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How to Cut Down a Tree Safely

Dropping and bucking a dead tree with This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook and chainsaw safety expert Tim Ard.

In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook and chainsaw safety expert Tim Ard cut down a dead tree.

How to Cut Down a Tree

  1. Look up into the tree to ensure there aren't any obstacles, including overhead wires or other trees, which would prevent the tree from falling to the ground.
  2. Identify a clear escape route that leads approximately 20 feet away from the tree.
  3. Determine which direction the tree is leaning and identify a target zone where the tree will fall.
  4. Start the chainsaw and make the initial top cut down into the tree.
  5. Make the second cut across the top cut to complete the open face notch.
  6. Cut into the backside of the tree directly behind, and slightly above the open face notch.
  7. Saw into the tree, leaving 1 inch of wood; don't saw completely through the tree trunk.
  8. As the tree starts to fall, stop sawing and pull out the chainsaw. Immediately move a safe distance from the tree along the escape route.
  9. Slide a plastic or wood wedge underneath the tree and cut straight down about halfway into the trunk.
  10. Insert a second wedge into the saw kerf, and continue cutting all the way down through the trunk.
  11. Use the chainsaw to cut through smaller branches, followed by slightly larger branches. Drag the cut limbs out of the way.
  12. Make an offset cut to sever very large limbs by first cutting straight down about two-thirds of the way into the limb. Then cut up from beneath the limb, positioning the cut 1 inch beyond the top cut. Cut up until the severed limb falls away.
  13. Trim off all the limbs first, before sawing the trunk and larger branches into 16-inch-long pieces of firewood.
  14. Be careful not to cut into the ground with the saw, and never work alone.