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Tips to Safely Cutting Down Dead Trees

It’s in our nature to love trees. We love how green they make our community and the many benefits they provide, from fresh air to fruit to flowers. Trees are assets that increase our home value and improve our mood. But, just like all beautiful living things, their long lives eventually come to an end.

So, what do you do when you notice a tree in your yard has lived its long life, but now it’s time for removal? Cutting down dead trees is no easy task, so you should probably consult an arborist to confirm there is no way to save the tree and then have your tree expert use the proper tools and technique to safely cut down any dead trees on your property. And, here at Mr. Tree, we are ready and willing 24/7 to assist with this process.

However, if you are a skilled do-it-yourselfer and have the knowledge and equipment to take on the task, here is our best advice for cutting down dead trees.

Remember, safety always comes first.

Tip to Safely Cutting Down Dead Trees

Even before you secure the necessary tools, ask yourself, “Am I ready to safely tackle this project? Do the people assisting me know the necessary precautions to take?”

At Mr. Tree, our focus is always safety. First, we ensure that by felling a tree we will not cause harm to ourselves or the people or animals around us. Then, we make a carefully devised plan to avoid potential damage to nearby structures or other trees.

These safety measures include safe chain saw etiquette. Rule number one: never work alone with working with a chain saw.

Do you have the correct tools & supplies?

Once you know you’ll be taking on this project safely, and with a partner, do you have all the right equipment? Here is our recommended list:

-Hard hat
-Hearing protection
-Eye protection
-Gloves
-Boots-Fire extinguisher
-Single-blade axe
-Saw gas & bar oil
-Wedges
-First-aid kit
-Plum line
-Chain
-Chain saw

Is your chain saw in good condition?

To ensure safety, check to main sure the chain saw you’ll be using is working properly. This means checking to note that the chain brake is working, saw dogs are attached to the saw housing, the bar is as long as the diameter of the tree you’ll be cutting, and that the chain has recently been sharpened.

If you notice that the chain saw is dull, damaged, or just not cutting straight, immediately stop cutting down your dead tree.

Make a plan.

Don’t just step up to a dead tree and start cutting. First, make a plan that includes felling-to-lead. This means that you are cutting in a way that ensures the tree will fall in a certain direction. In this case, the tree is angled 30 to 45 degrees to either side of the skid trail.

Keep an eye out for potential “widow makers”. These are tree fragments that could potentially fall and cause serious injury (hence the name) during the felling process.

Notice the weather. Gusting winds can cause trees to tip in the wrong direction. If you see trees moving, do not attempt this project. Also, avoid fog and smog. This can hamper vision at the tree crown, as well as obscure potential widow makers. If the tree sits on a 

steep or uneven slope, this can also quickly turn into a dangerous situation. Skip DIY felling altogether and call in the professionals. Better safe than sorry.

Think about the tree itself.

Dead or rotten trees are more likely to cause an unsafe situation when felling. They often have loose limbs and bark and unstable tops. These loose limbs are more susceptible to outside forces and are more likely to fall unpredictably. If you know your tree is dead or rotting, it is strongly recommended that you leave cutting down dead trees to the professionals.

Additional unsafe conditions include trees with sharp curves near the base, which are more likely to uproot during felling; alder and maple trees, which are susceptible to hidden rotten heart wood; and trees near utility lines, roads, or other houses.

Make an escape plan.

Felling trees is inherently dangerous, so think ahead of time about how you and your workers will escape potential emergency scenarios. Your path should lead as far away from the stump as possible and be clear of shrubs, rocks, or any other obstacles. You also want the path to be in the opposite direction of where you expect the tree to fall.

If you are unable to create a clear escape path, call in the professional tree fellers.

Now, start with the undercut.

So, if after reading the above you still want to cut down your tree, then you’re ready to begin, and this first step is the undercut. This is the notch cut in the tree that allows it to safely fall. This is the cut that determines the direction the tree will fall, so it’s one of the most important steps. Based on your goals, you’ll either want to go with the conventional undercut, Humboldt undercut, or open-face undercut. Note that the undercut is the proper depth, the cuts are level, and that the cuts match-up.

Next, it’s time for the back cut.

This is the cut that actually causes the tree to fall. It’s made horizontally and must be at least as high as the horizontal undercut. Do not make the back cut lower than the undercut. This could cause the tree to move backward toward you.

Before this cut, stop the chain saw and give a warning call to those around you. Do not intersect the back cut and the undercut. Instead, leave a bit of uncut wood between the two cuts. Then, as soon as possible, insert a falling wedge into the back cut. The wedge will help ease the tree in the right direction and can also help you adjust if it starts leaning the wrong way.

If the tree doesn’t fall after these steps, drive in the wedge using an axe until it does.

Keep an eye outduring this process.

Don’t forget to continually look around and ensure the environment is safe. Watch for overhead hazards, clear up any hang-ups, and notice if any limbs or tree tops are left in adjacent trees.

Felling trees is a dangerous task that should not be undertaken lightly. If at anytime you are hesitant about this tree removal process, call in our service at Mr. Tree. We are available 24/7.