How to Safely Cut Down a Tree with a Chainsaw

The presence of trees in your home can be an aesthetically pleasing source of shade and even wind protection. They can also improve your home’s value. However, having trees on your property will require a lot of care and maintenance. And it’s obvious that the bigger the tree, the more difficult it will be to maintain it.

If your tree has a damaged, sick or dead branch or limb – or if it is growing in a manner that poses a threat to your property, your only option might be to cut it off. Also, if you have branches or limbs that have outgrown their bounds and are entering someone else’s property, you’ll have to cut it too. However, it’s not that simple to cut branches off a tree – especially if these branches are high up. You’ll need to take a lot of safety precautions – both for you and for the tree.

Going on from this, we will look at how you can climb a tree safely to cut its branches.

Dangers That Come With Climbing A Tree

The dangers that come with climbing a tree are not just to the person who is doing it, but also to those below them. A lot of people don’t know this, but trees can be hazardous because they have branches that hang down and create what’s called “deadwood.”

Deadwood is any branch or section of a branch that has lost its leaves, needles, bark, or other protective coverings. When you climb up a tree, these dead branches could fall on you or anyone else below.

To prevent this from happening make sure that you’re always aware of your surroundings when climbing a tree. This will help protect both yourself and others around you.

Dangers That Come With Climbing A Tree

It’s important to remember that even if there are no visible hazards in the area where you’re climbing from, reaching the branches of a tree to trim can be harder than it first seems.

This task is not as easy as just putting a ladder close to a tree and climbing it. You’ll also have to bring certain specialized equipment with you. These tools include pruning shears and a chainsaw if the branches are large.

Once you’re in the tree, you will have to figure out the best and most secure stance so that you don’t fall off. You will then need to execute careful cuts so as not to cause harm to the tree during the process.

Also, you have to ensure that the branches that are falling don’t pose a risk to anyone or anyone’s property below. Due to this being a multi-step process requiring a lot of training and specialized equipment, it is highly recommended that you seek the help of a professional.

Before Climbing the Tree

Before you even attempt to climb a tree to cut its branches, you need to consider a number of key questions.

First of all, how hard will it be to successfully climb the tree? Are there a lot of sturdy branches to balance on? Will you be able to place a ladder against the tree without having to worry about it getting displaced? Do you have all the needed equipment (for instance, a chainsaw or pruning shears)? Do you feel comfortable handling this equipment?

If your answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, I think it’s advisable that you consider the help of a professional to execute the task for you. People have often been put off by professionals because of their costs, but a professional arborist will not cost a lot.

It will also ensure that you don’t get in a situation where you’d have to pay way more for damages in the event that it doesn’t go as planned if you do it yourself.

Having weighed all your options, if you still plan on doing things yourself, then you can continue reading.

Safety is a priority

When attempting to climb a tree while holding heavy or sharp equipment, safety should be your number one concern. The steps that you’ll have to take will actually depend on the tree’s height, location and some other factors. However, it’s important to use a spotter regardless of the height of the tree.

Get a neighbour, friend or family member to assist you with the task. They can help to hold the ladder and also, they can be your ears and eyes on the ground to make sure you’re safely doing the job.

The next step for you should be putting on a climbing harness. You can get this online or at a hardware store close to you. I typically use this Black Diamond Harness, as I’ve always found it to be a safe piece of equipment to use. 

Ensure that the one you get is of high quality and that you’ve worn it correctly. Secure an end of the line to the tree’s trunk and the other to your harness. It is advisable that you come with a lanyard for all the equipment you bring for the job. It is absolutely important to wear eye and ear protection – especially if you plan to use any power tool like the chainsaw. Also remember to put on long and heavy-duty pants, protective chaps and gloves.

Protecting The Tree

One very common way used by people to climb a tree is climbing spikes. Although this would actually make the job easier due to the fact that these spikes will latch onto the tree while serving as anchors as you work your way to the top, they will seriously damage the tree as you go.

Tree climbing spikes leave deep cuts all over the tree’s trunk. These cuts will then leak sap which can attract pests or even become infected. Subsequently, your tree might get sick or worse, die – a domino effect of going the easy route with spikes.

Instead of using spikes, you should make use of ropes to climb the tree. Begin with the throw line – a thin and long paracord that is attached to a sandbag. To begin, toss the sandbag so it can loop around a branch high up. Then, proceed to connect this line to a climbing line that is thicker. Pull the throw line until the climbing line has looped over the initial support branch.

Tree climbing ropes
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Put up the ladder close to the tree. Ensure that it is steady and firm on the ground. For soft ground, push the metal spikes located at the base of the legs into the ground.

