How to Cut Down a Tree – Essential Tips on How to Fall a Tree

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Cutting down a tree may seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a safe and relatively simple process. If you’re looking for tips on how to safely and effectively cut down a tree, then this article is for you! With these essential tips, you’ll have the confidence to tackle the job and know that you’re taking all the right steps to ensure a successful and safe outcome. So, let’s get started and learn how to fall a tree! 

Overview of cutting trees with a chainsaw

If there is one thing that chainsaws are widely known for, then it is definitely cutting down trees. The act of cutting down trees is commonly known as “felling”. But before you start chopping down the first tree you come across, it is important to remember that felling trees isn’t as simple as just cutting straight through them. Using an improper technique is very dangerous. No one would want a tree to fall on their car, house, or any other site.

This is why felling full-sized trees should be done by the professionals. These folks are trained, have the proper equipment, and offer commercial liability insurance. However, small to medium-sized trees can be easily cut down by homeowners with working chainsaws, the right tools, and the know-how of the technique.

Another important thing to consider will be the tree you’re cutting and why you are doing that. You need to consult with an arborist to confirm if the tree you’ve selected for felling is a good candidate. Most healthy trees offer protection from sunlight, erosion, and wind shear. However, there are many logical reasons why felling a tree makes sense for practical or safety reasons. Some of the reasons why you might want to fell a tree are –

  • The tree has partially fallen or been damaged severely and isn’t safe anymore
  • The tree has died or seems to be unhealthy (fungal, bacterial, or viral infection)
  • The tree happens to be way too close to your house’s foundation or other structures
  • The tree is no longer suitable for the climate, is invasive, or feels like overpopulating the area
  • You are involved in a tree removal business
  • You require a hefty amount of wood for fires or other projects

Wear the right safety gear when cutting trees with a chainsaw

Safety isn’t a mere throwaway word when it comes to using a chainsaw for felling trees. You need to take the prospect of safety seriously. There are a few essential protective gear and safety equipment to wear when working with a chainsaw.

You need to wear a logger’s helmet for protecting you from falling branches and wood pieces, which are a major cause of injuries. Wearing earmuffs is important to protect yourself from excessive noise, while a face screen will also protect your ears and eyes. Wearing safety glasses will prevent dust from entering your eyes. Meanwhile, a full sleeve jacket and boots will protect your body from injuries. Lastly, you must also wear protective gloves and chainsaw chaps. The latter is especially important, as almost 35% of chainsaw-related injuries happen to lower legs and knees. Lastly, you must remember that all the safety equipment and protective gear you are using complies with OSHA standards.

How to cut down a tree                  

Whether the tree is blocking your view, taking up space, or is diseased or damaged, falling a tree isn’t an easy task to carry out unless you know the right steps. This process can have major consequences if not carried out properly, including damage to the chainsaw, damage to your house or surrounding property, injuries to you and bystanders, and more. The best way for cutting trees safely will be by preparing ahead of time, using the right tools, and following the step-by-step process to ensure you don’t end up hurting yourself or anyone else.

how to cut down a tree - man cutting tree

#1. Prepare the tree for cutting

Trees are a crucial part of the environment as they supply oxygen, shade, and a natural habitat for wildlife. However, there are times when the tree needs to be cut down. It could be for various reasons. In such cases, it’ll be important to first determine the tree species, evaluate its health, map the felling area, and clear out the felling area to begin cutting.

Determine the tree species

The first step in preparing the tree for cutting will be to identify the species of the tree. This information will be important as it’ll help you determine the right cutting techniques and equipment needed for felling the tree safely. There are multiple ways to identify the tree species, such as –

  • Leaves – Leaves are the most common way of identifying the species of the tree. The color, shape, size, and texture of the leaves will provide you valuable information to find out the tree’s identity.
  • Bark – The bark of the tree can provide you important information about its species. The color, texture, and pattern of the bark will help you in identifying the tree.
  • Fruit – If the tree has fruits like berries, apples, and more, you can use them to identify the species.
  • Twigs and buds – The shape, size, and arrangement of the twigs and buds can be used for identifying the species of the tree.

Evaluate the tree’s health

Once you have identified the species of the tree, the next step would be to evaluate the health of the tree. It is important to ensure that the tree is healthy enough to be cut down safely and easily. Signs of poor health will include –

  • Dead branches or leaves
  • Fungal growth on the trunk or branches
  • Cracks in the trunk or branches
  • Leaning or unstable structure
  • Insect infestations

If any of these signs are present, it’ll be important that you hire a professional arborist to evaluate the health of the tree and determine if it is safe to cut down.

