How to Cut Down a Tree With a Chainsaw (Step by Step Guide)


In this guide, I’m going to show you how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw.

A chainsaw is a very useful tool to help you cut wood. In fact, one of the primary reasons why people chainsaw is because they wish to cut tree branches down off of a tree.

At some point, a branch may become too long, or inclement weather may cause a branch to get damaged or sag.

Because of this, you may need to cut down a branch or two to improve the look or safety of your tree.

Obviously, the chainsaw is the perfect tool to use to accomplish this task.

The problem is that many feel unsafe or unsure of themselves to be able to use the chainsaw for this task.

They are concerned that they may make a mistake that could lead to injury, either to themselves or to someone else.

There is also the concern that by cutting down a branch or even the entire tree itself that greater injury could occur when the tree falls.

We have all seen the videos where a person cut their tree and the tree then collapsed on their home.

There is certainly a trick to cutting down a tree and here are some steps that can help you to be able to do this.

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How to Cut Down a Tree With a Chainsaw


Anytime you want to cut a tree down, the first and foremost thing you should think about is doing a proper assessment.

In that assessment, it’s going to tell you what you need to know to get out of there safely and get the job done right.

The first part of a good assessment starts with looking at the hazards. If there’s any hazards present, you want to identify them before they come back to haunt you.

Related: How to Use an Oregon Chain Sharpener (Step by Step Guide with Pictures)

Electrical Hazards

Look for electrical hazards first and foremost.

The next thing you want to be looking for are things that could affect your personal safety or anyone on your crew.


On that list, you want to be looking for branches that are just lodged in the tree hanging there waiting to fall out otherwise known as widow-makers.

Large Dead Sections

Another hazard would be large dead sections. Large dead sections can come loose during the felling operation, and when they fall, they usually fall right where the person is making that cut.


Lastly, there’s what we call the hidden hazard and that’s vines. Vines are very hard to see. What makes them such a hazard is they can do a few things to you if you don’t pick them up.

One, they can keep the tree from falling on course, hold it, and suspended it in midair, which creates another hazard.

They could swing the tree off course if it breaks free from the hinge or it could break something out behind you as you’re making the cut, which is just a really bad scenario.

Once we identify all the hazards, next on our list is to assess the tree.

Related: How to Use an Oregon Chain Sharpener (Step by Step Guide with Pictures)

Assess the Tree 

Will the tree fit?

If the tree will fit, check if there’s any kind of lean. We usually look to see if the tree has forward lean, back lean, or side lean.

That will tell you what you need to do or compensate for to get the tree where you intend it to go.

When I’m talking about assessing the tree, I’m not just looking at the trunk, that’s part of it. The other part is looking at the branch structure because if you have so many branches leaning out one way or the other, it’s going to help determine which way the tree wants to go when it’s released.

Work on Your Work Zone

The next step is working on your work zone to make sure it’s free of debris and clear of any kind of tripping hazards.

After you get your work zone clear and the trees are moved off the trunk, you should be just about ready to go.

Plan an Escape Route

Try to get an escape route planned out the back at about a forty-five-degree angle to get you to a safe zone at least 15 feet away from the tree.

Escape Route

To ensure that the tree falls in the direction that you want, it is a very smart idea to tie a rope to the top of the tree.

The other end of the rope should be tied down on the side that you want the tree to fall. This helps to ensure that no mistake can occur.

Make a Notch

Make sure that you cut a notch in the front of the tree basically about 70 degrees or wider to allow the tree to come all the way over before it breaks the hinge.

You should be going to a depth of approximately 1/3 away in or less, which is really about 80% of the overall width. That’s what you really need to try to do to make the perfect cut

The notch should be on the side of the tree where you want the tree to fall itself. This is a very common mistake that people make.

People begin on the wrong side, thus the tree falls the wrong way than what they desired. This is when real damage occurs.

One good thing to do is halfway through your top cut, stop and shut the chainsaw off. Then, take a look at your site and make sure you’re on the path you intend to be.

If not, it gives you time to make an adjustment before anything happens.

Again, the cut that you make originally should actually be in a notch. What this means is that you should cut a section out that’s about 1 inch high from top to bottom. This notch should go about halfway into the tree.

Use Wedges

After making your face cut, the next step is going to be setting up your hinge. If the tree has very little lean, try to do something called a bore cut on both sides because you want to use wedges to make sure the tree goes where you intend it to go and doesn’t sit back on your saw.

So, come just behind the face cut about an inch back, bore into the tree, cut all the interior out leaving the back, and then you’re going to hammer your wedges in.

Cut Down the Tree

Your last step is to go to the other side of the tree and begin to cut at an angle down towards the notch.

You should cut at about a 30° angle starting above the notch on the other side of the tree, at least eight or nine inches above the notch.

As you approach the notch, you will notice that the tree will begin to lean towards the side that you want the tree to fall.

If you see that the tree is starting to lean towards you, then you should be aware that you have been doing something wrong.

This is a time that you should be extremely thankful that you tied your rope on the top of the tree.

If you have done this right, you will notice that the tree will begin to lean the direction you wanted to go, and the more that you continue to cut towards that notch, the further it should lean.

Eventually, the force of gravity will cause that tree to fall over in the direction that you desired. You have successfully cut down the tree now.

Hopefully, again, you have been smart enough to ensure that nothing was in the way of the tree as it fell.

This is one of those mistakes that people make as well. They don’t judge properly how tall the tree is so things get damaged because they are in the pathway of the following timber.

If you believe that your tree is 10 feet tall, then you should provide at least twice that distance to ensure nothing gets damaged.

Last Step

Once you are done, to dispose of the tree, what you want to do is to cut off each of the branches first and remove them away from the area.

This can be done with your chainsaw as well. From there, cut the trunk into several pieces that are manageable enough for you to pick up and move somewhere else. Now you are all done.

Hope this quick guide on how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw was quite helpful.

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