How to Fell a Tree in the Direction You Want [5 Steps]

To cut down a tree so that it falls in a specific direction, it’s essential to first determine the safest direction for the tree to fall. Then, observe whether or not the tree is leaning in a specific direction. Cutting down a leaning tree requires specialized steps. Next, climb a tripod ladder and use a chainsaw to cut off any large branches on the tree. Once this is done, descend the ladder and make a notch in the side of the tree that you want to fall toward the ground. Finally, cut from the opposite side of the tree toward the notch. By following these steps you will be able to easily direct the fall of your tree.

How to fell a tree in the direction you want

Which Way Will a Tree Fall When Cut?

The direction a tree will fall when you cut it down depends on three factors. These are: where the branches are situated on the tree, the lean of the tree, and where you cut your notch in a tree. If your tree has more branches on one side than the other, gravity is likely to pull the heavier side to the ground. This is why it’s important to remove large branches prior to making any cuts in the trunk.

  • The direction a tree falls can be influenced by branch growth, tree lean, and where you cut a notch in the tree.
  • If large branches are not removed, they can pull a tree in an undesirable direction.
  • Leaning trees will fall in the direction of the lean unless you fell the tree with special techniques.
  • A correctly notched tree will fall toward the notch when you make a felling cut.

If your tree is leaning, it is far more likely to fall in the direction of its lean. If you are attempting to cut down a leaning tree, review our detailed guide on how to fell a leaning tree. Finally, felling a tree involves cutting a notch into the trunk. If you have removed heavy branches and corrected for lean, the tree will fall toward the side where you have cut the notch.

How Do You Safely Fell a Dead Tree?

In many cases, dead trees can be felled using the steps below. However, extra safety precautions should be taken when felling dead trees. Dead branches and trunks can snap unexpectedly. For this reason, never lean a ladder against a dead tree or branch. It’s best to use a tripod ladder that stands on its own. Work carefully with dead trees because they are more prone to unexpected breakages partway through cutting.

  • In most cases, dead trees can be felled using the same process designed for live trees.
  • Use extra care when felling dead trees—they are more prone to unexpected breakages.
  • Never lean a ladder against a dead tree when cutting the trunk or branches.
  • Do not attempt to cut down a rotten tree yourself—rotted tree trunks can easily fall in the wrong direction.
  • Hire a professional arborist to cut down rotted trees.

If the tree trunk is rotted, cutting down the tree is extremely dangerous. Rotted wood can snap and fall in unexpected directions. Hire an arborist to cut down a rotted tree. Experts will have experience—as well as specialized tools—that make cutting down rotted trees safer.

5 Steps for Felling a Tree in the Desired Direction

When preparing to cut down a tree, make sure you are prepared. You will need the following tools and PPE items.

  • Dress in steel-toe boots, pants, long sleeves, and heavy gloves.
  • Wear ear protection and eye protection (such as safety goggles or a face shield).
  • Chainsaw
  • Tripod ladder
  • Rope
  • Tree felling wedges (for leaning trees).
  • 1 or more assistants—felling a tree is not a one-person job.

Make sure to service your chainsaw immediately before use. Check the chain’s condition and tightness. It’s also important to refill the bar and chain oil reservoir and fuel tank. If you are unfamiliar with chainsaw use and maintenance, hire a professional arborist to complete the job.

Determine the Safest Felling Area

Before you begin cutting, observe the area. What is the best direction for the tree to fall? Make sure the path of the fall will not destroy buildings, fences, vehicles, or other items. If you are cutting down a large tree near your house, this step is even more crucial. Improper planning can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

  • Decide on the best direction for the tree to fall.
  • Make sure the tree will not fall on any buildings, fences, vehicles, or other nearby trees.
  • Establish at least 2 escape routes away from the tree in case the tree falls in an unexpected direction.

Plan 2 escape routes from the felling area in case of emergency. If the tree begins to fall unexpectedly, you need an escape path so you can protect yourself from harm.

Check the Tree’s Lean

Take a closer look at the tree to see if it is leaning in a specific direction. A straight tree can be cut down in a few simple steps. A leaning tree, on the other hand, requires specialized cutting techniques.

  • Observe the tree to see if it has significant lean.
  • Felling trees both with and against the lean requires special steps.
  • Use the steps below to cut down a tree that is growing straight.

