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Guide To Safe Tree Felling

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If you have trees on your land, there's bound to come a time when you need to cut one down, for example following storm damage, or if disease kills the tree.  Large trees should always be tackled by a professional tree service company, but you could remove small ones yourself, provided you have the right equipment.

Here's how to do the job safely and efficiently.

What you'll need

  • suitable protective gear – Kevlar leggings, hard hat, steel toe-capped boots, thick gloves, goggles
  • chain saw
  • axe
  • wedges

How to do it

  1. A dead or dying tree will be easier to cut down than one that's alive as the wood will be lighter and less dense.  To establish if the tree is dead or alive, knock against the trunk with your axe.  If the sound is hollow, the tree is probably dead.  
  2. Look at the tree to see if it leans one way or the other.  Choose the drop zone where the tree will naturally want to fall.  For safety, this site should ideally be level, so that the tree doesn't bounce unpredictably.  
  3. Start by making a horizontal cut in the tree trunk using the chain saw.  The cut should be no higher than hip height and not more than a third of the way through the trunk.  Bear in mind that the tree will drop perpendicular to the horizontal cut.  
  4. Next, make a wedge cut from the bottom of the horizontal cut.  This means that you'll be removing a slice of the tree trunk, rather like the segment of an orange.  
  5. Now make a back cut slightly above the horizontal cut on the opposite side of the tree.  As you make the cut, put in a wedge to stop the tree from dropping onto your chain saw.  Once the back cut is made, the tree will be ready to fall.  Keep adding more wedges into the back cut until the tree starts to drop, then run well clear of the drop zone.  Keep your eyes on the tree as you go, in case it falls unpredictably.

In conclusion

If the tree to be removed is very large, or is sited in a position where it could fall onto your house or your neighbour's property, it's recommended that you have the work carried out by a professional tree felling company.  They will have the right equipment and experience to be able to remove the tree for you, and will also be able to clear the debris and dispose of it too.