It can be heartbreaking to see a beautiful tree slowly dying, especially when it seems like there’s nothing you can do to save it. But sometimes, the only thing you can do is cut it down. If your tree is leaning too far and poses a danger to your property or loved ones, you need to take action and have it cut down. Continue reading to learn how to fell a tree safely and efficiently.
How To Determine the Direction of Lean
Before cutting down a tree, it is important to determine how it is leaning. It will help you avoid hitting nearby buildings or power lines, and it will also make felling the tree much easier. There are four main methods that you can use to determine the direction of lean.
1. Crown Method
The crown method is the most common and reliable method to determine the direction of lean. The first step is to identify the longest branch on the leaning side of the tree. Once you have found the longest branch, bring your gaze down from the top of the tree until you are level with the branch. From this vantage point, you should be able to see which way the tree is leaning.
2. Trunk Method
Another way to determine which way a leaning tree will fall is the trunk method. To do this, you will need to find two points on the trunk of the tree that are at equal height from the ground. Once you have found both points, tie a rope around one of them, and stretch it out to the other point. The rope should be tight but not too tight, as you want it to be able to move slightly when the tree starts to fall. Once you have stretched the rope out, stand back and observe which way it is pointing. This will indicate which way the tree is leaning and where it will fall.
3. Plumb Line Method
The plumb line method is similar to the trunk method, but instead of using a rope, you will use a plumb line. This is a weight attached to a string, which you can use to create a vertical line. To use this method, tie one end of the string around one point on the tree’s trunk, and hold out the other so that it hangs freely. Then, let go of the string and allow it to swing freely until it comes to rest. The direction in which it points will show you which way the tree is leaning and where you can expect it to fall.
4. Crowbar Method
Arborists and tree surgeons commonly use the crowbar method when they need to fell a leaning tree in a specific direction. To use this method, drive a crowbar into the ground at an angle away from where you want the tree to fall. Then, attach a rope or chain to the top of the crowbar and run it through a loop in the tree’s trunk. The other end of the rope or chain should be attached to a vehicle that can provide enough traction to pull the tree over in your desired direction when necessary.
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5. Branch Method
The branch method is less reliable in determining the direction of lean, but you can use it if you don’t have any other options. To use this method, find the heaviest branch on the leaning side of the tree, and cut it off. The branch’s weight will cause the tree to lean in the opposite direction. However, this method is not always accurate, as the tree may not lean as much as expected.
6. Root Method
The root method is similar to the branch method, but you will need to dig up one of the tree’s roots instead of cutting off a branch. This will cause the tree to lean in the opposite direction of the exposed root. However, like the branch method, this is not always an accurate way to determine the direction of lean, as the tree may not lean as much as you expect it to.
Types of Tree Felling Cuts
Once you have determined which way the tree is leaning, you can start planning how to cut it down. The felling cut is the initial cut you will make in the tree, determining which way the tree falls. There are two main types of tree-felling cuts: the back cut and the notch cut.
1. Back Cut
The back cut is the most common felling cut, and it is used when you want the tree to fall in a specific direction. To make a back cut, start by making a horizontal cut on the side of the tree opposite the direction you want it to fall. It would be best to cut at a height slightly above your waist, which should be level with the bottom of the notch cut (more on that in a moment). The back cut should be deep enough to reach the tree’s trunk halfway through.
2. Notch Cut
The notch cut is used in conjunction with the back cut, and it helps control the fall’s direction. To make a notch cut, start by making a horizontal cut on the side of the tree opposite the direction in which you want it to fall. It would be best to cut a height slightly below your waist, which should be level with the top of the back cut. The notch cut should be deep enough to reach about two-thirds of the way through the tree’s trunk.
After you have made your initial cuts, you will need to make a final cut to fell the tree. This final cut is called the wedge cut, which is made on the side of the tree opposite the space where you want it to fall. To make a wedge cut, start by making a horizontal cut that is level with the bottom of the notch cut. Then, make a second horizontal cut that is level with the top of the back cut. The two cuts should meet in the middle of the tree’s trunk to form a wedge shape.
Once you have made your final cuts, the tree should start to fall in the direction you want it to. If it doesn’t, you can use the crowbar method (described above) to help pull it over.