With the safety of the tree in mind, you should definitely connect friction-saver tubes to the lines so they don’t lead to rope burns on the tree. Ensuring that you take these proper steps will see you keep the tree safe from harm as you cut its branches.

Making the climb

Start to climb slowly. Start things off with the ladder and when you reach the right height, you’ll have to venture into the branches. This is where the ropes now become very important. It is important that you don’t put your weight on frail or dead branches.

Move slowly, ensuring that you check each branch or limb before you put all your body weight on it. If the tree you’re working on is tall, you may have to reattach the lines to branches that are higher up when you’re firmly on the lower branches.

Before you start to cut anything, ensure that you have multiple points of contact from the climbing lines. What this means is that you should ensure that you’re secured by two lines (at least) while on the tree.

The major reason for this is that it is quite possible to cut one of the lines by accident with your chainsaw or pruning shears.


Cutting The Branches

With smaller branches, all you have to do is clip it off using pruning shears. Begin by discarding any diseased or dead parts of the tree. These are usually detrimental to the health of the tree. They also pose the gravest risk to people standing beneath the tree.

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Ensure that you don’t cut so much of the branch. Do not try to cut the branch with its trunk. This is because the branch collar will be damaged in the process. This is not something you’d want since that is what actually allows the tree to heal after its branches have been cut. If the branch collar is injured, it’ll hinder the tree’s healing process and leave it vulnerable to different kinds of attacks.

For branches that are larger, it is recommended that you make the cuts in little bits. Begin with a little notch on the furthest side of the limb, then make a smaller one near the trunk. Lastly, execute a final cut close to the part the branch collar becomes the bark itself. The notch at the branch’s base will decrease the pressure when the last cut is executed so the branch doesn’t bind on the chainsaw. All in all, ensure that you don’t cut heavy limbs until you’re absolutely certain that nobody is underneath the tree.

Lastly, don’t get too comfortable when you’re cutting branches off a tree. It is incredibly important that you’re always aware of things and persons that are below you. At intervals, scan the ground before executing each cut so as to make sure that the branches drop to the ground without causing damage or injury to anyone.

What You Need to Climb a Tree Safely

There are a handful of ways to cut branches off a tree. However, we’ve already discussed the method we think is the easiest and safest for a lot of homeowners. In that light, here is what you’ll need for that particular method:

  • Safety Harness
  • Tripod Ladder
  • Pruning Pole
  • Pruning Clippers
  • Chainsaw

Safety first

Safety is absolutely paramount whenever you’re climbing a ladder or operating a chainsaw – and especially when you plan to do both.

One thing that should be always considered when using a ladder is whether the right one has been chosen. The chosen ladder needs to be tall enough to be able to reach the object you plan on accessing. In this particular case, this object is the tree branch(es) you plan to cut.

It is also highly recommended that you use a tripod ladder to cut the branches. However, if this isn’t possible, get a partner that will hold steady the base of the ladder as you climb to cut.

As for the chainsaw, it is very important that you put on the correct safety equipment. Ear and eye protection, as well as a pair of work gloves, are absolutely essential. Ensure that you’re already comfortable using a chainsaw before trying to use one to cut branches off a tree while on a ladder.

Other Methods To Cut Branches Off A Tree

  1. Pole pruner

This is equipment that ensures that the task of cutting is quick and simple. If you plan to get a pole pruner, check the height of the limb or branch in question before choosing a pruner.

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Make sure you get the correct height of the branch because limbs and branches always look closer to the ground than they normally are. You can circumvent this by comparing the branch’s height to that of a nearby building or better still, by using a tape measure. Pole pruners usually come in varying lengths, so this should be put into consideration.

  1. Pocket saw and a rope

This is a type of chainsaw with ropes on both ends. You can cut a branch by throwing the line over the branch you intend to cut and then pulling the ropes interchangeably – like kids on a seesaw.

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Ensure that you keep the blades in the correct position. Even though this particular method is very affordable, it is quite difficult to implement. It can also be quite dangerous too.

  1. Pole saw

This tool is ideal for diameters that are larger than 11/2 inches.

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By extending the pole of this chainsaw, you will be able to reach high up so that you can cut the limbs and branches which would’ve otherwise required a more expensive method.

  1. Bucket lift

You can decide to rent a bucket lift to help you execute this task. This can come in the form of a trailer which you will have to attach to a truck or they can be shipped to your home. These bucket lifts come in different sizes and have various capabilities. The trailer type will be able to lift you up to 40 feet.