Cutting a tree against the lean involves the use of felling wedges. Although you may think cutting a tree in the direction of the lean is easier, it is actually more complex. You will need to make bore cuts while felling in order to prevent the tree from kicking back toward you.

Remove Large Branches

Before you make a cut in the trunk, cut off large branches. This will lower the center of gravity of the tree, making it far easier to control the direction of the fall. Set your tripod ladder near the tree. Then, climb the ladder. Do not attempt to carry a chainsaw up the ladder. Instead, tie a rope to the handle of the chainsaw. Bring the rope with you as you climb. Once you have reached your desired height on the ladder, use the rope to haul the chainsaw up to yourself.

  • Remove branches using a ladder and chainsaw.
  • This tripod ladder is great for tree felling because it doesn’t lean against the tree.
  • Start by removing the lowest branches, then work your way upward.
  • Always remove branches by using the three-cut method, demonstrated here.

Starting with the lowest branches, remove the branches from the main trunk. It’s essential to use the three-cut method for removing branches. This system will prevent branches from splitting and swinging dangerously back towards you.

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Notch the Trunk

Once the large branches have been removed, it’s time to notch your trunk. It’s important to note that the notch will determine which way the tree falls. The tree will fall toward the notch. So, always make your notch in the side of the tree that you want to fall to the ground. Make your notch between ankle and waist height. Knee height is a common choice.

  • Cut a notch into the side of the tree that you wish to fall to the ground.
  • Begin by making a flat cut one-fourth of the way through the trunk.
  • Starting above the first cut, make a second cut that angles downward to intersect the first cut. This should remove a triangular notch.
  • A 45-degree notch is ideal for felling a tree.

To make your notch, begin by using your chainsaw to make a horizontal cut into the trunk. This cut should only go one-fourth of the way into the trunk. Once the first cut is made, choose a spot a few inches above the flat cut. Cut downward at an angle so that you remove a triangular notch from the face of the tree. For best results, the notch should have a 45-degree angle.

Make a Felling Cut Toward the Notch

With your tree properly notched, it’s time to fell it. Before you make the felling cut, make sure all people, animals, and tools are clear of the tree’s falling path. Then, do the following:

  • Make sure you are standing to the side of the tree while cutting, not in the path of the tree or directly behind it.
  • Use your chain saw to make a flat cut toward the notch from the opposite side of the trunk.
  • Your felling cut should be 2 inches (5 cm) higher up the trunk than the bottom of the notch.
  • Do not cut all the way through to the notch. Leave 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of wood to act as a hinge and control the tree’s fall.
  • Remain clear of the felling path—the tree may fall at any time.
  • Once the tree begins to fall, stand clear of the path.

You should not cut all the way through the notch with your chainsaw. A properly notched tree will start to fall before this point. The “hinge” of wood at the center of the trunk will break as the tree begins to fall in the direction of the notch. Once it’s fallen, it’s time to begin cutting up the tree trunk. Now is the perfect time to turn your tree into firewood.

Never Do These 5 Things When Cutting Down a Tree

Cutting down a large tree is serious work. Chainsaws, tree lean, and working on ladders make it all the more difficult. To remain safe, avoid the following mistakes:

  • Do not work alone—use the buddy system when cutting down trees.
  • Never a chainsaw or other tool you are unfamiliar with.
  • Do not work without proper PPE (steel-toe boots, heavy gloves, hearing protection, and eye protection).
  • Never lean a ladder against a tree trunk or branch that you are cutting.
  • Never stand in the intended felling path of a tree—stay to the side or behind the area where the tree will fall.

Review any and all chainsaw safety, maintenance, and operation guides. Chainsaws are extremely useful tools but they require upkeep and proper operating procedure. By handling your tools right, you’ll cut down your tree safely and easily.

How Do You Cut a Tree So it Falls in the Right Direction?

The best process for cutting down a large tree is to:

  • Gather your tools and protective gear.
  • Enlist one or more assistants.
  • Plan a path for the tree to fall.
  • Check the tree for lean—leaning trees require specialized cutting techniques.
  • Remove large branches from the tree.
  • Cut a notch in the tree in the direction you want it to fall.
  • Make a felling cut from the opposite side of the trunk toward the notch.

This system works well for larger trees. By following these steps and safety precautions you can tackle nearly any tree nature puts in your path.

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