The Do’s of Cutting Down a Leaning Tree
When a tree starts to lean, it can be daunting to figure out how to cut it down safely. However, you can take down a leaning tree without incident with the right knowledge and equipment. Here are five important things to do when cutting down a leaning tree:
1. Assess the Situation
Before beginning any work, it is important to assess the situation and determine if you can safely cut down the tree. If the tree is leaning against a power line or other structure, it is best to call in a professional tree service.
2. Choose the Right Tools
Cutting down a leaning tree requires special chainsaws and saw blades. Choosing the right size saw and blade for the job is important, as using the wrong tool can make the job more difficult and dangerous.
3. Make a Plan
Once you have the right tools, it is time to make a plan. You will need to decide where to cut the tree and how to support the weight of the tree as it falls. This is where having a helper comes in handy — they can help stabilize the tree as you make your cuts.
4. Cut Carefully
When making your cuts, it is important to take your time and be precise. Avoid making big kerfs (cuts) or cuts that are not perpendicular to the tree’s trunk. These cuts can weaken the tree’s structure and cause it to fall prematurely.
5. Be Prepared
Finally, be prepared for anything. Have someone on hand to call 911 in an emergency, and always wear proper safety gear, including gloves, goggles, and a hard hat. By following these simple tips, you can safely cut down a leaning tree without incident.
The Don’ts of Dealing With a Leaning Tree
Here are six don’ts of cutting down or maintaining a leaning tree.
1. Don’t Cut the Tree Down Without Consulting a Professional
Leaning trees can be tricky to deal with, and it’s always best to consult a professional before taking action. They will be able to assess the situation and recommend the best course of action. ChainsawSelector, a leading resource in tree removal, helps with useful tips on how to cut a leaning tree.
2. Don’t Top the Tree
Topping a tree is when you cut off the top portion of the trunk, resulting in a stubby-looking tree. This is unsightly and can also be dangerous as it makes the tree more top-heavy and prone to toppling over.
3. Don’t Remove More Than a Third of the Branches
When trimming branches, it’s important not to remove more than one-third of them at once. This can put too much stress on the tree and cause it to lean or fall completely. Instead, remove branches a little at a time over several years to help keep the tree healthy and stable.
4. Don’t Use an Extension Ladder
Extension ladders are not meant to be used on trees, which can be extremely dangerous. If you need to trim branches out of reach, it’s best to use a cherry picker or similar equipment.
5. Don’t Leave Stubs When Cutting Branches
When cutting branches, cut them cleanly so no stubs are remaining. If there are stubs, they can act as weak points that can eventually cause the branch to break off entirely.
6. Don’t Use Nails or Bolts to Secure the Tree
Some think using nails or bolts to secure a leaning tree is a good idea, but this can do more harm than good. The nails or bolts can damage the bark and make it harder for the tree to heal, leading to rotting and eventually death.
What Are the Dangers of Cutting Down a Leaning Tree?
There are some dangers associated with cutting down a leaning tree. Here are four of them:
- If the tree is leaning against power lines or other structures, it can be very dangerous to try cutting it down yourself. You could end up causing an electrical outage or damaging the structure. It’s best to leave this type of work to the professionals.
- If the tree is leaning over your home or another building, there is a risk that it could fall and cause damage. Again, this is something that you should leave to the professionals.
- Even if the tree isn’t leaning against anything, there is still a risk that it could fall and injure someone. If you’re not experienced in cutting down trees, it’s best to leave this task to someone who is.
- When you cut down a leaning tree, you must also know the potential for trespassers. If the tree is on your property, you’re responsible for ensuring that anyone who comes onto your property does so safely. Even if someone is injured while trespassing, you could be held liable.
By understanding the risks involved in cutting down a leaning tree, you can take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your property.
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While a leaning tree can be a charming addition to your landscape, several potential hazards come with having one on your property. If the tree is too close to your house, it could fall and cause damage it. In addition, leaning trees are more likely to be uprooted in strong winds or heavy rains. For these reasons, it is important to know how to cut a leaning tree. With the right tools and techniques, you can safely remove a leaning tree from your property without causing damage or putting yourself at risk.