If you have a tree in your yard that you know needs to be removed, but you want to do it yourself rather than hire a potentially expensive tree-cutting service – which may or may not include the actual removal of wood – you can attempt it safely as long as you know what procedures need to be followed, and as long as you have access to the right tools.

What You Need

  • A chainsaw
  • Branch trimmers
  • Rental Crane
  • Safety wear (gloves, goggles, hard hat, etc.)
  • Truck with a winch
  • Stump grinder
  • A lookout

Where To Start

Decaying trees need to be worked with more delicately than other trees; because much of the interior of the trunk is weak and rotted, the tree is more susceptible to falling over, and you don't want that to happen until you are absolutely ready.

The first step is to start removing branches from the trunk. This reduces the weight on the tree and makes it easier to access the trunk when you need it.

Start by cutting the smaller branches from the large ones using trimmers, then use the chainsaw to remove the larger branches. Once you get up higher, it's recommended that you use a crane instead of a ladder; ladders aren't as stable, and you don't want to be pushing against the tree.

Once you start removing the higher and larger branches, use a rope to lower them to the ground instead of letting them fall.

Start From The Top Down

Once the trunk is mostly exposed, you can start the removal of the actual tree. Depending on how tall or heavy the tree is, you may not want to just send the whole thing toppling over with a cut near the bottom. This can make it harder to direct, especially if the tree has a drastic lean.

Instead, start cutting parts of the trunk off from near the top of the tree. Cut horizontally and evenly, then lower the cuts to the ground. You can do this until you reach the bottom for the sake of safety, or you cut until the tree is short enough to cut down and tip over.

Pushing The Tree Over

Once the tree trunk is short enough so that pushing it over won't result in any damage, you can start working on a cut near the bottom of the trunk. This will need to be done differently than other cuts; you'll need to cut the trunk in a way that will encourage the tree to fall in a certain direction.

To "aim" your tree, start by cutting a notch. The notch is a 90-degree angle cut into the side of the tree in the direction you want it to fall. Imagine a horizontal line running perpendicular to the trunk; the notch should be 30 degrees on the lower side and 60 degrees above. The depth of the notch should be about one fifth of the trunk's diameter.

Once your notch is cut, make your felling cut. This is a straight line from the opposite side of the trunk towards the center point of the notch. Leave about half an inch as the "hinge." While you cut, make sure you have someone watching the tree for you.

As soon as the tree starts to fall, start moving away in the opposite direction. The tree should follow the cut of the notch and fall safely.

Removing The Stump

Even if a tree is decayed, a stump is hard to remove. For this part, you'll want to remove the bulk of the stump using a stump grinder. Once most of the stump has been removed, dig into the roots area with a shovel so you can secure the cable to your winch and attempt to pull it out. It may take a few tries – you may need to dig a little deeper to expose more roots, or even cut some of the roots from the trunk – but after most of the trunk is ground down, pulling it out will be much easier. For further assistance, contact a local tree removal company, such as Robert Jefferies Logging & Tree Service.