Cutting Guide

How To Cut Down A Tall Tree By Yourself? Step-by-Step Guide

So you’ve got a towering tree in your yard that you want to bring down safely and on your own. It’s doable. The cautionary news? You need to take some serious precautions and steps for a safe and effective process.

Cutting down a tall tree isn’t a task you jump into without preparation. It demands specialized tools like a well-maintained chainsaw and safety gear that includes helmets, gloves, and eye protection. 

We’re about to walk you through the A to Z of felling that tall tree in your yard!

The First Step in Cutting Down a Tall Tree


Before you make your first cut, planning is key. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Inspect the Tree: Check for any diseased or rotten areas as they can make the tree unstable.
  2. Identify the Fall Direction: Look for the natural lean of the tree, as it is easier to fall the tree in that direction.
  3. Clear the Area: Ensure there’s a clear area for the tree to fall without causing damage.
  4. Plan Your Escape Route: Choose two escape paths opposite the planned direction of the fall.

how do you cut down a tall tree by yourself?


1. Making the Notch Cut

The notch cut serves as the initial strike in your tree-felling process. An art mastered by experienced lumberjacks and forest professionals, this is the first of two decisive actions that will steer your tall tree toward its final descent.

Your tree’s destiny hinges on this cut, essentially guiding it to tumble in the right direction.

  • Position of the Notch

Set Your Bearings Right When it comes to tree felling, positioning is key. The notch should be a blemish on the side of the tree facing the direction you want it to tumble.

A general rule of thumb followed by tree professionals, as emphasized by the US Forest Service, is to have the notch at about 1/3 or 1/4 of the tree’s diameter. This positioning ensures a clean, controlled fall and significantly reduces the risk of kickback or the tree falling in an unexpected direction.

  • Top Cut

The Downward Angle Once you’ve set your position, it’s time to lay the first blow. According to Paul Sellers, a renowned woodsman, the top cut should be a precise incision made at an angle of about 70 degrees downward.


Sellers emphasize the importance of this steep angle, as it helps guide the tree’s fall and mitigates risks.

  • Bottom Cut

The Horizontal Finish The bottom cut serves as the finishing touch to your notch cut, a horizontal slice that meets the top cut. This forms a clear ‘notch’ out of the tree. Remember, your bottom cut must be exact and should perfectly meet your top cut.

According to John Ball, a professor of forestry at South Dakota State University, this precise meeting of cuts is crucial to ensure that the tree falls predictably and safely in the desired direction.

2. The Back Cut


  • Position of the Back Cut

Following the notch cut, the back cut is your next decisive move. This cut, as the name suggests, is made on the side of the tree opposite to the notch cut.

The Guided Push The back cut is made slightly higher than the bottom of the notch. The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources suggests placing the back cut about 2 inches higher than the bottom cut to create what is known as a ‘hinge’.

This hinge plays a crucial role in the controlled fall of the tree, serving as a guide for the tree’s fall and preventing it from kicking back toward the cutter.

  • Making the Back Cut

A Safe Distance When making the back cut, safety is paramount. Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) recommends using a long-bar chainsaw or pole saw to maintain a safe distance from the tree. As the tree begins to lean and fall, move away quickly and safely to avoid injury.

  • Warning and Safety

While this guide provides a step-by-step walkthrough of the tree felling process, it is crucial to remember that cutting down tall trees can be hazardous. As emphasized by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), proper training and safety equipment are crucial when engaging in tree-felling activities.

It’s always safer and more sensible to hire professionals if you’re not confident in your ability to safely fell a tree.

3. Making the feeling Cut

The falling cut is the final cut that will cause the tree to fall. This cut is made on the side opposite the notch cut.

  • Position of the Felling Cut:

The felling cut should be slightly above the bottom of the notch.

  • The Cut

Start the cut slightly above the bottom point of the notch. Keep cutting until you’ve penetrated about 1/10 of the tree’s diameter.

  • Use Wedges

If the tree is large, insert wedges to prevent the tree from leaning back and pinching the saw.

4. Dealing with a Tall Tree


If the tree is too large to be safely felled in one piece, it may need to be cut into sections.

  • Climb Safely

Climb a ladder to a point that’s about 10 feet above the ground.

  • Create a Notch

Select this point to create a notch and cut the trunk there.

  • Repeat the Process

Continue this process, working your way down the tree until you’ve cut the entire tree.

