How to Cut Branches from a Tall Tree

You’re lucky if you have tall trees in your yard or near your home. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they can also provide a lot of shade and act as an important habitat to many animals.

But tall trees have their negatives too. Most prominently, the fact that their large, heavy branches can be dangerous when they fall.

That’s partially why it’s so important to cut and prune their branches on a regular basis. In addition to minimizing any safety risks, this also keeps the trees in good health.

Today, I’m going to show you exactly how to cut branches from a tall tree so that you don’t have to call in an expensive tree-trimming professional. 

What You’ll Need

There are quite a few different ways to cut branches from a tall tree. But I’m going to focus on the safest and easiest method for most homeowners.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Safety First

Safety always comes first anytime you’re operating a chainsaw or climbing a ladder (and especially if you’re doing both!).

According to the National Safety Council, one of the most important ladder safety tips is to choose the right ladder.

The ladder should be tall enough to reach the object you need to access. In this case that object is the branches you wish to cut.

The organization also recommends using a tripod ladder for cutting branches. If at all possible, have a partner hold the bottom of the ladder steady as you climb and cut.

As for using your chainsaw, it’s important to wear the right safety equipment. A pair of sturdy work gloves as well as eye and ear protection are essential.

Lowes states that the best chainsaw safety tip is to get comfortable using your chainsaw first before attempting to use it on a ladder to cut branches from a tall tree.

Step I: Set Up Ladder and Harness

Set up your ladder near the tree.

Make sure that it’s firm and steady on the ground. If the ground is soft, drive the metal spikes on the bottom of the legs into the earth.

If possible, have someone else hold the bottom of the ladder steady as you climb.

As an extra safety precaution, I like to use a tree climbing harness to keep me safe just in case I slip.

Step II: Inspect the Tree

Never start cutting a tree without inspecting the situation first.

Look for any dead branches and other debris that might fall when you begin to cut. Keep an eye out for any powerlines running into or through the tree.

Keep these potential obstacles in mind as you start cutting.

Step III: Prune Small Branches

Use the pruning clippers and pruning pole to cut off small branches.

Start by removing any dead or diseased portions of the tree. These are often detrimental to the tree’s health and pose the most serious risk to those standing underneath the tree.

You can continue pruning for aesthetics to achieve a certain look if you wish. 

Step IV: Cut with Chainsaw

Pruning clippers and a pruning pole just don’t have the strength for large branches.

For larger branches, you’ll have to switch out your tools and use a chainsaw. You can simply cut straight through most small and medium branches with a chainsaw.

For the largest of branches, a specific cutting method is needed. You should first cut a small notch at the bottom of the branch and then cut through from the top.

The notch at the bottom of the branch will reduce some of the pressure when the final cut is made so that the branch doesn’t dangerously bind on your chainsaw.

Step V: Look Out Below!

Never grow too comfortable when cutting branches from a tall tree.

It’s always important to maintain awareness about what’s going on below you.

Scan the ground underneath before performing each cut to ensure that the branch drops safely to the ground without hurting anyone or causing any damage.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that learning how to cut branches from a tall tree is intimidating.

Not only does it require climbing a ladder, but it also often requires operating a powerful chainsaw.

That said, we do feel this home project is one that just about anyone can accomplish with a little know-how, the right safety equipment, and the proper tools.

If at all possible, always have a partner help you when cutting branches from a tree, even if it’s only to hold the ladder steady as you climb.

And if you still feel at all uncomfortable with the prospect, this is one project where it often pays off to hire a professional rather than pushing through your fears.

About Gus Donaldson

I built houses for over 30 years and recently retired. I've made lots of mistakes and hopefully teach you not to make the same ones. I still love to build and have a garage workshop that I use for hobby projects like the walnut bookshelf I made for my wife. I like to write and let people know that working with your hands and tools does not need to be intimidating.

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