Project Guide

How to Remove a Tree

Gather Tools and Materials
Man saws into a tree while wearing protective gear.

To begin, make sure you have all the necessary tools and materials:

  • Axe – A heavy duty construction axe is required to make the initial notch near the base of the tree.
  • Chainsaw – Use a cordless chainsaw to finish cutting through the trunk.
  • Safety glasses – Protect your eyes from wood chips and other flying debris.
  • Face mask – Wear one to prevent excess dirt and dust inhalation. 
  • Ear protection – Shield your ears from the harsh sounds of the chainsaw.
  • Work gloves – Safeguard your hands from jagged branches and rough tree bark.
Clear the Area
Tree sitting on open land.
  • To begin, clear all items from the immediate and surrounding areas. Remove all garden decor, outdoor furniture, vehicles and other belongings from the estimated fall radius to make sure there are no obstructions.
  • To approximate how far it will fall, also known as the felling zone, estimate the height of the tree and measure that distance from the base on all sides. Establish a general radius and give yourself a few extra feet of space in all directions, and plan your escape path for when the tree begins to fall.

Tip: Make sure there are no buildings, power lines, poles or other trees in the felling zone. If so, you may need to hire a professional and obtain the proper permits for an authorized removal.

Assess the Tree
Man holding an axe looking up at a tree.
  • Take a look at the tree and consider the height, girth and condition of the exterior. If any branches are rotting or dead, cut them down first so they don’t fall during the removal process. 
  • Decaying bark and branches often indicate the interior of the tree is also in poor condition, so keep this in mind when you start cutting into the trunk.
  • Before making the first cut, see if the tree is leaning in any direction. If so, it will be easier to predict where it will fall. It will also be more difficult to force the tree to fall at a different angle, so prepare the felling zone accordingly. 
Cut a Notch
Man using an axe to cut into a tree.
  • Use an axe to cut into the tree near the base of the trunk. This is called a notch, and it should be cut on the side of the tree that will fall forward. 
  • To start the notch, cut one-fifth of the way into the surface of the trunk. This first cut should be shallow and face downward at a 60 to 70-degree angle. The second cut should start at the bottom of the first cut and dig downward at roughly a 30-degree angle. The finished notch should look like a “greater than” or “less than” symbol.
Continue Cutting
Individual using a saw to cut into a tree.
  • Use a chainsaw to make the felling cut on the opposite side of the tree, directly across from the notch. 
  • Slowly cut into the trunk while a partner stands close by and observes to ensure your safety. Do not to cut all the way through at once. 
  • Stop cutting as soon as the tree starts leaning, then quickly retreat from the felling zone, in the opposite direction of the leaning tree. Once the tree begins to lean, it should continue to fall completely. 

Tip: Use a felling wedge on larger trees to help make sure they fall in the desired direction. Felling wedges should be placed immediately after you make the initial felling cut with the chainsaw.

Chop Up the Trunk
Man cutting up a felled tree into pieces.
  • After the tree has fallen, trim the remaining branches and cut the trunk into smaller pieces for easier removal.
  • Healthy parts can be repurposed for firewood, DIY projects and other woodworking activities.