Mapping the felling area

The next step would be to map out the felling area. This involves determining the direction in which the tree will fall and ensuring you have ample clearance for the tree to fall down safely. There are certain factors that you need to consider when mapping the felling area, such as –

  • The size and weight of the tree
  • The presence of power lines or nearby structures
  • The slope of the terrain
  • The location of the felling team and equipment
  • The direction of the wind

Clear the felling area

The next step would be to clear the felling area. This will involve removing any obstacles or debris that might interfere with the felling process. Some of the steps involved with clearing the felling area are –

  • Remove any bushes or branches that might be interfering with the felling process
  • Mark the felling area to make sure that you and others know where to stand and where to avoid
  • Clear off any nearby structures or power lines for preventing any damage during the felling process
  • Make sure that the people helping you and the equipment you are using are positioned safely and securely

#2. Cut down the tree

Cutting down a tree needs proper planning, preparation, and execution. One of the most important aspects of felling a tree will be selecting and setting up the equipment. Once you have the equipment in place, the next steps would be making the notes and hinges on the tree, cutting the notches, and making the final cut. Lastly, it will be important to monitor the tree’s fall and make sure it falls down safely and without any incident.

Select and set up the felling equipment

Before you start the actual cutting process, it will be important to select and set up the equipment. The equipment will depend on the size and location of the tree. Some of the important tools and equipment you will need include –

  • A chainsaw – Of course, a chainsaw will be the primary tool that you’ll need for cutting down a tree. It is important that you select the right size and type of chainsaw for the job.
  • Wedges – Wedges are used for controlling the direction of the tree’s fall. They are typically made from plastic or wood and come in many different sizes.
  • Safety gear – It is important that you wear the right safety gear, including safety glasses, a helmet, gloves, chainsaw chaps, and steel-toed boots.
  • Rope – A rope will be used for pulling down the tree in a particular direction and to secure the tree once it has fallen.
  • Ladders or climbing equipment – In case the tree is tall or located on a slope, ladders or climbing equipment will be needed for accessing the tree safely.

Making notches and hinges on the tree

The next step would be to make the notches and hinges on the tree. Notches are cuts that have to be made on the side of the tree facing the direction in which the tree will fall down. Meanwhile, hinges are small pieces of wood that are left uncut between the notches that allow the tree to fall down in a controlled manner. The size and shape of the notches and hinges will depend on the size and species of the tree.

How To Cut Down A Tree

There are three notch cuts that are commonly used in tree-felling. They include the open-faced notch, the Humboldt notch, and the conventional notch. There are certain circumstances for using each one of them but these notches will be similar in that they will create a wide-angle notch to allow the tree to fall in the direction of the notch or the direction you intend for it to fall.

Cutting away the notches and making the back cut

Once the notches and hinges are in place, the next step would be to cut the notches and make the back cut. The back cut will be made on the opposite side of the tree from the notches and hinges. This cut will release the tension on the tree while allowing it to fall in the direction of the notches and hinges. It is important that you ensure that the back cut is level and does not go too deep into the tree. There are certain things to remember when cutting the notches and making the cuts –

  • You should always make the first cut on the side of the tree in the direction you want it to fall
  • Notch depth will matter, so you shouldn’t cut too deeply into the tree
  • If possible, you should be making the notch lower than 4 feet
  • Go slow while paying attention to your cut
  • The thickness of the hinge needs to be substantial but not thicker than a few inches to make sure it breaks under the weight of the felling cut

Monitor the tree’s fall

It’ll be important that you monitor the fall of the tree to make sure it will fall safely and without any accidents. The felling tree needs to be in a safe location away from the tree’s fall path, and a clear signal must be given when it is safe to cut the tree. Further, you should also be prepared to use ropes or wedges for controlling the tree’s fall if necessary.

#4. Finish the job

Cutting down the tree does not just finish once the tree has fallen. Once the tree has fallen, the next steps would be removing the branches, cutting down the trunk into logs, removing the logs, and cleaning the felling area.

Removing the branches

Once the tree has fallen, the next step would be to remove the branches. This process is known as limbing. Typically, limbing is done with a chainsaw and involves cutting the branches from the trunk of the tree. It is important that you ensure that the chainsaw blade doesn’t come into contact with the ground or any other objects, as it can damage the blade.