After putting it in the position that you intend to use it, ensure that the outriggers are put in place to keep it fixed. You can decide to make use of the pruner to bring down the canopies.

The other kind of bucket lift is the commercial type that can self-propel. They are more improved and can reach 125 feet. All in all, though, you should consider some things before deciding to use a bucket lift. Ensure that the shipping vehicle will be able to be driven to where you want it without any hindrances like plants or fences. Also, make sure your location isn’t a hilly one.

  1. Hire A Professional Tree Surgeon

Due to the fact that trees do a magnificent job in improving the beauty and value of your home, it is highly in your interest to make sure that the trees in your home receive the best care. Some trees are too tall and will subsequently pose too big a risk to climb if you’re a novice in this aspect. This tree might have branches or limbs that are complicated, meaning it would be hard to even execute the cut with the pieces of equipment already mentioned.

It could also be quite risky using a ladder in some terrains – no matter how tightly you hold it down. Some of the tools might even be complex to understand. Nothing is worth risking your well-being and this particular task certainly isn’t. If you’re in a situation like this, it would be advisable to seek the help of a professional arborist to do the task without it posing any danger to you.

Most times, if the price of something seems too good to be true, then, there is a high probability that it is. This is something that can also apply to professional services. Professional tree services that are on the cheap side of the cost spectrum might lack the right certifications or they might lack experience.

These people may not see or know the best practices or methods to trim or care for the tree. You also have to be wary of scams that are rife in this particular industry. There are a handful of shady businesses in the industry of tree servicing and you have to be watchful so you don’t get swindled.

Questions to ask

There are a number of questions that you should remember to ask the tree service professional you plan on hiring: Do they make use of climbing spurs when going up a tree to cut off its branches?

The answer here should be a resounding no. You should also find out if they possess the proper training and certifications and up-to-date insurance so as to safely trim the trees.

Professional Tree Surgeon

While the cheapest cost option for a professional arborist is definitely not an advisable choice, cost options that are on the high side might not be either. This is because scam artists and fraudsters might decide to overcharge. It is wise that you ask neighbours, family friends, coworkers, etc for trustworthy recommendations.

Try to speak with these tree service professionals in person as well. Ask them about the steps they plan to take to make sure your tree remains safe and healthy.

Other Considerations

The situation of the branch can lead to the job becoming even more complex. Broken branches can make your landing zone difficult to earmark. It can also make the branch very difficult to get down after you’re done cutting it. In the event that a branch gets stuck up in other branches, it will become even hard for you to get it down – especially when you’re like 30 feet away.

Telephone, cable or electric power lines will make things even more tricky. If your planned task involves any of these elements, it is highly recommended that you leave it for the professionals to handle. This is because it can be very dangerous and costly having to deal with power lines in particular.

Consider whether there are objects or plants where you plan to prune. This is because the branches might hit these plants or objects if you’re not careful. Inspect a wide landing area and discard any objections that might get damaged when the branch comes down. The branch’s weight could also be substantial.

It is advisable that you remove objects like benches, birdhouses and birdbaths. If you own smaller landscape features or plants that cannot be moved out of the landing area, figure out a way to shield them from any impact.

Always consider the fact that when or if the limb or branch falls and hits another branch on its way down, it can get thrown off its course – meaning it won’t land in the landing area you’ve set for it, but several feet away from it.

It can be deceiving when you weigh the size of the job. A branch might look small while still up in the tree. However, its size can become bigger when it comes down. So, keep this in mind.

Final Thoughts

It is crucial to plant trees – trimming its branches is vital as well. The best way to cut the limbs and branches off your tree is by getting the best tools for the job. When making a choice regarding the tools, ensure that you observe the tree’s height and diameter. Select a tool that performs well and ensure that you heed all the important safety measures.

There’s no denying the fact that it can be intimidating to learn how to cut branches off a tree, especially if it’s a tall one. Not only will it require you to climb a ladder, but it will also sometimes require you to operate a chainsaw. Even with this, we’re still of the opinion that this task can be completed by just about anybody. All they would need is a little know-how, the right tools and the right safety gear/equipment.

Put on the correct equipment or gear and be very careful if you’re going to climb the tree. In the event that the limbs and branches of the tree look complicated, hire a professional to do the job. As easy as the task might look, there are a handful of techniques that are important for the job. It is preferable that you incur extra cost than put yourself at risk.

Whenever it is possible, always do the job with a partner who will help during the process – even if it’s just to hold the ladder when you climb. However, if you still feel uncomfortable with this task, just get a professional to do it for you.

Last update on 2024-05-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API