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How To Cut Down a Tree Safely


There are plenty of reasons you may need to cut down a tree. Maybe a storm blew through your area, causing it to snap or otherwise become damaged. Or maybe it’s come to the end of its life cycle, and now you have a dead or dying tree presenting a potential falling hazard. Whatever the reason may be, when the time comes for you to cut down a tree, you must act with both speed and caution.

You may be a perfectly handy homeowner, but when faced with the prospect of tree removal, plenty of people find themselves unsure where to begin. Luckily, your Vernon Imel tree experts are here to provide some much-needed guidance. Whether you can handle it on your own or need to call in the professionals, here are the steps you need to take in order to cut down a tree safely.

Prepare to Protect Yourself

“Safety first” may be a bit of a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true. This holds doubly so when your current circumstances involve a large, unstable tree. That’s why before you do anything else, you need to strap on all the proper safety equipment. A helmet and goggles are crucial, as you might end up in the way of falling branches or flying pieces of wood. Gloves are also a great idea, as they’ll keep your hands insulated from the friction that comes along with using heavy tools. If you’re making use of a chainsaw, ear and even leg protection may also be necessary. A solid pair of earmuffs will help protect you from the loud whir of the motor, while leg guards will keep your legs safe in case the chainsaw happens to fall against your body. Once you feel sufficiently armored-up, you can begin to handle the tree.

Assess the Situation

You only get one good shot to cut down a tree, so it’s best to make it count. Before you make any cuts, take the time you need to survey the situation and scope out the area. Even in the best-case scenario, bringing down a tree can be a dangerous ordeal, so it’s best to determine what may end up in harm’s way during the process. If there are any people around that aren’t actively involved, have them put distance between themselves and the tree. A rule of thumb is to be about twice the height of the tree away, as that will leave them with plenty of space between themselves and the tree as well as any limbs that may break away from it as it falls.

Once you’ve cleared the area of people, take a look around for any structures that might be in the tree’s collision path. Your home is an obvious thing to watch out for, but you’ll need to be mindful of power lines as well. The key is to identify what the tree might be able to damage on the way down, then to gently coax and direct it to fall in another direction.

Formulate a Plan

Now that you’ve noted everything in the area around the tree, you can begin to plan. There are a lot of variables when you cut down a tree, so it’s best to minimize the things that can go wrong. Use the information you gained from surveying the area to determine the best direction for it to fall. If you can, measure the exact height of the tree. You can use that not only to figure out the distance other people need to stand away, but also the size of the area it needs to fall safely.

With the felling direction and area locked in, you can plan for your escape routes. These should be two paths at a 45-degree angle away from the felling direction, cleared of any underbrush that might prevent you from a speedy escape. Even if you’re experienced in tree removal, it can still be dicey. By taking the time to plan an escape route, you’ll always have a way out should things go sideways.

Strategically Create a Notch

It’s not hard to chop down a tree just by getting an axe or saw and going at it, but it wouldn’t be the wisest course of action. If you want to do it like a professional, you’ll need to first create a guiding notch in the trunk. This notch will allow you to control the direction the tree breaks and, ultimately, falls.

To create a guiding notch, first cut in at a 60-degree angle on the felling side. The notch should go in only about one-fifth of the diameter of the tree, so do your best to cut carefully. Once you’ve made your first cut, you want to make another one, this time coming up at a 30-degree angle. This second cut should meet your first, leaving you with a 90-degree angle notch in the felling side of the tree. The notch will help break the tree in the correct direction, giving you invaluable control over it as it falls.

Strike the Felling Blow

You’ve put on your protection, cleared the area of loved ones, decided on the ideal felling direction, and made your guiding notch. Now, you’re finally ready to cut down your tree. Working carefully from the opposite side of the tree, cut horizontally toward the angle of the notch. If the tree is particularly large, you may want to use felling wedges to keep the weight of it off your saw and allow you to keep cutting smoothly.

Keep going until the second you feel the tree begin to fall, then remove the saw and back up along your escape route. It’s vital you keep your eyes on the tree at all times, just in case it begins to fall in an unexpected way. If you have anyone else who can serve as a lookout at a safe distance, we’d recommend getting their help as well. Once you’re safely away, congratulations! You’ve successfully cut down a tree.

Cutting down a tree is a labor-intensive, sometimes scary task. If you still feel like you could use professional help, there’s nothing wrong with calling in the professionals. Vernon Imel offers full tree removal service, from assessment and felling to removal of the timber and stump once the tree is down. Should you decide you’d rather have expert hands cut down your tree, don’t hesitate to get in touch.