The Best Way to Remove a Tree


A homeowner may wish to remove a tree for a variety of reasons. Trees that grow too large for the space they occupy can disrupt sidewalks and foundations of homes with their roots as well as damage a home's upper stories or roof with overhanging branches. Invasive trees may grow in lawns and flower beds where they're not wanted, or desirable trees may become diseased or damaged. The best way to remove a tree will depend on its size and location.

Step 1

Measure a tree's size with a pair of calipers by pinching the trunk of the tree at the point you choose to cut it down. Trees that are less than ¼ inch in size can be pulled from the ground. Trees that are under 2 inches in size can be cut at the soil level with branch loppers. Trees that are smaller than 3 inches in size may be removed with a handsaw. Trees smaller than 6 inches may be cut down with an ax. Trees larger than 6 inches may require a chain saw.

Step 2

Kill a tree prior to removing it to avoid the return of tree sprouts from the dead stump. These dead sprouts, which are known as suckers, are the tree's way of surviving. Cut a circle into the bark that is 2 inches deep and 4 inches wide around the base of the tree to kill it by interrupting the tree's vascular system. This process is known as girdling. Wait for the tree's leaves to turn brown and the twigs to become brittle before removing the tree.

Step 3

Pinch a tree's trunk in two at the soil line with branch loppers, or saw the tree trunk cleanly in two with a handsaw for trees smaller than 3 inches in size.

Step 4

Examine the shape of larger trees to determine which direction their weight will pull them when they fall. Trees that lean in a certain direction will fall in that direction. You should also remember to factor in wind to help determine which direction the tree will fall in.

Step 5

Scan around the base of the tree to remove any objects that can be damaged by the falling tree. Also remove any objects such as tree roots or rocks that can cause you to trip or fall and injure yourself as you work. Plan an escape path that you can use to retreat from the falling tree to avoid injury in case the tree bounces or debris falls from overhead.

Step 6

Make a wedge-shaped cut in the trunk near the base of the tree. This wedge-shaped cut should open in the direction that you want the tree to fall, and should extend 1/3 of the way through the tree. The cut should be at a 45 degree angle.

Step 7

Make a second cut on the other side of the tree. This cut should be a thin cut that is positioned slightly higher than the point of the wedge and should extend 2/3 of the way through the tree. The tree will begin to tilt and fall as the two cuts near one another.

Step 8

Step back as the tree falls. Wait for the tree and all debris to settle before returning to the tree. Cut all bent limbs at the midpoint to prevent them from snapping back as they are released. Cut all limbs from the tree at a point level with the tree's trunk. Stand uphill from the tree as you cut to keep the trunk from rolling onto you.

Step 9

Slice a trunk on level ground straight through from top to bottom. Tree trunks that are not on level ground should be cut 1/3 of the way through their underside, and then 2/3 of the way through the top to avoid pinning the blade.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never cut a limb or tree with a chain saw in a position above your shoulder height. Doing so can cause you to lose control of the saw.

Things You'll Need

  • Branch loppers
  • Handsaw
  • Ax
  • Chain saw


  • University of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees
  • Mississippi State University Extension: Chain Saw Safety: Tree Felling
  • Extension: How do I safely Cut Down a Tree?

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University Extension: Controlling Undesirable Trees, Shrubs, and Vines in Your Woodland
Keywords: remove a tree, cutting down trees, felling, bucking, limbing

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."