Cutting the trunk into logs

Once the branches are removed, the next step would be to cut the trunk of the tree into logs. This is known as bucking. Bucking is typically done with a chainsaw and involves cutting the trunk of the tree into logs of a uniform length. The length of the tree will depend on the intended use of the wood.

how to cut down a tree - cutting tree with a chainsaw in the forest

Removing the logs

Once the trunk has been cut into logs, the next step would be to remove the logs from the felling area. It can be done manually with a log cart or a tractor or even a skidder. Essentially, a skidder is a piece of heavy equipment that is designed for hauling logs out of the forest. It is important that you make sure that you are stacking the logs in a safe and organized manner for preventing any accidents.

Cleaning up the felling area

The final step in the process of cutting down a tree with a chainsaw will be to clean up the felling area once you’re done with the cutting. This involves removing any remaining branches, debris, or unused wood from the area. The wood can be chipped for mulch, used for firewood, and more. It is important that you make sure that the felling area is left clean and free of any hazards.

The Dos and Don’ts of cutting a tree safely

Chainsaws are not only powerful, but they’re versatile tools that are widely used for cutting trees. However, using a chainsaw can be extremely dangerous, especially if you aren’t careful, and you aren’t following the necessary safety precautions. There are certain Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to cutting a tree, as it’ll help you carry out the entire process safely.

Here are the Dos when it comes to cutting a tree safely –

#1. Wear protective gear

Before you begin cutting trees with the chainsaw, you should ensure that you’re wearing the appropriate protective gear. This includes safety glasses, a helmet, ear protection, gloves, boots with non-slip soles, and more. It’ll be a smart idea to wear a full – sleeve jacket and chainsaw chains to protect your body from any flying debris.

#2. Check the chainsaw

Before you use the chainsaw, you must check it thoroughly. You should ensure that your chainsaw is sharpened properly, the bar is in a good position, and that the chain tension is correct. Moreover, ensure that the chain brake is functioning properly and that the fuel and oil levels are sufficient.

#3. Plan the cut

When you are cutting a tree, it will be essential that you plan the cut. Look for any obstacles that might be interfering with the cut and ensure that you have a clear path to escape if the tree falls in an unexpected direction. You need to plan the cuts so that you can avoid binding the chainsaw to the tree trunk.

#4. Use the proper technique for cutting

Use the proper cutting technique, as it’ll help you avoid injuries and ensure that the tree is falling in the intended direction. Start off by cutting a notch on the side of the tree facing the direction you want the tree to fall in. After that, make a second cut from the opposite side, above the notch. Make the third cut to remove the remaining piece of the trunk.

#5. Maintain a safe distance

Remember to maintain a safe distance from the tree when you are cutting. This will help you ensure that you aren’t stuck by any falling branches or the tree trunk. A safe distance will typically be twice the height of the tree. 

Here are the Don’ts when it comes to cutting a tree safely –

#1. Avoid cutting near power lines

You should not cut a tree near power lines. The branches of the tree may fall onto the power lines, resulting in a hazardous situation.

#2. Don’t cut alone

You should never cut a tree alone. You must have someone nearby so that you can call for help if there is an emergency.

#3. Never cut with a dull chain

A dull chain will increase the risk of kickback, which can result in serious injuries. Always make sure that the chain is sharpened properly before you use the chainsaw.

#4. Never cut above your shoulder

You should never cut above your shoulder as it can result in you losing balance and control of the chainsaw.

#5. Don’t cut without a clear escape path

Always ensure that you have a clear escape path if the tree falls in an unexpected direction.


What are the steps for cutting down a tree?

Cutting down a tree is a process that requires careful planning and safety measures. The steps for cutting down a tree include assessing the tree to determine if it is safe to cut, creating a plan for how to fell the tree, removing any obstacles around the tree, cutting away branches and limbs, and finally, cutting the trunk to the ground. It is important to always use proper safety equipment and follow the appropriate guidelines when cutting down a tree.

What safety precautions should I take when cutting down a tree?

Safety is paramount when cutting down a tree. It is important to wear appropriate safety gear, such as gloves, hard hats, eye protection, and hearing protection. It is also important to be aware of any obstacles or hazards in the area, such as power lines, buildings, or vehicles. It is also important to be aware of the direction the tree is likely to fall to avoid any injuries or damage.

What is the best way to fell a tree?

The best way to fell a tree is to use a wedge and back cut technique. This technique involves cutting a wedge into the side of the tree to create a hinge, and then cutting the back of the tree at an angle to direct the fall. This method helps to control the direction of the fall and minimize the risk of the tree splitting or falling in an unexpected direction.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.