DIY Do's And Don'ts

24 Uses for a Dead Tree

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ShutterstockBefore turning a dead tree into firewood, check to see if woodworkers might want to pay you for the lumber.
Sooner or later, every homeowner will likely face the problem of having a dead tree on their property. Whether it's insects, over- or under-watering, a raised soil level impairing oxygen to the tree or a host of other problems, chances are that over a homeowner's lifetime they'll have a dead tree to deal with.

The easy solution is to hire someone to haul it away. But if you're looking to save money and reuse the wood for something worthwhile, we have 24 ideas for what to do with a dead tree:

1. Leave it standing: If it's not a danger to people or structure on your property, then leave it where it is. Birds, bugs and other creatures will make it a home.

However, you may want to check with your home insurance company to see if it covers your home if the dead tree or termites, beetles and other pests drawn to the tree damage your home. Limbs from dead trees may eventually fall onto your house, car, child or neighbor's house, for example, so the insurer may recommend having the tree removed.

2. Decorate it: If it's safe to keep the tree where it is, turn it into yard art by hanging colored lights from it.

3. Free firewood: If you have a fireplace, the best use may be to cut up the tree and split it for firewood. Hard woods such as maple and oak will burn the longest, and soft woods such as spruce and pine burn faster and can be used for kindling.

4. Sell the lumber: If you have a tree such as a black walnut, you have a lot of valuable lumber and many woodworkers would be glad to remove the tree and pay you for the wood, says Pablo Solomon, an artist and designer in Austin, Texas.

5. Fencing: If you need a fence, even if it's just a decorative fence with a few planks, cut off lengths of an old tree to build a fence or at least use for fenceposts.

6. Build a brush pile: If you have enough land and don't mind the view of a large pile of dead tree limbs, build a brush pile to give wildlife a refuge to live in.

7. Garden mulch: Rent a mulching machine or hire a mulching service to make mulch to help your garden grow.

8. Garden stakes: Cut longer poles for garden stakes to give tomatoes and other large plants room to grow and be supported.

9. Build borders: Use logs or planks to edge garden beds or walkways.

10. Stop dog escapes: Bury logs or planks along your fenceline to discourage dogs from digging out and escaping from your yard.

11. Compost bin: Use logs or planks to build a compost bin or enclosure.

12. Stepping stones: Cut "slices" from a trunk to use as garden stepping stones. Sprinkle them with sand or fine gravel to make them non-slip.

13. Feed the birds on a stump: A trunk cross section can be used as a seed platform for ground-feeding birds like Mourning Doves. The platform prevents spilled seeds from germinating in your garden bed or lawn. Be sure to drill holes so rainwater can drain off.

14. Hanging bird feeder: For fruit-loving birds like orioles, create a hanging feeder with a small branch. Put a nail through it and hang it from a branch or pergola. Drill three holes around the outside edge and attach short lengths of chain to hang it with. Pound in a few nails to impale apples or oranges on for the birds to eat.

15. Birdbath: Hollow a shallow indentation into a stump or a big section of trunk with a hammer and chisel. Let it dry then seal with a layer of concrete. Allow it to cure before filling with water as a birdbath.

16. Bird-nesting box: Either find a shape of the tree that's already small enough to fit a bird's nest, or build a bird nesting box from the dead tree's wood.

17. Build a bench: Use a plank for the seat and branches for the legs to build a unique bench.

18. Build a swing set: For this you may want to take the wood to a miller to prepare smooth pieces of wood so you can build a swinging seat for two in your garden or patio. Or, build a simple garden swing for your kids and hang it from a tree.

19. Build a seat: Leave the tree stump where it is and carve it into a seat. Or if you don't like the rustic version, cut the stump into a seat or coffee table, varnish them and bring them indoors to use.

20. Stamp set: Cut small shapes or letters to create a stamp set for your kids, to be used with an ink pad or paints.

21. Refrigerator magnets: If you're really good at woodworking, carve small shapes or letters from a piece of wood and glue small magnets to the back to create unique rustic magnet sets for the fridge.

22. Make a funny face: Make a whimsical "face" with a cross section of trunk as the face, with small pieces of other trees or yard debris as facial features.

23. Create art: Carve the stump or a large section of the trunk into a sculpture. Release the art inside the wood.

24. Make a planter: Cut a hole in the stump and fill with soil to create a unique planter for annuals.

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