Supporting Trees with Cables and Braces

By Nancy Penrose

Sometimes trees grow so large they can no longer support their own weight. This is a common problem with a mature tree or big trees that have multiple trunks or large canopies. Trees with branches attached in a “V” shape can have similar issues. The problem can be exacerbated during winter months, when rain and snow increases the weight of a tree’s foliage. Strong winds will also make the situation worse.

Too much weight can also occur when a tree has long and heavy limbs, particularly if they grow downward or horizontally.

If a tree has been planted in shallow or compacted soil, support difficulties can occur as well.

When a tree can’t support itself properly, it can fall, which can lead to property damage and personal injuries.

Pruning is one way to keep tree weight down. However, at some point, cables and braces may be necessary to give a tree the additional and permanent support it needs.

Cables, which are placed high in the tree, reduce branch movement and breakage. Braces are installed below or above the branch that needs support. Many times, cables and braces are installed together.

Both cables and braces come in a variety of materials and strength. Depending on the tree, some will need a single cable, while others will require multiple cables placed in the shape of a box or triangle. How many braces are used will also depend on the tree and branch that needs support.

After installing a cable or brace, make sure to check it for weather damage throughout the year.

If you’re worried about a tree on your property, ask a big trees specialist about your tree care options. Someone with big tree experience will know whether or not the tree can be saved with additional support, or if it would be more cost-effective to purchase a new tree. If cables and braces can save your tree, a big tree expert can show you what type of support to use and where to place it.

Nancy Penrose is owner of Big Trees Inc. (, (tree nursery Snohomish, WA), one of the largest Seattle tree nurserys, specializing in large trees for sale and transplant tree service. Learn more about tree care at and for more tips on tree care or installation go to See our video at and connect with us on Facebook at