How to Cut Branches With a Chainsaw in 2021 (Step by Step Guide)

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If you want to cut branches with a chainsaw.

But not sure exactly how to do it?

Then, you have landed on the right page.

In this article, I explain how to cut branches with a chainsaw. I include important safety information, the tools you’ll need, and the steps to cut down high tree branches.

I will also guide you on how to cut a small tree with a chainsaw.

There are some proper techniques you need to follow in order to avoid damaging your tree. But I am going to make this super easy for you and walk you through everything you need to know step-by-step.

First, Preparing to cut branches with a chainsaw

Best Size Chainsaw for Cutting Branches

If you’re reading this guide and don’t already own a chainsaw, then I also have a post with the best chainsaws.

That post will help you to find the best chainsaw to cut branches that meets your specific needs.

Safety For Cutting High Branches

Once you know you have the right chainsaw and that it’s in working order, it’s time to get the safety equipment you need to protect yourself. Procure each of the following items before you begin felling the tree: 

  • Cut-resistant gloves
  • Cut-resistant boots
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Chaps made of Kevlar
  • Jeans and chainsaw chaps
  • Hearing protection
  • Safety goggles and helmet or a safety helmet with attached visor

Once you’re geared up properly, move onto the following steps.

How to Cut Branches with a Chainsaw

Step 1: Set Up Ladder and Harness

Set up your ladder near the tree.

Make sure that it’s firm and steady on the ground. If the ground is soft, drive the metal spikes on the bottom of the legs into the earth.

If possible, have someone else hold the bottom of the ladder steady as you climb.

As an extra safety precaution, I like to use a tree climbing harness to keep me safe just in case I slip.

Step 2: Inspect the Tree

Never start cutting a tree without inspecting the situation first.

Look for any dead branches and other debris that might fall when you begin to cut. Keep an eye out for any power lines running into or through the tree.

Keep these potential obstacles in mind as you start cutting.

Step 3: Prune Small Branches

Use the pruning clippers and pruning pole to cut off small branches.

Start by removing any dead or diseased portions of the tree. These are often detrimental to the tree’s health and pose the most serious risk to those standing underneath the tree.

You can continue pruning for aesthetics to achieve a certain look if you wish. 

Step 4: Cut with Chainsaw

Pruning clippers and a pruning pole just don’t have the strength for large branches.

For larger branches, you’ll have to switch out your tools and use a chainsaw. You can simply cut straight through most small and medium branches with a chainsaw.

For the largest of branches, a specific cutting method is needed. You should first cut a small notch at the bottom of the branch and then cut through from the top.

The notch at the bottom of the branch will reduce some of the pressure when the final cut is made so that the branch doesn’t dangerously bind on your chainsaw.

Step 5: Look Out Below!

Never grow too comfortable when cutting branches from a tall tree.

It’s always important to maintain awareness about what’s going on below you.

Scan the ground underneath before performing each cut to ensure that the branch drops safely to the ground without hurting anyone or causing any damage.

Source –

When is the Best Time of Year to Prune Trees?

There is never a bad time to remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches. But most trees benefit from pruning in mid to late winter. Pruning during dormancy encourages new growth as soon as the weather begins to warm. The lack of leaves after autumn allows you to easily identify branches and limbs requiring removal.

Be aware that some trees can bleed sap when pruned during late winter. For example, pruning maple trees in winter is ideal but can result in bleeding. Don’t worry – the sap will stop flowing as soon as the tree begins to put on leaves. It isn’t dangerous and it won’t harm your tree.

Although I like to make my pruning plan in the fall, I always wait a few months before I start to actually prune. Pruning trees in fall can introduce disease. In the event of a warm fall, it could even encourage new growth which will be damaged when temperatures drop.

Pruning trees in summer isn’t a popular option, but sometimes can be beneficial if performed with caution. Experienced gardeners use summer pruning to direct growth by slowing down the development of a tree or branch. The best timing for this form of pruning is just after the seasonal growth has reached its peak. By removing the total leaf surface of the plant, you reduce the amount of nutrients sent to the roots and the overall growth of the tree.

Now that we’ve established when the best time of the year is to prune trees, let’s talk about flowering trees. They don’t exactly follow the rules. Flowering trees fall into two categories: early bloomers and late bloomers.

How to Cut Large Branches?

Cutting larger branches from a felled tree using chainsaws can be just as dangerous as felling a tree, and the same amount of caution should be used while doing so. Here are some tips for limbing large branches:

  • Remove smaller branches to access the large ones. As with felling a tree, make sure you have an escape route pre-planned to avoid injury from falling branches. Clearing a way to easily access larger branches not only keeps you safe, but it also makes the work easier.
  • Thick branches can be under a large amount of tension. Sometimes it is best to cut a limb into sections. Start from the outside and work inward toward the tree trunk until the entire limb is removed. Saw with the chainsaw bar positioned vertically. This will help prevent the chainsaw chain from getting stuck.
  • If the limb is too thick, cut from both sides of the limb until you have sawed all the way through.


Crosscutting a Tree Using a Chainsaw

  • To remove a felled tree, it is often necessary to cut the trunk into smaller pieces. Use these guidelines to crosscut a tree trunk using a chainsaw.
  • Look around the area where you will be cutting to make sure you have clear access to move around. As with felling a tree and limbing, make safety a priority by having a pre-planned exit route away from the tree once it has been cut.
  • How is the tree trunk tensioned? Predict which side of the cutting area bears the tension and cut from the opposite side.
  • See how the tree trunk reacts as you begin sawing. Make sure you did not misjudge the tension direction.
  • Stand to one side of the cut. This will protect you from being injured if the tree jumps upward when it is cut.
  • Never stand below the tree trunk if it is lying on a slope. The trunk could roll toward you when it is cut and cause injury.

Read More – Best Cordless Chainsaw

How to Cut Tree Limbs Over a House?

If you have tree limbs that extend over the roofline of your house, it is probably a good idea to remove them. Here is how to do it:

Determine whether you can do the job safely

No matter what tools you are using as you trim a tree, you need to be sure of your own safety. Here are some common things to check for:

Your footing

If your roof is steep, slippery, wet, or has any surface that will prevent you from having a stable, secure footing, then hire a professional to remove the tree.

Your ability to use the tools

Never have your first experience using a tool be from a height in an unfamiliar situation. Whether you are using pruning shears, a chain saw, or a pole saw, make sure that you are extremely comfortable safely using your tools before you get onto your roof.

The weight limit of your ladder

Remember that you will need to carry any and all tools up the ladder with you, so be mindful of safe use and weight limits on your ladder.

The size of the tree branch

Tree branches can be surprisingly heavy, and you need to prevent them from falling when cut and landing on your roof. Most homeowners who have experience with their tools can safely manage a tree branch that is 2-3 inches in diameter. If the branch is much larger than that, consider hiring a professional.

Have a buddy

Having another adult with you helps provide additional safety and gives you an easier way to clear debris as you go.

Determine how to trim without harming the tree

Some species are best trimmed in spring, others in fall. Research how to trim your species of a tree without harming the health of the tree and creating more hazards down the road.

Read More – Best Chainsaw For Farm Use

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that learning how to cut branches with a chainsaw.

Not only does it require climbing a ladder, but it also often requires operating a powerful chainsaw.

That said, we do feel this home project is one that just about anyone can accomplish with a little know-how, the right safety equipment, and the proper tools.

If at all possible, always have a partner help you when cutting branches from a tree, even if it’s only to hold the ladder steady as you climb.

And if you still feel at all uncomfortable with the prospect, this is one project where it often pays off to hire a professional rather than pushing through your fears.


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