The Correct Way to Cut Down a Tree


Trees fulfill a number of purposes in landscapes and yards. These large varieties of plants produce shade and provide protection from wind, as well as adding appeal and balance to the overall design of a landscape. Removing trees from the yard poses a danger to people and structures. Although very large trees and trees growing in hazardous locations require the skills and experience of professionals, you can often remove smaller specimens on your own. Correct tree removal requires following basic safety precautions during the preparation and cutting procedures.

Step 1

Inspect your tree before attempting to cut it down. Look closely at the trunk of your tree for signs of rotting or hollowing out. Check the vicinity overhead for power lines. Notice any nearby structures within falling distance of the tree. Leaning and rotting trees or trees in dangerous locations require the assistance of professional tree cutters. Walk under your tree to examine the direction of lean. Even trees that appear upright and uniform lean slightly on close inspection. Notice the direction of the lean to determine the direction of the fall.

Step 2

Clear away branches from nearby trees that extend near the direction of the fall. The limbs from nearby trees can catch your falling tree, tangling it or causing it to bounce off in another direction. Remove any underbrush from the area in a 45-degree angle from the direction of the fall. This is your escape route. Do not retreat from a falling tree in the opposite direction of the fall. The tree may snap backwards and hit you. Make sure there are no vines, shrubs, fences or other structures in your path to ensnare you.

Step 3

Make your initial cut on the side of the tree in the direction of the fall. Use a chainsaw to make this cut near the base of the tree trunk. Cut about one-third of the way through the diameter of the trunk. Make a second cut above the initial cut at an angle to form a 45- to 90-degree wedge. Tap the cut wedge out of the trunk if it remains in place after cutting. Make your third and final cut on the opposite side of the trunk. Cut a straight cut into the trunk at a level about 2 inches above the tip of the opposite notch. Do not cut into the notch. The tree will start to lean and fall in the direction of the notch.

Step 4

Remove and turn off your chainsaw immediately, as soon as the tree begins to lean away from the cut. Set your saw quickly on the ground and retreat in the direction you have chosen and cleared. Do not approach the felled tree until it comes to a complete rest.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid cutting very large trees, rotting trees and trees in hazardous locations. Familiarize yourself with your chainsaw prior to cutting the tree and follow all safety precautions mentioned in your chainsaw's instruction manual.

Things You'll Need

  • Chainsaw


  • University of Missouri: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees
  • North Dakota State University: Chain Saw Safety: No Tricks
  • "The Green World"; Gail M. Lang, Ph.D.; 2007
Keywords: cutting trees, tree removal, felling trees

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.