The question of whether it’s necessary to dig before clearing trees from one’s yard is one that has many possible answers, depending on the type of tree you own, whether or not the tree is still alive, and whether the tree is small enough for its roots to be ignored.
Let’s start with the beginning: the most effective way of removing a tree from your property is to remove it together with its roots. After all, if the tree isn’t dead, cutting it down partially will simply slow its growth. In fact, there are a lot of different types of trees that will start growing new branches as soon as they were cut down.
Of course, even with dead trees, old stubs can be unsightly, and they can also get in your way if you want to build something new in their place. As a result, excavating to remove the roots might be the only solution in certain cases.
While smaller trees have small enough roots to be removed just using a simple shovel, many larger or older trees can extend their roots across an area with a diameter greater than 5-7 feet. This poses some serious problems when you try to excavate the roots, since some might be entangled with underground utility lines. The best course of action would be to call 811 for an underground cable locator evaluation prior to attempting any excavation work, and make sure nothing will be damaged in the process.