How Do You Cut Down a Tree With A Chainsaw?

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If hiring lumberjacks or loggers to take down a tree on your property makes you feel uneasy, then learning how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw might be your best option.

Besides, you only have to learn a few things and buy the needed tools and materials. To help you, I’ve round up everything you need to know to start your tree-felling experience.

What is Felling?

When felling a tree, it can be cut down using either a chainsaw or handsaw, depending on the chosen method. Utilizing chainsaws for tree felling requires careful planning and strategic approach.

tree felling

 A seasoned chainsaw operator can be a great assistance if you’re just learning how to use one.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need



Preparations Before Cutting Down a Tree

1. Get the permits you need

If you plan to cut down trees larger than a particular size, you’ll need a permit or other approval from your city or town, if not your state. 

Even though the trees are located on your private property, you may be restricted in your ability to remove them according to local ordinances and strict environmental regulations. Consult with your town hall to find out about local regulations.

2. Make sure you have proper safety gear

Before felling trees, you must wear adequate safety equipment. Wearing reliable chainsaw chaps, helmets, safety glasses, gloves, and boots are all necessary pieces of head-to-toe protection. 

You should also dress tough to avoid getting soiled and poisoned by weeds and other plants.

3. Choose the right chainsaw

Using a non-electric saw or ax to cut trees is possible if you have the time and energy. A chainsaw is the fastest and safest method of chopping down a tree. Larger trees necessitate saws with longer blades and higher horsepower. 

Person holding a Remington chainsaw

A bar span of twenty inches best serves medium to large-sized trunks. Also, make sure the chainsaw’s tension is correct for optimal performance.

4. Check the location for obstacles and clear the area if necessary

Look at the tree’s location and the surrounding objects or the felling zone. Power lines, fences, smaller trees, and other buildings can be damaged when a tree falls on them or hits them outside.

Install warning signs on any roads that might be in the fall direction or path of the falling debris or loose branches overhead. If you’re a novice and there are nearby items, seek the help of an expert.

5. Examine the tree’s condition

Examine the trees for signs of illness and dead limbs. A diseased or dead tree should be cut down by a professional unless you know how to. Infected trees are easier to chop down since their wood is decaying.

two men cutting down a tree

Before removing the entire tree, it is important to remove any dead or broken branches, fallen limbs, and vines around it.

6. Examine in which direction is the tree leaning

If the tree is swaying, you’ll need to use ropes to pull it against the lean. A situation like this may necessitate consulting with an expert.

7. Form a plan for the tree’s fall zone

Determine the direction in which the trees should fall. Structures, electrical lines, and other trees or potential hazards should all be removed from the area where you want to cut them down.

Consider enclosing the area in which the tree will fall if you’re near a highway or a populated area.

8. Plan out your getaway zone

Make sure you have a getaway plan in place. And the escape route should be devoid of hazards and debris at a 45° angle from the landing path. When a tree splits and falls, it can shoot out to the back or side, and this angle lets you avoid it.

person cutting a tree

Step-by-Step Process of Cutting Down the Tree

Step #1: Remove the lower branches, tree limbs, and buttress roots.

Using your limbing chainsaw, remove any dead branches and buttresses that have stretched on the bottom section of the tree trunk. You can utilize a pulling chain to remove branches and limbs from trees. 

Take a vantage point that places the trunk between you and the chainsaw and work at an angle. You should never use chainsaws to chop branches that reach above your shoulders.

How Do You Fell a Tree in the Right Direction?

The directional notch, or the initial sequence of chops you must execute if you fell a tree, is imperative to making the tree land in the direction you want. 

A directional notch can be done in several different ways. It mostly determines the direction of the tree’s fall or where the tree naturally leans.

Step #2: Cut the directional notch

A notch cut is the most efficient and safest tree felling. There are three distinct sorts of notch cuts that you can use to topple a tree, each with a somewhat different purpose. 

To guide the falling tree safely, you can use your saw to make an incision in its base and cut a notch in its trunk.

notching a tree for direct felling

Types of Notches

Open-faced Notch

Make the first cut on top to produce the open-face notch. To get to a depth of 1/4 to 1/3 of the tree, use a 70-degree downward cutting angle. The two notches produce a 45-degree notch, whereas these two notches produce a 90-degree notch.

Humbolt Notch

The Humbolt notch is a traditional upside-down notch. To make this notch, make a back cut into the tree straight down the middle. About one-third of the way across the tree’s diameter, halt your straight cut. Make another upward cut to meet the first cut at a 45-degree angle.

