Proper Tree Removal Techniques

Chainsaw blade on a tree trunk
  • 1-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-4,000

Although sad, tree removal is sometimes necessary to protect land or buildings. Dying or dead trees need to be removed for health and safety reasons. The process can be hazardous, however. Here are the crucial steps to follow for a successful tree removal.

Step 1 - Scan the Site

First and foremost, check to make sure there are no obstacles in the immediate area. Clear anything nearby, and pay particular attention to any structures or vehicles to make absolutely sure they won't be in the fall line, or even close to it.

Step 2 - Inspect the Lean

Next you want to observe the tree to see which way it naturally leans. This will tell you which way it will fall best.

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Step 3 - Plan Your Escape

Set up two escape routes that lead away from the expected fall line.

Step 4 - Remove Higher Branches (Optional)

man in tree removing higher branches

If you're removing a large tree, especially one near any structures, you may want to take down the higher branches in stages. Secure any large sections with rope so you can control how they fall—make sure the ropes you attach support the branches before you saw them off.

Step 5 - Make Initial Cut

Although you might not love it, it's time to make the first cut to the trunk. Cut a 45-70 degree V shape. This should be done about 1/4th of the tree’s diameter in depth.

man creating a notch wedge cut on a tree trunk with a chainsaw

Step 6 - Make the Backcut

Safety Note: This is the step that will cause the tree to fall. Be ready to yell "timber" and make sure no one is in the fall line before you make this cut.

Make a backcut on the opposite side about two inches higher than the hinge part of the undercut. The purpose of the backcut is to release the stress on the backside of the tree, which allows it to fall in the direction of your V cut.

man using chainsaw to create a backcut in a tree trunk for removal

Step 7 - Remove Debris

Remove the branches and stump to complete the tree removal.

chainsaw cutting smaller branches off a fallen tree

A Few Don’ts in Tree Removal

Never make the backcut lower than the undercut, as you would be reversing the roles of the cuts in the tree removal process, causing the tree to fall the opposite way from the one you intended.

Never cut all the way through the tree—you'll risk losing control of the timing, and the direction it comes down.

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