How to Cut Down a Small Tree

Cutting down a large tree is often a massive undertaking, with multiple workers utilizing ropes, pulleys, and cranes to get the job done. But not all trees have that much mass to them. Still, this doesn’t render the process of removing them any less challenging.

There are still plenty of difficulties inherent in learning how to cut down a small tree. Below, we’ll discuss a few of them, along with everything you need to get the job started.

Safety, Safety, Safety

Some people think that because the tree they’re endeavoring to remove is a smaller one, it’s not capable of causing them any injury. However, safety is just as much of a consideration as it is when cutting down a very large tree. Parts of the tree can still fall and injure you, hands can still come between saw blades, and plenty more can go wrong as well. That’s why before beginning any tree removal project, large or small, you should ensure you have the right safety equipment.

Start by dressing for the job: good, sturdy closed-toe shoes are your foundation. Long sleeves and long pants are a must to protect you from the twigs and branches of the tree. Eye protection is even more important. Even a tiny twig from a small tree can do some serious damage if you’re not prepared for it. And don’t forget ear protection if you’re using power tools. Some heavy-duty gloves are a good idea as well, in order to protect your hands when it’s time to grip the trunk or pull away the branches.

Even with smaller trees, it’s a good idea to have help doing the job if you can get it. An extra person can help you catch details you may have missed, which is always critical when it comes to safety. They can also help make the job go by faster by lending their assistance.

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The Right Equipment for the Job

The next step is to secure all the equipment you’ll need to get the job done. Some smaller trees can be cut down fairly easily with a handsaw, but in most cases, you’ll need a chainsaw for the task. Look for a good-quality saw that has been well-maintained if it’s an older one. Check all of the parts of the saw for proper functioning. Make sure the chain brake, chain catch, and throttle lock all appear to be in good condition.

Depending upon the size of your tree, you may or may not need a ladder to get the job done. If you do, make sure it is the right ladder for the job. It’s never a good idea to lean your ladder up against a tree. Instead, you should opt for a ladder that can stand on its own, and find the most level spot you can to set it on.

You might need some specialized equipment for removing the stump, as well. Again, this depends upon the size of the tree. For smaller trees, you may simply be able to cut the stump up and remove it once it’s in pieces. Trees that are a bit bigger may require a stump grinder, which you can often find for rent at your local hardware store or similar business.

Making a Plan

Before beginning any job that has inherent hazards, which includes cutting down any size of tree, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan in place. That means surveying the area for any obstructions that may prevent the job from taking place safely. For example, you may need to move a picnic table before you can start the process. Make sure you know which direction the tree should fall, and be sure that area is unobstructed for more than the height of the tree.

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It’s important to be aware of your surroundings during the planning phase as well. The tree you are removing may be small, but are there larger ones that have branches hanging over your head? What about power lines? Make sure you’re very familiar with the area where you are working.

Your final step in the planning phase is to plan for several escape routes. Once the tree starts to fall, you don’t want to be anywhere near it, so arrange for a path you can move down quickly once you’ve made your cuts. Needless to say, this should be in the opposite direction that the tree is falling.

Making Your First Cut

Controlling the direction that a tree falls in depends upon making a sort of “hinge” in the trunk. This means that the first cuts you make will be in a V-shape in the same direction you want the tree to fall. It should be at roughly the height of your knee, but you can change this depending on the size of the tree and the size you want the stump to be. Using your chainsaw, make a diagonal cut that is about one-quarter of the diameter of the tree. Then, make another cut going upward to create your V notch.

Once the V cut has been made, the tree’s weight will cause it to lean in the direction of the cut. This is exactly what you want when learning how to cut down a small tree, as it is the mechanism for controlling the tree’s fall. Once this cut has been made, you can then move around to the opposite side and make a straight cut toward the notch.

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You won’t need to cut all the way through the trunk. Eventually, the tree’s weight will cause it to fall, and you can then utilize your dedicated escape route to move away from the area.

Cleaning Up Afterward

With smaller trees, often the hardest part of cutting them down is removing them afterward. You may need to rent a dumpster for the parts of the tree. Conversely, you can contact a tree service, such as Mr. Tree, to do the removal for you. In some cases, you may even be able to sell the lumber and earn back a little of the cost of the tree removal.

Once the space has been cleared, you’ll be free to move on to whichever project is next.