How To: Safely remove a tree

The removal of large trees should be left to professional arborists. Their training and liability insurance make them the best people for the job. However, for smaller trees that have died, are dying or are interfering with the growth of desirable, adjacent trees, you might want to tackle the job yourself. The following suggestions should help keep you and your surroundings safe from falling tree hazards.

  1. There is no hurry when using a chain saw. The only occasion for hurrying is to move out of the way of the falling tree.

  2. Determine if you are really suited for removing this particular tree. Consider power lines, buildings, people and vehicles in the area and the likelihood you can avoid hitting them with the falling tree. Is there an escape route for yourself and others working on the tree? Be sure your escape route is free of tools or other obstructions. If in doubt, call a professional.

  3. While evaluating the area, inspect the tree itself. Are there branches on a particular side that will pull the tree in that direction, or will become entangled with surrounding trees, preventing the safe falling of the tree? Does the tree naturally lean in one direction? You can make cuts to help sway the direction of the fall, up to a point. Is there decay that could affect the direction of the fall? Are there minor branches that you can safely remove to give you more space to work?

  4. Check out your equipment. Your chain saw should have a blade at least as long as the diameter of the tree. The chain should be sharp and the blade well oiled. Monitor the fuel level regularly while working — you don't want to run out of gas at a critical time. You must wear ear and eye protection. You may also want a wedge, preferably a plastic one that won't damage the chain saw if they should come in contact.

  5. Trees less than 6 inches in diameter, as well as trees leaning towards or easily maneuvered to the falling location, can be cut clear through. For larger trunks and trunks that need more direction, you should make a series of three cuts.

    • Cut ⅓ of the way through the trunk on the side you want the tree to fall. This starts the notch needed to direct the tree.

    • Cut above the first cut down to the back of the first cut at approximately a 45-degree angle, resulting in a notch.

    • The third cut should not go all the way through, so as to create a hinge to prevent the tree from kicking up when cut. From the back side of the trunk, across from the bottom of the notch, cut towards the notch. Stop the cut before cutting all the way through. Watch the movement of the trunk carefully, and be sure all others working with you are watching the motion of the tree. Be prepared to turn off the chain saw, set it down and move to safety, if needed.

  6. If the tree does not fall, use wedges inserted into the back cut to begin to move the tree. The wedges reduce the need to have the chain saw running while struggling with a stubborn tree.

  7. Once the tree is down, inspect the branches to determine which could kick back when cut.

  8. Cut the branches with great personal care: Do not straddle the branch or trunk, do not saw between your legs and do not stand on the log you are sawing. Keep the blade out of the dirt. Always have feet firmly planted — do not stand on pieces of branches or areas slippery from leaves.

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