How Do You Measure The Height of A Tree in Your Backyard?

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Trees add a curb appeal to your property, whether a house or an office building. They can also help you save energy. Carefully positioned trees can reduce your energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 25%, saving $100 to $250 in energy costs annually.

But the trees need to be healthy. And one of the signs of healthy trees is their height. Tree height measurement can also tell you how fertile your site is, helping you plan your landscape better. 

You will also need this measurement when felling a tree. It will help you determine if the tree might hit anything, such as a house, garage, or car.

So, how does tree height measurement work?

Let’s learn more about a few different methods of measuring tree height.

Understanding Tree Height Measurement

Discovered on August 25, 2006, by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, a specimen of Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National Park in California, USA, is currently the tallest living tree in the world. Nicknamed Hyperion, it measures 115.92 m (380.3 ft.) with a diameter of 4.94 m (16 ft. 2.5 in). It was measured by climbing and with a direct tape-drop.

Fortunately, you don’t have to climb every tree in your backyard to measure its height. There are a few much easier tree height measurement techniques. Let’s learn about them in detail.

Method 1: The Paper Method

This is perhaps the simplest tree height measurement method out there. As a tree removal company in Utah, we recommend using this method if you don’t have the advanced tools. Plus, you don’t need any math to determine the height of a tree.

All you need for this is a square-shaped piece of paper, a stick, and a tape measure. You don’t need to get into intricate trigonometric calculations. 

Here’s how this works:

  • The first step is to fold the piece of paper into a triangle. If you have a rectangular sheet of paper, you will need to cut off the extra paper above the triangle. 
  • The longest side, opposite the 90-degree angle, is called the hypotenuse.
  • Now hold the paper in front of one eye while facing the tree. Hold the paper at a 45-degree angle while looking along the hypotenuse.
  • Hold the paper firmly in your hand and move away from the tree. Keep moving until you can see the top of the tree at the tip of the triangle. Close one eye and look at the tree from along the side of the hypotenuse.
  • When you see the top of the tree at the tip of the triangle, mark the spot using a stick.
  • Measure the distance from this spot to the base of the tree. Add your own height to this as you look at the tree from your eye level. This distance is the height of your tree. 
  • For example, if your height is 5.10 ft and the distance is 32 ft, the tree will be 37.10 ft tall.

As you can see, this is the simplest tree height measurement method. It may not be accurate, but it will provide you with the best possible answer.

Method 2: Comparing Shadows

This tree height measurement method requires only a tape measure. But you will need basic math skills, such as multiplications and divisions. In other words, it’s also an easy method that provides you with a nearly accurate measure of the tree height.

But before you go ahead with this tree height measurement method, keep the following in mind.

  • You will need an assistant to measure the height of your shadow. Ask a friend or family member to join you.
  • The tree needs to be on leveled or flat ground. If the tree is on a slope, your measurements will not be accurate.
  • You can use an online tree height calculator to avoid doing any math at all.
  • Wear the same footwear when measuring your height and the tree height. It will increase the accuracy of your calculations.
  • Use the same tape measure or yardstick to measure your height and that of the tree.
  • You can’t use a combination of feet and inches for this tree height measurement method. Convert all your measurements into inches or meters using an online converter.
  • For best results, do this on a bright sunny day when you can see shadows clearly.

Here’s how this works:

  • Stand on sunny, flat ground near the tree. Remember, standing on flat ground is necessary to get accurate measurements.
  • First, use a tape measure or yardstick to measure your height while standing erect. 
  • Note the distance between your toes and the tip of your shadow. Ask your assistant to do this as you stand erect.
  • Write down and label each measurement.
  • Use a tape measure to measure the distance between the tree base and the tip of its shadow.
  • Now, note the width of the tree base and half the width of the length of its shadow. Divide the diameter by two to get half the width of the tree base.

The final step in this tree height measurement method is calculating the final height. You will have three measurements, your height, the length of your shadow, and the length of the tree shadow (including half the width of its base).

