Big Tree Removal


Removing a large, well-established older tree can be a difficult decision to make. Removing a large tree presents difficulties that are not present with smaller trees, including logistical and safety issues. But larger, older trees that are in decline can fall or drop limbs, creating a hazard to anyone around them. If your large tree is in a populated area or near power lines, you should consider having a professional remove the tree. Otherwise you may try to fell the tree on your own.

Step 1

Walk away from the tree and look it over before cutting it down. Trees that are shaped oddly will fall in the direction that is heaviest because of tilting or branch growth. In windy areas, a tree may fall in the direction that the wind pushes it. Calculate the way in which you will cut your tree based on the direction that the tree is most inclined to fall.

Step 2

Look over the crash zone where the tree will fall. Remove any objects that could be harmed by the fall. Plan an escape route that you can take to move away from the tree when it falls. This will get you out of the way of falling debris or the tree itself in case the trunk bounces. Remove any rocks, roots or other debris that can trip you as you escape.

Step 3

Select a chain saw for a large, older tree. Chain saws are less labor-intensive for a large tree than an axe. Make a wedge-shaped cut, known as an undercut, in the trunk near the base of the tree. The cut should open at a 90-degree angle in the direction you want the tree to fall, and should only extend 1/3 of the way through the tree.

Step 4

Make a second cut, known as a back cut in the trunk on the opposite side of the tree from the undercut. The back cut should be located slightly higher on the trunk than the undercut. The tree will begin to tilt in the direction of the undercut. Move away from the tree down your planned escape path as it falls.

Step 5

Return to the tree only after all debris has settled. Examine the fallen tree for potential safety hazards such as uneven ground, bent saplings or springy limbs known as springpoles, and for limbs or a trunk that have not settled on the ground. Suspended limbs could fall and hit you.

Step 6

Neutralize hazards by removing them. Cut springpoles at the zenith of their bend to prevent them from snapping back on you when they are freed.

Step 7

Remove the tree in pieces, starting by cutting up the limbs and hauling them away. Then section up the trunk log to remove it.

Step 8

Cut limbs away from the tree by standing on the side of the tree opposite the limb and reaching across the trunk to work. Cut through a limb where it joins the tree. Saw through logs that are on level ground by starting at the top and sawing straight downward. Saw thorough logs suspended in the air in two sections to avoid binding the blade. First saw through the lower 1/3 of the log from the underside, then saw through the upper 2/3 from the top downward to meet your first cut.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never remove limbs above your shoulders. Cutting at a weak angle can lead to your losing control of your saw. Always be aware of your surroundings. Never stand downhill from a tree trunk on a hillside. The tree can roll on top of you. Never walk under a felled tree that is leaning against other trees or suspended by branches above the ground. Never stand on downed limbs, which can be pulled out from beneath you if the trunk of the tree shifts. Always be aware of your footing.

Things You'll Need

  • Chain saw


  • University of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees
  • Mississippi State Univeristy Extension: Disaster Preparedness
  • Univeristy of New Hampshire Extension: Large Tree Pruning and Care

Who Can Help

  • Climate Audit: Cutting Down the Oldest Living Tree in the World
Keywords: cutting down trees, large 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."