How To Cut Down A Dead Tree

How To Cut Down A Dead Tree

Dead trees are hazardous to the people and the properties around them. Because the wood in a dead tree no longer holds nutrients and moisture from the roots, they become brittle and susceptible to breakage. And, when these branches break and fall, they bring significant problems such as damage to cars, roofs, and utility lines. In a worst-case scenario, dead branches could fall on kids and passersby, causing severe to fatal injuries. This is why it’s best to have them removed urgently. Therefore, we have gathered some of the top tips on how to cut down a dead tree to help you out.

However, felling a tree is generally difficult and dangerous. Without the proper tools and knowledge about performing correct tree removal work, you could end up causing more harm than good. If you’re dealing with a large dead tree, it’s best to enlist the services of a professional tree specialist. But, if you think your small to medium-sized tree is something you can handle on your own, be sure to be prepared for the grueling task ahead. Read this guide on how to cut dead trees safely and successfully.

1. Diagnose Your Tree

Before you take down a tree, make a thorough inspection of your tree to be completely sure that it’s really dead. If you see brown and brittle branches, do the scratch test. Snap a few small branches and scratch off a section of their bark. If the exposed area is still green and moist, your tree is still alive. But, if it’s brown and dry, the tree might be dead.

Check a few small branches or twigs to make sure you arrive at a correct conclusion. Also, watch out for other signs of tree death, such as mushroom or fungal growth, peeling barks, thinning foliage, and a leaning trunk. And, if you’re not completely sure your tree is dead, get a professional arborist to inspect and provide a diagnosis. A tree may seem dead to you, but a tree specialist with years of training and experience may see a tree with can still be saved.

2. Plan Ahead

Identify the spot where you want your tree to fall. Do this by considering the height and lean of the tree. There should be enough space for it to completely fall without hitting power lines, structures, and passersby. Then, plan escape routes where you can quickly walk towards when your tree starts to fall. You will need two escape routes in case your tree falls in a different direction than planned. Make sure they are clear of any trip hazards such as sticks, stones, and other debris so avoid getting injured while running to safety. Keep people and pets safely away from the area before beginning to cut. Furthermore, do sufficient research on tree felling techniques and how to fell a tree with a chainsaw to have a safe and effective plan.

3. Perform Safety Checks

Prior to cutting a dead tree, watch out for any hazards and obstacles that may interfere with the task ahead. Remove objects that may be under the tree’s fall path. Pick up or sweep any tripping hazards that could get in the way while you work. Also, make sure your chainsaw is properly oiled and sharp, with its chain correctly tensioned.

4. Protect Yourself

You should always keep your safety in mind when felling trees and handling chainsaws. You should have essential safety gear such as a logger’s helmet, earmuffs, safety glasses, and Kevlar chaps. Also, wear sturdy shoes and clothes that cover most parts of your skin. Cutting down a tree is serious work and the dangers could be fatal. You should always remember to protect yourself as much as you can.

5. Cut Your Dead Tree


At a comfortable working height, cut a face cut or directional notch on the tree at the fall side of the trunk. Make the top cut first by cutting downward at a steep angle about one-fifth of the tree trunk’s diameter. Then, make the bottom cut from below, meeting your top cut until your notch looks like a mouth at an approximate 70-degree opening.


Start making the back cut at the same level or a bit higher than the bottom of the notch. If the tree leans backward, cutting higher will force the tree to drop toward the face notch and the aimed direction. Continue sawing until the back cut is within 10% of the tree’s diameter. Never cut through the face notch to create a hinge that will help guide the tree to fall in the right direction.


Although you can cut a small tree without them, large trees will require the use of wedges. They will help keep in guiding your tree to fall in the direction of the notch cut. Insert them two inches into the bore cut and hammer another wedge into the opposite side of the tree for better results.


Position your chainsaw at the opposite end of the notch and cut the remaining wood through your tree. Continue cutting carefully until your tree begins falling in the direction of the notch. Do not rush the cut to make sure you have plenty of time to move away from your tree when it starts to fall.

6. Move Away From The Fall Path

As soon as your tree starts to fall, shut off the chainsaw, set it down, and run in the direction of your escape route. Make sure to keep an eye on the tree to make sure you are moving away instead of into its fall path. Keep moving away until you are sure that you’re in the safe zone.

7. Clear The Area

When the dead tree finally hit the ground, retrieve your chainsaw. Start cutting limbs and turn the tree trunk into logs. You can dispose of or use them later as firewood or mulch. Remove any remaining debris that may cause accidents. Don’t forget to also clean and keep your chainsaw in a safe location after its use.

Removing a dead tree is a good precaution to avoid property damages and injuries. Use this guide on how to cut down a dead tree to make sure you do it safely and correctly. But, if you are not confident that you can handle this big task on your own, seek help from the professional arborists at Tall Timbers Tree Services. Our training and experiences will help ensure that the job is done properly, without causing any harm to anything or anyone on your property. Hiring a professional can save you time and prevent you from making decisions you might later regret. Speak with our experts at Tall Timbers Tree Services by calling us on 0414 627 627.