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How to Cut Down a Tree

Is there a tree in your yard you want to cut down? Here's how to use a chainsaw to fell trees — those with a diameter less than the length of your saw's cutting bar.

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Cutting Down a Tree

Before you start, be sure you're familiar with the operation of your saw and follow all safety recommendations. For some tips, check out How to Use and Maintain a Chainsaw and Chainsaw Safety. For larger trees, trees that are near a structure, trees that you want to fell opposite of their lean, rotting trees or any tree you feel uncomfortable tackling — call a professional.

Step 1

Check the Area Around the Tree.

Start by taking a good look at the area. Be sure there are no structures, power lines or pets close to a radius equal to the height of the tree. Keep people at a distance at least double the height of the tree.

Step 2

Clearing the Undergrowth Around the Tree.

Pick a direction you want the tree to fall — this should be the direction the tree naturally leans — and plan a clear escape path opposite the direction of the fall and at a 45-degree angle. Clear the area around the tree and make sure there are no loose branches overhead.

Step 3

Creating a 70-Degree Cut.

With the tree on your left and your left shoulder against the tree, make a 70-degree cut on the side facing the direction you want the tree to fall. If your saw has a felling sight on the housing, use it as a guide. Pointing the sight where you want the tree to fall helps you cut at the proper location on the tree. Cut to a depth of about a quarter of the tree's diameter.

Step 4

Notch in a Tree Trunk.

For the next cut, turn the saw sideways and cut horizontally to meet your first cut, creating a notch. Be sure the cuts meet.

Step 5

Creating the Felling Cut.

For the felling cut, move to the opposite side and make a horizontal cut slightly above the previous cut. Saw until you have enough room to insert a wedge into the cut to keep the saw from binding. Drive the wedge in and finish the cut, being sure not to touch the wedge with the blade. Don't cut through — leave about 10 percent of the width as a hinge. When the tree begins to fall, move away down your escape path.


If the tree becomes lodged in another tree as it falls, call a professional for help.

Limbing a Tree

Limbing a Tree.

Once the tree is down, remove the branches — called limbing.

  • Work carefully, starting at the base of the tree. You can cut downward with the bottom of the bar — known as cutting with a pulling chain since the chain pulls the saw out from you — or upward with the top of the bar — known as cutting with a pushing chain, since the chain pushes the saw toward you.
  • Offsetting cuts — cuts you make by partially cutting on one side of the limb and then completely cutting through an inch or so closer to the trunk — keep the chain from binding.
  • Limbs on the underside can be cut if you have a good working height.
  • Limbs under tension — those that are bent under the tree and can spring back — can be cut later when you can turn the tree and relieve the tension.
  • Large branches can be under great tension from their weight and should be cut starting from the outside, working toward the trunk.

Bucking a Tree

Bucking a Tree.

When you've removed the limbs, it's time to cut the trunk — called bucking.

  • Look for where the wood might compress as it's cut — where two sections of trunk could fall together and pinch (bind) the saw. Cut a third of the way through the side where compression might take place. Then cut completely through from the opposite side with a cut offset by 1 inch. This technique helps keep the saw from binding and gives you more control. You can also use a wedge to hold the gap open. Just make sure the chain doesn't contact it.
  • For logs on the ground, cut through most of the way, then turn the log and finish the cut so the blade doesn't contact the ground.
  • For logs supported on one end, cut up from the bottom, then finish the cut on top.
  • Cut the pieces into manageable sizes and stack them away from the work area.