainte-Angélique, Saint-Lazare (Québec), J7T 3A3
Telephone: 450 424-8000

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