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How to Cut Down a Tree with a Chainsaw: All You Need to Know

Cutting down a tree with a chainsaw is a highly dangerous task, especially for complete beginners. As such, it is often best left in the hands of tree removal experts.
If there are no available local tree removal professionals or the costs are over your budget, make sure to do your due diligence. Taking several days to learn how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw will ensure your safety.
Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know to stay safe and succeed in chainsaw-cutting trees.

Before Cutting Down the Tree

Cutting down or felling a tree requires proper preparation to help prevent unnecessary accidents towards your person or your property. Before even learning how to cut a tree with a chainsaw, it’s important to assess the tree, its vicinity, and your tools.
Trees less than 50 feet high are generally doable for beginners. However, the location of the tree and its immediate area may complicate things. If there is a house, utility line, or other important structures that the tree may hit as it falls, you may need to consult or hire professional tree removal services.

1. Get the Right Safety Gear and Chainsaw

Never underestimate the safety precautions and gear necessary for a tree-felling project. Here are some of the essential safety gear you need:
Chainsaw helmet or a logger’s helmet with a face shield
● Earmuffs
● Safety glasses
● Chainsaw gloves
● Chainsaw or kevlar chaps
● Heavy-duty or steel-toed work boots

If you have yet to purchase a chainsaw tree trimmer, here are a few tips to remember when shopping:
● Take the size of the tree into account when buying a chainsaw. A gas-powered one is best for large, hardwood trees. Meanwhile, electric and battery-powered chainsaws work well enough for smaller trees and tree branches.
● Look for anti-kickback safety mechanisms. Chainsaw cutting trees can cause kickbacks and lead to serious or fatal accidents.
● Choose chainsaws with additional safety measures, such as handguards, automatic chain locks, or vibration reduction.

2. Obtain Any Necessary Permits

Before learning how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw, you should ensure you’re allowed to push through with the project.
Make sure you acquire all the necessary permits to work on removing your tree. Even if it is within your private property, you may still need permission from the state, city, town, or even homeowners’ association.
Read up on the laws regarding tree removal in your city or contact your local government.

3. Plan the Fall Zone and Getaway Zone

As its name suggests, the fall zone refers to the area or direction where you plan for the tree to fall. It is crucial to plan this carefully so you don’t hit your house, another tree, power lines, or any other structure.
Cordoning off or placing ropes and signs around the fall zone will help prevent people from venturing into the area. You need to measure or estimate the height of your tree for this. Remember to add a few feet or overestimate the length for safety.
Aside from planning the fall zone, it is equally important to have a getaway zone or path. This is often on the opposite side and around 120 degrees from the direction the tree should fall. Clear two getaway paths of any debris so you can run quickly if needed.

Making the Cut Properly

Once you’ve thoroughly assessed the tree, the area, and your gear, you can start preparing for the cuts.

1. Clean Up the Tree

Before every tree removal project, it is important to clean up the area first. This means removing any surrounding bushes, plants, and even lower branches of the tree you plan to fell. Doing so provides easier access and a better range of motion while cutting the tree.

2. Directing the Tree Fall with the Cuts

One of the most important things to keep in mind when learning how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw is directing its fall. Failure to do this properly can potentially lead to the tree crushing you and the people helping you.
The direction the tree will fall depends on where you make the first cut or directional notch. This is also referred to as the face cut.
Face cuts or notches don’t go through the entire trunk. Instead, they create a hinge that leaves the tree connected to the base. This helps you guide the fall in the direction you want it to go.
The back cut, a straight cut made on the opposite side of your face cut, is what causes the tree to fall. The back cut is made close to the face but leaves around 10% of the trunk from the hinge of the face cut.

3. Different Types of Notches

There are different types of notches or face cuts you can make. Regardless of the type you choose, all the notches cut to around one-fourth or one-third of the tree trunk.
● Open-faced Notch: This is generally regarded as the safest face cut for felling a tree. The cut is made from two 45-degree angled cuts connected by a straight or 90-degree angle notch.
● Conventional Notch: A conventional notch is made by cutting on a 45-degree downward angle then making a straight cut below it, essentially making a triangle shape.
● Humbolt Notch: The humbolt notch is an upside-down version of the conventional notch, with the straight cut above the angled cut.

Safely Cutting a Tree with a Chainsaw

The season you cut down your tree may also help ensure your safety and success. Professionals often prefer felling trees around late winter and early spring, as the trees are bare of leaves and at their lightest during this period.
Make sure to carefully go over all the necessary steps and safety guidelines before proceeding with the project. If you don’t feel confident about how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw, don’t hesitate to call on professional tree removal services.