For example,

Your height (A) = 5 ft

The length of your shadow (B) = 8 ft 2 inches

The length of tree shadow (C) = 110 ft

First, convert all the measurements into either meters or inches. Let’s convert them into meters. 

Now your measurements are:

Your height (A) = 1.5 m

The length of your shadow (B) = 2.5 m  

The length of tree shadow (C) = 33.5 m

You can use an online tree height measurement calculator. Just add the values to get your answer. Here’s an example.

Or, you can do this manually. The formula is:

Tree height = [Your height (A) X The length of tree shadow (C)]/ [The length of your shadow (B)]

Tree height = [1.5 X 33.5]/2.5

Tree height = 20.10 meters

Method 3: Pencil and Assist

This is probably the best height measurement alternative to the shadow method. This method requires you to have an assistant, a tape measure, and a pencil. However, this method is less accurate compared to the shadow method.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind

  • This tree height measurement method works only on sunny days.
  • The tree should be growing on flat or level ground.
  • You need an assistant and a tape measure for accurate results.

Here’s how this works:

  • Stand away from the tree so that you can see the entire tree without having to move your head. Make sure you have an unobstructed view of the tree.
  • Hold the pencil at arm’s length with its sharpened tip pointing upwards.
  • Close one eye and hold the pencil along your eyesight. Move it up or down so that its tip covers the top of the tree in your eyesight.
  • Adjust your thumb such that it aligns with the tree base. Keep the pencil straight and its tip aligned with the top of the tree.
  • Keep your thumb at the center of the base. Rotate your arm until the pencil is horizontal to the tree base.
  • Ask your friend to move along your eyesight so that their feet are at the tip of the pencil. Ask your friend to mark this spot with a rock or a stick.
  • Measure the distance between this spot and the tree base. This is the height of your tree.

Method 4: Inclinometer or Clinometer

An inclinometer, or clinometer, is used to measure angles of slope, elevation, or depression. You can use it for accurate tree height measurement. As a tree removal company in Utah, we often rely on this instrument for the same. You can purchase it from a local hardware store or order it online.

Here’s how this works:

  • With your back to the tree, walk away from it in a straight line. Walk about one to one and a half meters from the tree. Use a measuring tape to note the actual distance.
  • Turn around and hold the base (the wooden sight of the clinometer) along your eyesight with one eye closed. Hold the clinometer at arm’s length.
  • Sight along until your eye and arm make a straight line to the top of the tree. Ask your friend or family member to note down the angle made by the plumb line to the tree top.
  • You will also need to measure and note down your height.

Now comes the calculations part. You will have three measurements at this point.

Your height (A) = 1.5 m

The angle made by the plumb line to the tree top (B) = 45 degrees

Distance between you and the tree (C) = 33.5 m

Tree height (from your eye level) = Distance between you and the tree (C) X (TAN B)

Tree height (from your eye level) = 33.5 X TAN (45)

Tree height (from your eye level) = 33.5 X 1.62

Tree height (from your eye level) = 54.26 m

Now, you will have to add your height to this answer.

Tree height = Tree height (from your eye level) + Your height (A)

Tree height = 54.26 m + 1.5 m

Tree height = 55.76 m

You can use a scientific calculator or an online calculator to measure the tangent of the angle made by the plumb line to the tree top. Although this method is a bit complicated, it offers accurate answers. And most importantly, you can use it to calculate the height of trees on virtually any type of terrain. Of course, the calculations will change depending on the slope.

In Conclusion

Tree height measurement is necessary, especially if you need to remove a tree. It helps you determine if the tree will hit anything nearby, such as a house, car, or other building. Hopefully, this short guide will help you calculate the tree height easily.

However, we recommend hiring a professional tree removal company in Utah for the job.

Utah Tree Company offers several services, including tree trimming, stump grinding, and tree removal. Contact us today to know how we can help you.