How to cut down a tree correctly

How to cut down a tree correctly

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The chainsaw is often the fastest way to cut down a tree, but not always the best and certainly not the simplest or safest solution. We tell you when and how to cut down a tree correctly, what you need to know and what to do.

How to dry wood properly

Without trees, the world wouldn’t even be half as beautiful. They provide clean, oxygen-rich air, provide food and nesting places for birds, provide coveted shade on hot summer days, provide a warm blanket with their foliage that protects the soil from cold and drought. Especially in densely built-up areas, they have an enormous ecological and microclimatic significance. That is why most municipalities and states have issued tree protection ordinances regulating the conditions under which a tree may be felled.

Size and thus age of the tree play a central role. Since violations of the Tree Protection Ordinance are subject to heavy fines, the first thing to do is to inform yourself about local regulations on how to cut down a tree correctly.

The same applies when it comes to tree protection: ignorance does not protect against punishment! Courts have long ruled accordingly. If a tree is old and rotten and threatens to overturn in the next storm, felling trees is the only way to avert danger. Land owners are then even obliged to do so. Even if the tree is just affected by a disease and may damage other trees, it must be felled.

Instead of cutting down trees: is crown cutting an alternative?

It is more difficult if the tree has simply grown too large and casts an extremely large amount of shadow, if it has been planted too close to the house and the roots endanger the foundations or if only individual branches are rotten, which break off during storms and injure people or damage to buildings. A good option can be a crown cut. The treetop is lighted out vigorously, greatly reduced or even cut. The tree thus remains healthy and strong, the tree felling is then not necessary.

A crown cut is basically a matter for experts. Not only because it requires great expertise, because it is carried out from above, that is, the tree keeper climbs into the crown with the saw and works there.

For trees that have been planted too close to the house and have grown to full size, a crown cut can also help. If the roots endanger the foundation, they must be cut. Only a specialist can decide whether this is possible without compromising the stability of the tree.

How to cut down a tree correctly: safety and equipment

Once the decision to fall trees has been made, you must above all observe all safety regulations. When felling trees, safety begins with careful preparation: clear the work area and lock it off so that children, passers-by or pets are not put at risk. Helping hands that touch when the tree is felled are always welcome. However, a respectable distance and free “escape path” are prerequisites for how to cut down a tree correctly.

As a danger zone, you should block the double length of the tree around its location. In addition to the necessary protective clothing, the inspection of the work equipment is also one of the important preparatory measures: Is chain oil in the tank, is the chain idle? By the way, the chain saw is always set at full throttle for cutting. It is always cut in such a way that the chainring is not clamped by the wood.

Basically, you must never work with a chainsaw on a ladder or even in a tree! When setting the felling, you should stand behind the trunk at a 45° angle and also recede in this direction when the tree tilts. Here you are safest if the tree does not fall exactly as you planned. This can be especially true in rotting trees.

The right protective clothing when cutting down trees

Chainsaws are powerful tools and they should be treated with the necessary respect. Appropriate work clothes are therefore strongly recommended. Protect your head with a helmet and eyes with goggles, better still with a large visor that also protects the face from damage.

Due to the enormous noise level that chainsaws develop, hearing protection is also mandatory. Helmet, visor and hearing protection are also available as a fixed unit, whereby the sturdy visor is more comfortable than a pair of goggles. Stable work gloves protect your hands. They should be of good quality and be the right size so as not to hinder you while working.

If you regularly work with the chainsaw, you should extend your equipment with cut protection pants. This is not quite (from about $150), but can prevent bad wounds. Because when the outer layer of the trousers comes into contact with the saw blade unintentionally, long threads are torn out of the fabric. These stable threads become trapped directly in the saw blade and lead to the immediate blocking of the machine.

All these security measures do not help much if you are not able to stand safely while working. And that doesn’t just mean the stable ground you should stand on, but also includes suitable footwear. It should be solid shoes, with a grippy sole and ideally with a protective toe cap.

How to cut down a tree correctly: The right tools

Even the most trained karate master cannot cut down a tree by hand edge, so a suitable tool is always needed. In the past, a sharp axe and a large saw were sufficient to put the notch cut on the one side and the felling cut on the other.

Today, a powerful chainsaw is most often the tool of choice for how to cut down a tree correctly. It is not only more convenient to handle, while respecting some safety rules, but also safer than the brute handling of the axe. In principle, motor chainsaws are more powerful than their power-powered counterparts, but also louder and more expensive. Another advantage: You are not restricted by any power cable in your radius of action, not to mention the risk of cutting off the juice itself.

At the sword length of the saw, 35 cm are sufficient for normal domestic use. Longer swords are not necessarily better, because the saws also become heavier and unwieldy. Some models offer the possibility to mount swords of different lengths and are therefore equipped for all tree falls. The engine power of this class varies between 1.3 and 2.6 kW. Climbing into the treetop with chainsaws is extremely dangerous and also a bit stupid.

For such work there are the so-called high-saws or pole saws. These devices are small chainsaws on a stem, with which branches can still be cut safely and comfortably even at a height of 4 m. Important: Of course, you must never stand under the branch to be sawn off, but only offset at an angle of about 60°. You need split wedges to prevent the saw blade from being clamped when felling trees. The steel, aluminium or plastic wedges are driven in with a hammer.

How to cut down a tree correctly: step-by-step instructions

The direction in which the tree is to fall is determined by the notch cut. This is a notch of about 45°, which does not extend more than a third into the trunk. Make the slanted cut first, then the horizontal cut to complete the notch.

