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Will Drilling Into A Tree Kill It?

Whether you want to build a treehouse from your tree or hang another outdoor project, you might be wondering if drilling your tree will hurt it? 

Drilling into a tree will not likely kill it unless it was injected with herbicide too, but drilling holes can cause damage depending on the type of tree you are drilling so you need to be careful about how many holes you are making and pick the right tree. 

We have composed a small guide below which will explain how to safely drill a hole into a tree trunk of healthy trees and how to choose the right tree, we will also cover how to kill a tree by drilling it if you need to remove one. 

How Do Trees Heal From Drilling?

When you drill into a tree it will naturally start a process called compartmentalization where it builds a wall around where you drilled the hole, this is what allows you to make a few holes without completely killing the tree, but when chemicals are put inside the holes it can lead to major damage.

Our Guide To Drilling Into a Tree (Without Killing It)

To avoid making serious, long-term damage to your tree, you have to make sure you are drilling holes in the least invasive way possible, some trees are a big no-no for any type of holes and are not suitable for being the beams of tree houses. 

Step One – Choose The Right Tree Type 

First of all, before drilling any couple of holes into your tree, you need to check what type it is first as some trees such as softwood types do not handle weird drilling holes very well. 

We have listed the types of trees which are okay for drilling down below. 

  • Douglas Fir trees – These trees can handle a small deal of damage despite being a softwood.
  • Maple trees – Maple trees are excellent hardwearing trees thanks to their major roots and are resilient trees for making holes in.
  • Oak trees – Very common types of trees which are excellent for perch tree houses or any hanging due to their hardwearing trunk.
  • Paw Paw trees – A soft type of hardwood tree that has both the benefits of being hardwearing yet soft enough to drill into.

Step Two – Find the Right Location 

Consider where you are going to hang or put a structure according to the tree, once you drill a hole in the tree it will continue to grow so you have to make sure that you know the nail will stay put but the depth might change over the years, meaning you might have to re-drill eventually. 

Step Three – Pick The Right Screw

As well as picking the right location and tree, you should consider the type of screw you are going to be drilling into it. 

For example, if you are going to be building a treehouse then you might want to use a TAB attachment that will limit damage to the tree, or for nails, you can use standard stainless steel or galvanized nails for extra protection.

Step Four – Be Careful With The Holes

When drilling never make too many unnecessary holes as this will make it harder for the tree to heal itself, also avoid putting anything inside of them which could disrupt the natural healing process.

How To Kill a Tree By Drilling It 

If you have an invasive tree species on your property you might be looking for ways to kill it without having to pay for tree surgery. 

We’ve put together a small guide below which outlines how to do this by drilling the tree. 

  • Step one – Use a 10mm drill bit and place it at a 45-degree angle against the trunk of the tree around 12-inches off the ground and create a hole that is at least 1-inch deep in depth.
  • Step two – Repeat this on the other side of the trunk then create holes underneath on both sides by drilling another hole 2-inches underneath each one. do this on other trunks if your tree has multiple.
  • Step three – Use a garden sprayer and pour in some powerful tree killer herbicide which is diluted and spray the mixture inside of each hole. 
  • Step four – The tree should then die after 6 months as long as the trunk is no larger than 5/8 of an inch, make sure you put an X to identify where the holes are and where you have sprayed.

Final Words

To conclude, drilling into the right type of tree will not kill it, as long as you make minimal holes and do not fill them with any chemicals like herbicide. Always make sure you are drilling the right kind of tree and use the best screw too. 

For killing a tree it might take a few months to see a difference, always make sure you are wearing protective equipment when drilling holes for both purposes.

Scott Buckley

Scott Buckley

I'm Scott, a Woodworker by day and book geek by night. I love making things out of wood. While I have and still, on occassion do, work with metal and plastics, I find them to be cold and somewhat boring. Wood is warm and I feel close to nature with it. I started as a means to help like minded creative folk to answer burning questions. I hope you enjoy reading and learning, and always feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions!

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