Hardwood Tree Removal

Overview

Native hardwoods are a commercial crop for timber production, and in the wild they provide habitat for wildlife, buffer zones around streams, windbreaks and watershed protection. Hardwoods are a tree classification that includes everything from aspen to willow, maple and oak. Whether hardwoods are being harvested for lumber or removed due to disease, clearing a hardwood tree requires some knowledge about felling, bucking and limbing the tree. The process involves sharp tools and falling heavy objects. Take appropriate safety precautions before and during removal of a hardwood.

Felling

Step 1

Examine the tree to determine if it has a natural tilt. Observe the direction that the wind is blowing. From these two things, determine which direction the tree would naturally fall.

Step 2

Explore the area around the tree to make sure that there are no obstacles that the tree would damage when it falls, such as a home, power lines or a car. If there are obstacles that you cannot move, such as a home or power lines, consider having a professional remove the tree.

Step 3

Clear an escape path away from the tree. Remove any rocks, roots or debris that might trip you. You should use this path to get away from the tree in case it falls in an unexpected direction or bounces once it falls. Stepping away from the falling tree will also get you out of range of falling limbs, dead branches and other debris, which are called widowmakers.

Step 4

Cut a V-shaped wedge with a chainsaw or an axe in the side of the tree that opens in the direction you want the tree to fall. This wedge, called an undercut, should be positioned near the bottom of the tree, open at a 45-degree angle and should extend a third of the way through the tree's trunk.

Step 5

Make a second cut on the other side of the tree from the undercut. This cut, which is known as a back cut, should be located slightly higher than the point of the undercut. It should extend two thirds of the way through the tree and should stop just above the point of the undercut. The tree will tilt along a pivot point between the two cuts and fall in the direction of the undercut. Step back along the escape path as the tree falls.

Step 6

Wait several minutes for the debris to settle and all widowmakers to fall before returning to the fallen tree.

Limbing

Step 1

Observe the fallen tree to make sure that it has reached the ground. Do not attempt to walk under a partially fallen tree that is propped against another tree. Take notice of any smaller trees or limbs that are pinned by the fallen tree. Cut these limbs and saplings at the apex of their bend so that they will not snap back against you if they are suddenly freed from the tree.

Step 2

Remove limbs from the tree starting at the bottom of the tree and working your way up. Stand across the tree trunk from a limb that you wish to remove to place the log between you and the saw and further protect you. Cut the limb flush where it attaches to the tree trunk.

Step 3

Stand uphill of the log while you're removing limbs so that the tree does not fall on you if it suddenly rolls. Always ensure that your footing is secure while removing limbs.

Step 4

Always keep the tip of your saw in your line of sight to prevent kickback. Do not let the tip of the saw ground into the dirt. Use even pressure as you push a chainsaw through the wood of a fallen log. Periodically stop the saw, turn it off and remove debris from the chain.

Bucking

Step 1

Determine if the fallen log is on level ground.

Step 2

Cut straight downward through a fallen log on level ground to reduce the log to smaller pieces.

Step 3

Make two cuts to reduce a log that is not on level ground into pieces. The first cut, known as an underbuck, starts at the underside of the log and extends upward a third of the way through the log. The second cut begins at the top of the log and meets the log two thirds of the way through.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never use a chainsaw to cut a piece of wood at shoulder height or higher. You can lose control of your saw doing this. Wear safety gear while removing a tree, including close-toed shoes, long pants, a long shirt, leather work gloves, safety goggles and a hard hat.

Things You'll Need

  • Chainsaw
  • Axe

References

  • Purdue University: Native Hardwood Trees of the Central Hardwood Region
  • Iowa State University Extension: Identification of Hardwood Trees in Iowa
  • University of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees

Who Can Help

  • Oregon State Univeristy Extension: Safe and Effective Use of Chainsaws for Woodland Owners
Keywords: cutting down trees, hardwood tree removal, felling a tree

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."