On the opposite side, you now place the felling cut, about 5 cm above the horizontal cut of the felling heir.

Once the tree has fallen, first remove the branches at the top of the trunk. The lower branches remain standing…

… so that the trunk remains well above the ground for crushing. Otherwise, there would be a risk of sawing into the ground when cutting the trunk

If the root stump of the tree remains in the ground, the trunk is sawn as close as possible above the ground. If, on the other hand, the roots are to be removed, it is recommended to leave as long as possible the rest of the trunk in order to be able to use the leverage force when digging.

Fall notch at tree felling

The direction of the fall is determined by the cuts. Two cuts are necessary for the felling. The felling is applied approximately 5 cm above the felling sole in parallel. The fracture cut, which must not be cut through, acts like a hinge.

Saw tree trunk

To cut the tree trunk, you must store it clearly above the ground so that you do not accidentally saw into the ground. Since the blade of the chainsaw is slightly clamped when sawing into the trunk, two cuts must be attached. The first cut is always the relief cut. To do this, cut about a third of the trunk where the saw blade can be clamped. The second is the cut.

Left: right, right: wrong

Applies to all sawing operations: The cut must always be set in such a way that the wood cannot clamp the chain.

Left: optimal, middle: right, right: wrong

Clearing the stump

To remove the tree stump, lift a trench about 50 to 80 cm from the trunk, so deep that the roots are exposed. These are cut with an axe or hand saw. Leave the tree stump 2 m high to take advantage of the leverage effect. If the strength of your helpers is still insufficient, winch or a trekker are useful. For safety reasons, no person may be between the wind and the tree stump.

Legal aspects: This is what you need to pay attention to when felling trees

When it comes to cutting down trees, anger and strife are often programmed in from the start. The tricky question is whether you own a particular tree at all. Because only as such are you entitled to make it. It’s easy to answer if you’re the sole owner of a house and the tree is on your property.

However, there are often owner communities, for example in houses with condominiums. Those who are allowed to use the garden here are often not the owners of the garden, but only have a special right of use. In this case, a majority decision of the owners must be taken. If the tree to be felled is even a boundary tree that stands on two plots at the same time, both owners must agree to the case.

Even if the question of ownership is clear, trees of a certain size or less may not normally be simply felled. This is where the tree protection regulations stand. Be sure to check with your municipality about the existing regulations. These can vary greatly from city to city and from one municipal area to another.

But here, too, there are always exceptions. For example, there are often special regulations for certain tree species, which are to be particularly protected in some places. However, all this is more or less arbitrarily set from place to place. However, litigation has shown that the tree protection regulations are largely inviolable. Tackling or even complaining about this makes little sense.

Since trees are often the cause of a dispute between neighbours, most federal states have regulated in the so-called neighbor law which rights and obligations are associated with the possession of a tree. Typical points of contention such as foliage infestation on the neighbouring property, shadow cast or distance of a tree to the property boundary are already bindingly regulated. 

How to cut down a tree correctly: important FAQ

How do you recognize a dangerous tree?
The correct “address” of the tree is very important. It becomes dangerous whenever the tree is under tension. Take a close look at it before the fall. Is it going wrong? Does it have a one-sided crown? Is there a lot of dead wood in the crown?

What are the risks then?
If the pressure zones in the trunk are misjudged, the tree may burst or fall in the wrong direction when felling. Both can have catastrophic consequences.

Are deciduous or coniferous trees more dangerous?
You can’t say either. Only that the problem of heavy dead wood in the crown occurs more frequently in deciduous trees. And when that typically falls from a high altitude, it becomes extremely dangerous.

What should be considered for rotten trees?
If there is rot, fungi or even hollows on a larger tree, great care should be taken! These trees can burst uncontrollably, break away or fall in an unplanned direction when felling.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make as an amateur when felling trees?
First of all, one has to master the felling technique, since many laymen are already struggling. Then: rash action and lack of response to the tree. And finally, the cardinal error: sawing on the ladder. Sawing over shoulder height and ladders is forbidden for good reason.

Is there a maximum trunk diameter to orientate yourself on?
There is no easy answer. For beginners, the rail length of the saw is a clue. Even advanced users should not take more than twice the rail length minus 20 percent of trunk diameters. But then the cuts have to sit already.

If the tree is on the ground, is the danger eliminated?
By no means! Especially then, injuries often occur. Here, too, the tensions in the wood must be properly assessed. Branches and tree parts can burst or smash away, the saw can get stuck in the trunk.

Where do you learn how to use chainsaws safely?
Many forest work schools now offer courses for interested private individuals. Often on weekends or compressed in one day. Check with the nearest Chamber of Agriculture or the responsible forester.

Cutting up wood: 3 ways

Hydraulic wood splitters with mains power electric drive make the production of firewood much easier. This allows you to process large quantities of wood in a short period of time without getting into a sweat.

If you want to be on the safe side when crushing the tree trunk, use a sturdy saw buck to cut the wood. The trunk is tightly clamped, both hands are free and can stay where they belong, namely at the saw. The Smart Holder is suitable for woods between 25 and 230 mm in diameter and can be folded by simply loosening two wing nuts.

The only justification for operating a chainsaw with only one hand is such a special saw block and guard. In this case, the saw is firmly clamped into a swivel arm. So you have a hand to guide the cut.

When you can’t do the job yourself

Of course, for some jobs, you should seek the services of a professional such as

gerhardt-richter Gerhardt Richter is a writer and a trainer at trade technical colleges, specializing in carpentry, plumbing, mechanics and construction.