How to Cut Down a Tall Tree By Yourself: Tips for Homeowners

You’re outside in the backyard enjoying time with your family and notice a tree that’s got some dead branches on it. After checking it out, you determine the tree is dead and needs to come down safely so it doesn’t come down during a storm onto your house or car. 

We’re going to share how to cut a tall tree down by yourself and when you should call a professional for some help. 

Signs It’s Time to Cut Down Your Tree

Trees are a great addition to most any yard. They provide shade and a home for the animals in your yard. But sometimes they need to come down. Here are a few situations where you should consider removing your tree: 

  • Storm damage. If your tree was hit by lightning or had other damage from a storm, you want to consider removing it safely before it comes down on its own. Storm damage brings the risk of falling branches that can damage your home, your vehicles, or your family.
  • Infection. Trees that are diseased can spread that disease to the other trees or other flora in your yard. Instead of taking down one tree, you might end up having to take down lots of trees because they all become infected. 
  • Overgrowth. As trees grow, they begin to block windows or the roots get too close to septic tanks or sidewalks and can cause damage. 


What You’ll Need to Cut Down a Tall Tree

There’s more to cutting down a tall tree than pulling out your chainsaw and taking it down. You want to make sure that you’ve got the proper equipment before you start this project. 

Here are some of the things you’ll want to have before you start cutting down that tree: 

  • Safety gear: You’ll need a logger’s helmet, ear plugs, face mask or covering, and goggles or safety glasses. This is especially important to protect you from falling branches, which is a main cause of logging injuries.
  • Supplies: You’ll need a chainsaw, felling wedge, and an axe.
  • Tree removal: To remove your tree, you’ll need a dumpster, stump grinder, and wood chipper.

You also want to make sure you’ve got a safety radius and escape routes for you and the people helping you. 

Think about what you’re going to do once the tree is down. Your tree removal supplies might be different depending on what you’re doing with the tree once it’s down.

Remember to add some drinks and snacks to your shopping list too. Staying hydrated is very important!

How to Cut Down an Entire Tree Yourself

Once you’ve got all of your materials gathered, it’s time to start cutting down that tall tree. Be sure you’re following all of the proper safety precautions before you make any cuts into your tree.

Before You Get Started

Take some time to get familiar with the area you’re working in. Look at the tree you’re removing and ask yourself a few questions:  

  • Are the branches entangled with other trees?
  • Will those branches fall down easily or will they get stuck on other tree branches as they fall? 
  • What’s in the fall zone? What will this tree fall on when it gets cut down?
  • What happens if the tree doesn’t fall the way we’re planning for it to?
  • Do I need to remove branches before I cut the tree down? 
  • Is this tree too tall to safely fell in one place? Do I need to fell a tree in multiple pieces by cutting it into sections?
  • Is the tree leaning to one side of another? 
  • Are there a lot of dead branches on one side of the tree?
  • Is the tree leaning on another tree for support?
  • Are there any overhead wires?

Cut Down a Tall Tree

Based on your answers, you might need to do some additional prep work before you begin cutting down your tree. If there are too many obstacles, you may need to contact a professional instead of trying to cut down a taller tree yourself.

Start out by clearing a large area for the tree to fall safely on the ground without causing damage to people, buildings, vehicles, power lines, or other things. 

Make your tree felling zone larger than you think it should be. Trees need a large area to fall to help account for any branches or shifts in the tree as it falls. 

Have a lookout with you who knows what you’re planning to do so they can help keep you safe and stay safe themselves. 

Cutting Down the Tree

The first thing you’ll want to do when you’re ready to actually start cutting down the trees is to notch the tree. This means cutting a “v” shaped notch into the tree on the side you want it to fall towards. 

Do this low on the tree trunk near the ground. It doesn’t need to be a large notch – only about a quarter of the way into the tree’s trunk. Once you have the notch carved facing the felling direction, it’s time to cut down the tree.

Cut down the tree using your chainsaw. On the opposite side of the tree from the notch you just created, begin cutting the trunk of the tree with a straight cut several inches above the notch you created. 

Large trees will start falling on their own. As soon as you see the tree start to fall, it’s important to quickly get out of the way. Be sure your lookout and anyone else helping you is out of the way of the falling tree too. It can help to have an escape route before you begin so you can be safe once the tree starts to fall. We recommend having more than one in case the tree falls in a different direction than intended. Be aware of all the surrounding areas so everyone can stay safe.

If you’re cutting down a small tree, you might need to give it a push to help it start falling once you’ve notched and cut the trunk of the tree. 

Once the Tree is Down

Once the tree is down, start by cutting off the branches at the trunk of the tree so they can be removed. After all of the branches are cut off, start cutting the trunk up into logs. 

tall tree cutThere are plenty of uses for a felled tree. These logs can be firewood to use in your fire pit in the backyard. Let your friends and neighbors know that you’ve got some wood to get rid of. Someone may want it and come take it so you don’t have to worry about getting rid of it. 

You can also use your chainsaw to cut the felled tree into small pieces. If you use mulch for your garden, then you’ve just gotten a ton to use!

If you don’t have someone who wants to come get the wood, you’ll need to get rid of the tree trunk and branches yourself. Renting a wood chipper can help break down those trees and give you another usable product. A dumpster will also provide a way for you to get rid of the fallen tree.

This is also when you’ll need to start cleaning up the remaining tree trunk, stump, and roots. Dig up the area around the stump and use an axe to sever the roots of the tree. Remove the stump if you’re able to fully dig it out. If you can’t get the stump out, cut off as much of the remaining tree trunk as possible. You can grind the remaining stump down to ground level so it doesn’t become a tripping hazard in your yard. 

Be sure to fill the hole back in with the dirt that was removed. If you have a larger hole, you may need to get some additional fill dirt or gravel to help refill the hole. 

Tips on How to Cut Down a Tall Tree By Yourself

There are a few things to keep in mind during the process of cutting down a tree: 

  • Be familiar with your area. Before you start cutting, you want to make sure you’ve always got at least one way out. 
  • Get some friends to help. This isn’t a project you should do on your own. At the very least, you need at least one person to help you as a lookout to make sure you’re safe. This person should know your location and be able to call for help if anything goes wrong.
  • Divide and conquer. If you have more than one person helping you, split up and tackle different parts of the project to help things move along more quickly. Someone can be cutting branches off the trunk while someone else works from the other end of the trunk cutting it into logs. You can also have someone digging up the roots and taking care of the stump. Helpers can also be hauling branches and logs to the wood chipper, dumpster, or burn pile. 

When You Should Hire a Professional to Cut Down a Tree

As exciting as it might sound to cut down the tall tree yourself, sometimes it’s best to call in the professionals. 

If you have tall trees that are close to your home, other buildings, or power lines, it might be best to have an experienced tree professional remove the tree to reduce the possibility of damage. The price will depend on the size of the tree, including the tree’s height and diameter.

Sometimes trees decide to come down on their own, even when you’ve planned to take them down. We offer emergency tree services to our customers in the Manassas, VA area. 

Once the tree’s down, you’ve got to do something about it. All those branches, logs, stumps, and roots need to go somewhere. Having someone come out and cut down the tree for you may include them could include tree removal service or stump grinding

It’s also important to remove the tree stump as quickly as possible. This will reduce the risk of infection or pests.

United Tree Care offers a variety of tree services to our customers in the Manassas, VA area including tree trimming, emergency tree services, and stump removal. Contact us today for a free quote and to get more information about our tree removal services.

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