Why Should You Learn How to Cut Down a Tall Tree by Yourself?

While it’s always advised to call in professionals for such tasks, there are a few compelling reasons for homeowners to acquire this skill:

  1. Cost Saving: Hiring professionals can be expensive. Cutting down a tree yourself could save you substantial amounts of money.
  2. Self-sufficiency: If you live in a remote area where professionals are hard to reach, knowing how to fell a tree becomes essential.
  3. Preventive Measures: Sometimes, you need to remove a tree to prevent it from causing potential harm, such as falling on a building during a storm.

Never Do This When Cutting Down A Tree

1. Neglecting Safety Precautions

Safety should always be your number one priority when cutting down a tree. Here are some of the crucial precautions that you should never overlook:

  • Not Wearing Proper Safety Gear

Always wear a helmet, safety goggles, sturdy gloves, and steel-toe boots. Chaps or cut-resistant pants are also highly recommended.

  • Ignoring the Weather

Never attempt to cut a tree during bad weather conditions. High winds, rain, or snow can make the process dangerously unpredictable.

  • Working Alone

Always have a second person nearby to keep an eye on the tree and the surroundings. They can also provide help in case of an emergency.

2. Lack of Proper Planning

Cutting down a tree is not just about hacking at the trunk until it falls. It requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some of the key planning mistakes to avoid:

  • Not Assessing the Tree and its Surroundings

Check the lean of the tree, any broken or dead branches, and nearby structures that could be damaged.

  • Improper Notch and Back Cut Placement

The notch cut guides the tree’s fall, while the back cut releases the tree to fall. Misplacing these cuts can lead to uncontrollable and dangerous falls.

  • No Clear Escape Path

Always plan two escape paths opposite the direction of the tree fall.

3. Using Incorrect or Dull Tools

Tools are your key allies in tree cutting. Hence, it is essential to choose the right tools and maintain them properly.

  • Choosing the Wrong Size Chainsaw

The size of your chainsaw should match the size of the tree you’re cutting.

  • Using a Dull Chainsaw

A sharp chainsaw is safer and more effective. Dull chainsaws can kick back or get stuck in the tree, leading to accidents.

  • Neglecting Other Tools

Apart from chainsaws, tools like wedges, axes, and ropes can be invaluable in controlling the tree’s fall.

4. Ignoring Local Laws and Regulations

Before you start cutting down a tree, make sure you are legally allowed to do so. You might need a permit or there could be restrictions on the type of tree you can cut down.

5. Inadequate Training

Tree cutting is a dangerous job that requires skill and knowledge. It’s always safer to hire a professional, especially for larger or more complex jobs.

6. Not Checking for Wildlife

Before starting the process, always check the tree for nests or burrows. It’s important to avoid harming local wildlife whenever possible.

7. Failing to Clean Up

Once the tree has been cut down, it’s crucial to clean up the debris to avoid injury or damage.

Frequently Asked Question

What is the easiest way to cut down a tree?

The “easiest” way isn’t always the safest. A chainsaw is usually the quickest method. However, you need to know about cutting angles, felling direction, and safety measures. If you’re not sure, better call a pro.

How to cut down a tall tree in sections?

Cutting a tall tree in sections involves making several horizontal cuts, working from top to bottom. This is usually done while secured in a harness. Each cut piece is then lowered with ropes. This method is best left to professionals.

How do you prune a tree that is too tall?

You’ll need specialized tools like pruning shears, pole pruners, or a chainsaw, and a good knowledge of tree health. Use a ladder or climbing harness to reach the high branches and make clean cuts. For large jobs, consider hiring an expert.

Can you cut down a tall tree yourself?

While you can technically cut down a tall tree yourself, it’s not recommended unless you’re experienced. Lack of proper skills and equipment can make this dangerous. Best to call a professional for the job.

How to take down a tree with ropes?

Using ropes can help control the direction where a tree will fall. Tie the rope high on the tree and pull it taut in the direction you want the tree to fall. As you cut the base, people pull the rope to guide the fall.

Key Takeaways

  • We’ve outlined steps for safely cutting down a tall tree, from planning to execution.
  • Specialized tools and safety gear are crucial for this task.
  • While the guide aims to be comprehensive, the job comes with inherent risks.
  • If in doubt, hiring professionals is always the safer option.