Sometimes, our beloved trees must be removed. They die, they decay, they become sick or injured beyond repair. Sometimes, trees grow too big or too close to houses and other buildings—their roots become exposed and rupture sidewalks, roads, pipes, or underground cables. Sometimes, trees planted too close together crowd each other out, competing for resources such as sunlight and soil. And, sometimes, trees need to be removed before construction can happen. Whatever the reason, the removal of a tree, no matter the size, can be potentially dangerous when not following proper safety precautions.
Most trees in residential and urban areas must be cut into manageable sections. This is the safest and most practical way to remove them. And just as cutting a tree down happens section by section, so too should you follow a step-by-step process to safely remove and dispose of your tree.
While DIY projects may be tempting for confident tree owners (and amateur removers), removing especially large trees on your own—or trees whose internal structures are severely compromised—can be extremely dangerous. You shouldn’t attempt such large projects without help, such as an expert arborist or tree removal service, like Mr. Tree. However, if you decide to remove the tree on your own, especially for smaller projects on your own property, check out these steps of cutting down a tree in sections.
Clear any moveable clutter, debris, or yard waste from the “fall zone” (see below). Remove the lower branches of the tree (a process known as “limbing”) with a pole pruner, reciprocating saw, or chainsaw at standing level. To maintain control of your chainsaw, never operate it above shoulder height. Always set the chain break on until you’re ready to operate it. Never drop branches or sections you cut, as any falling debris may cause injury.
Use a tripod ladder (regular lean ladders are not as secure) to reach above shoulder height for your beginning cuts. Position the ladder as close to the trunk as possible and secure the ladder to the tree with a rope. Use a rope to secure your chainsaw as well—never carry your tools, especially your chainsaw, up a ladder. It’s better to use a rope and pulley to safely lift your chainsaw to your work level. Use a fall-arrest harness, securing it to yourself and the tree according to the operating instructions, before ascending your ladder.
Before making your first cut, measure the length of the sections, trying to be as consistent as possible. Do not overestimate the length of your cut, as larger sections will be heavy.
Limbing the tree at greater heights will make individual sections more manageable and will help you avoid a branch striking back.
Make your first cut (the bottom of the top section) at a 70-degree angle downwards on the side of the section you want to fall, cutting into about one-third of the trunk. Next, lower your chainsaw and cut upwards at a 20-degree angle until you meet the end of the first cut, making a right triangle. Lower this wedge to the ground.
Lower the chainsaw, descend the ladder, and reposition and re-secure the ladder to the other side of the tree. Ascend to the same level where you made your first cuts and pull the chainsaw back to your work level. Cut straight through the trunk until you meet the angle of the first cuts. Ensuring the section is secure, lower it to the ground.
Repeat this section-by-section cutting process as necessary until you reach the stump. You have successfully removed your tree.