How to Cut Down a Tree With a Chainsaw

By PropertyClub Team
Jun 14th 2024
Whether you need to cut down a tree for firewood or because it’s blocking your view or posing a danger to your house in case of a bad storm, you need to know what you’re doing. Either way, small to medium-sized trees can easily be cut down by regular folks with working chainsaws and the right protective gear. Here’s what you need to know if you plan on cutting down a tree.

You safely cut down a tree by using the right tools, preparing ahead of time, and following a step-by-step process to ensure you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Here's how to use a chainsaw to cut down a tree safely. 

hash-markHow to Cut Down a Tree With a Chainsaw

  1. Wear Protective Gear
  2. Get the Area Ready
  3. Make the First Cut
  4. Make the Second Cut
  5. Make the Final Cut

1. Wear Protective Gear

The first step in cutting a tree down with a chainsaw is to prepare your equipment and safety gear. You'll need the following:

  • A logger’s helmet that will protect you from any falling branches
  • Some earmuffs and a face screen to protect your ears and face
  • Some Kevlar chaps are also a good idea, as these can stop a chain if you accidentally drop a chainsaw bar against your leg
  • Some safety glasses to keep dust out of your eyes

Next, you’ll want to make sure you have an excellent chainsaw and the right chainsaw bar for the job. You may also want to purchase some felling wedges, which are tools that will stop your saw from getting pinched as you make a precise cut. Fortunately, these are sold anywhere you can find an excellent chainsaw.

2. Get the Area Ready

Before using a chainsaw to cut a tree down, you must ensure the area is safe. Start by inspecting your area and making sure that there aren’t any powerlines, structures, or animals in the area with a radius equal to the height of the tree. Furthermore, you should make sure that any people are twice as far away as the height of the tree you’re planning to cut down.

Once the area is clear of other people, try to clear any of the tree-felling work areas. You should plan ahead of time which direction the tree will fall, and get rid of any brush or debris around the tree so it won’t snap and spin away dangerously.

3. Make the First Cut

When your area is clear and you’re all prepared, make the first cut with your chainsaw. Stand with the tree on your left and place your left shoulder so that it’s pointed at the tree. Then make a 70° cut on the side of the tree that faces the direction you want it to fall. This first angle is critical to make sure that the tree falls correctly.

As you cut, only go as deep as a quarter of the tree trunk’s diameter. This will prevent you from cutting through the tree too quickly.

4. Make the Second Cut

Now it’s time for the second cut. To make this cut, turn your saw sideways and cut horizontally. The second cut should meet your first cut at about a quarter of the distance through the tree’s trunk. The cuts should meet in the middle and create a notch of empty space in the tree.

At this point, the tree should be significantly weakened and ready to be felled. The felling move must be performed carefully and precisely to avoid making any mistakes or ruining the job.

5. Make the Final Cut

To make an optimal felling cut, step to the opposite side of the tree, then make a horizontal cut only slightly above your previous cut. Use your chainsaw until there’s enough room to insert your felling wedge into the cut. This will stop the saw from binding to the tree. Then insert the tree felling wedge – the wedge should be pointed at the direction you want the tree to fall.

Drive the wedge into the cut deeply, then finish the cut. Of course, be careful not to touch the felling wedge with your chainsaw.

Contrary to what you might think, you shouldn’t cut all the way through the trunk. Leave about 10% of the tree’s width as a hinge. Then, the tree should naturally fall in the correct direction. But by leaving a little hinge of wood, you’ll have plenty of time to move away, even if the tree starts to fall in an unanticipated direction.

hash-markHow To Cut Down a Tree FAQs

1. Can I Cut Down a Tree Myself?

Yes, if the tree is small enough, you can manage to cut it down yourself. However, larger trees (either too wide or too tall for comfort) should be removed by professional arborists or tree removal companies. That’s because certain larger trees are too dangerous to cut down by yourself.

For instance, a particularly wide tree could be difficult to cut down with a typical chainsaw, or it could be difficult to make a cut in the right direction. Furthermore, some larger trees may not start to fall in the right direction, requiring a “push” to get it to topple. This process can be dangerous and should only be carried out by professionals.

2. How Do You Make a Tree Fall Where You Want It To?

Trees fall according to the cuts you make in their trunk. The directional notch that you make at the beginning of the cutting process sets the tree up to fall in a specific direction, and it marks where the eventual “hinge” mentioned above will rest. By creating a directional notch, you can force the tree to fall in one direction or another.

Secondly, the felling cut you make above the directional notch will start the felling process toward the notch. Basically, it’s about controlling where the tree’s weight eventually falls.