How to Cut a Tree Down with a Chainsaw

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Perhaps you have a dead tree in the yard or a tree that’s growing too close to power lines. Or, maybe you’re just looking to change the look of your yard. Whatever the case may be, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to know how to cut a tree down at some point as a homeowner.

Learning how to cut a tree down is a pretty straightforward process. But, there are some protocols you’ll want to follow to ensure you’re working safely as you cut. By the time you’re finished with this guide, you should feel confident in your ability to tackle your tree cutting project.


What You’ll Need

When it comes to basic tree cutting, all you’ll need is a chainsaw, felling wedges, and some basic safety equipment. Here’s your gear list:

Step I: Evaluating the Job

The first thing to do before you begin any tree cutting job is to take inventory of the situation. It’s easy to cut down a tree when you have plenty of room surrounding the tree for it to fall. But, challenging tree maintenance jobs require a professional hand.

If you need the tree to fall in a specific place, or if the tree is close to your home, shed, fence, or other fixtures, or if you simply don’t feel comfortable attempting the job, it’s best to foot the bill for a professional.

If you’re able to tackle the job on your own, be sure to brush up on your chainsaw safety procedures before you get to work.

Step II: Planning the Job

Before you get started cutting, there are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure the job goes according to plan.

First, clear the area surrounding the tree. If possible, try to clear an area as large as the tree is tall in every direction around the tree.

Next, clear any brush in the immediate area of the tree, and cut down any loose branches you see directly overhead.

Finally, pick the direction you want the tree to fall in and plan your exit strategy. As you’d imagine, your exit path should be in the exact opposite direction that the tree will fall.

Step III: Making the First Cut

Before beginning your first cut, make sure you’re wearing proper safety gear. Make sure you’re wearing a helmet, safety goggles or a face shield, work gloves and hearing protection. 

Once you’re ready to go, start your chainsaw. Whichever direction you want the tree to fall in is the side you’ll make your first cut.

Your first cut is going to be made at a sharp angle of around 70 degrees. Stand with the tree to your left, and cut at a 70-degree angle about ¼ of the way through the tree. Use the felling sight atop your chainsaw as a guide.

Next, create a horizontal cut that will meet with the cut you just made about a ¼ of the way through the tree to create a notch. Make sure that this second cut meets with your first cut. Once you’re finished, shut off your saw, and remove the piece of wood from the notch you’ve just cut.

Step IV: Making the Felling Cut

The felling cut is the cut that will ultimately topple the tree. Move to the opposite side of the tree and begin your horizontal felling cut. You want this cut to be about an inch or two above the height of your first cut.

Saw about a ¼ of the way through the tree, and with your saw still inserted in the tree, shut it down. Take out your felling wedge, and bang it into the cut you’re in the process of making.

With the wedge inserted, you can continue the cut. Don’t cut completely through the tree. Leave an inch or so to act as a hinge for the tree as it falls. As your making this cut, make sure you’re acutely aware of what the tree is doing because it can fall at any second. Be prepared to take your escape route the second the tree starts to fall.

Step V: Remove the Branches

Next, you’ll need to limb the tree. Use your chainsaw to cut off all of the limbs of the tree. You can round them up later once the job is complete. Alternate downward and upward cuts with your saw to keep the chain from binding.

Step VI: Cut the Trunk

Now you can cut the trunk into manageable pieces.

For portions of the trunk where the trunk is under pressure, drive in a felling wedge after you’ve made a partial cut to keep the chain from binding. If a log is on the ground, cut most of the way through the log. Then roll the log over to complete the cut from the top, so your chainsaw doesn’t come in contact with the ground.

Final Word

Learning how to cut a tree down is a fairly easy task, and an important lesson every homeowner should learn. Following these tips will help ensure that your job goes according to plan, and you cut the tree down safely.

For more difficult or technical tree cutting jobs, resist the urge to wing it and hope for the best. Give a call to your local tree service and have them handle the more difficult jobs.