Conventional Notch

It’s necessary to have a conventional notch to make one. Make a 45-degree cut downward until you reach1/4 to 1/3 of the tree. Continue cutting until it reaches the first one.

Step #3: Do the second cut from the other side

What is the Face Cut?

The face cut is made on the portion of the tree directly in the fall zone or felling sight. 2 ft off the ground is the ideal cutting height for both saw control and comfort. At least two cuts are told to eliminate the part.

tree felling conventional face cut

What is the Back Cut? + How to Make Back Cuts

The rear cut is done on the other side of the face. Because the tree can start falling with just one slash, considerable concentration is essential. Keep your cool and rely on your preparations if the tree starts to fall.

Open-faced back cut

The back cut is made just by where the two-notch cuts meet and extends into the tree until the wood joint it generates compensates approximately 10% of the trunk.

Open-faced notches should be cut 5 or 6 inches deep, and back cuts should be 12 or 13 inches deep with a two-inch hinge for a twenty-inch broad tree.

Humbolt back cut

The Humbolt notch’s back cut should be about an inch higher than the notch’s top cut.

tree felling humbolt back cut

Open face notch does not guide the tree during its whole descent; hence it is much more dangerous than Humboldt’s notch.

Conventional Back Cut

Back cuts will leave a 10 percent hinge, but still, you’ll create them approximately an inch higher than they were in open-faced cuts, rather than where the two cuts meet.

Step #4: Use tree-cutting tools for the felling cut

Create a horizontal cut slightly or a little above the last cut on the opposite side for the felling cut. Saw until you can insert a wedge into it to prevent the saw from catching.

When you’ve made a cut horizontally, insert the tree-felling wedge, pointing in the path you want the tree fall. Finish the cut without touching the felling wedge as you drive in the wedge. 

tree trunk

Make sure you don’t go all the way through it. A hinge should be roughly 10% of the width. Make your way out of the route when the tree begins to fall.


When the tree is taken down, there will be twigs and branches to remove, referred to as “limbing.”’

Pulling or pushing chain

Start at the very bottom and work your way up cautiously and methodically. You can use the lower part of the bar to make a downward cut. 

You can refer to this sawing method as “cutting with a chain.” You can also use the bar’s top to make a vertical cut. As the chain drives the saw towards you, it is called “pushing chain cutting.”

Offset cuts

Partially cutting one part of the limb, then cutting through the trunk an inch or two closer, are examples of these cuts. Avoid tying the chain too tightly.

cutting a tree

Cutting large branches and limbs that are under tension

Under the tree, bowed limbs can be re-extended. Later, when you can flip the tree around and relieve the tension, you can clip these off.

Limbs on the tree’s underside

If you have a proper work height, cutting the limbs on the bottom is possible.


Finally, you’ll need to chop the trunk. Bucking is the term for this.

Cutting logs on the ground

To avoid cutting into the ground, for logs lying on the ground, make a partial cut, then flip the log over and complete the cut.

Sawing supported pieces

For secured logs on one end, begin cutting from the base and finish on top. To make it easier to work with, arrange the pieces from the production area in manageable proportions.

cutting a tree

Preventing binding

Look for areas where the wood may contract during the cutting process: The saw could be pinched (bound) if two pieces of trunk fall together at that point. To avoid compression, cut a quarter of the way into the side.

To avoid the saw binding, use this technique. It provides more control. In addition, you can use a wedge to keep the space open, but it must not come into touch with the chain.

How to Choose a Chainsaw for Felling (Factors to Consider)

Gas Power

Cutting down trees with a gas-powered chainsaw is presumably your goal. Except for electric or battery-powered saws, chainsaws are not powerful enough to handle large trees and branches.


Because kickback can be life-threatening, it’s a good idea to check for products with anti-kickback safety mechanisms. It is also possible to reduce kickback by using a saw that has a tapered tip.

person operating a chainsaw

Other Features

Hand guards and automatic chain locks are common features on chainsaws, further enhancing user safety [1]. It may have systems in place to lessen vibrations and make it easier to start.


When cutting down trees with a chainsaw, the golden rule is to always secure the necessary permissions. After getting those in place, always map out a game plan, ensuring you had an escape path. 

Trust me, once you’re all prepped, following safety procedures and the suggested techniques makes the whole process smooth and successful.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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