10 Tips for DIY Tree Removal

Essential Safety Precautions for DIY Tree Removal

Tree removal can be a daunting task for any homeowner.

While some small trees can be removed with minimal equipment, larger trees often require professional expertise to safely take down the entire tree.

However, if you have the proper tools and knowledge, DIY tree removal may be an option for removing a small, healthy tree.

Why Consider DIY Tree Removal?

Hiring a professional tree removalist can be expensive, with costs often starting around $500-800 for a single tree. For multiple or large trees, fees can easily exceed $1000.

By doing it yourself, you can save significantly on the cost of removal. You also have more control over the schedule instead of waiting for an availability window with a reliable tree removal company.

Know Your Limits

Before tackling a DIY tree removal, carefully consider the size and complexity of the job. Removal of large, mature trees or those located near buildings or power lines is best left to certified arborists to avoid personal injury or property damage from an improperly felled tree. Attempting to remove trees beyond your skill level can result in serious consequences.

When to Call the Professionals

It’s recommended to hire a professional tree removal company if:

  • The tree is over 30 feet tall.
  • The tree leans and could fall in the wrong direction onto buildings, vehicles, or power lines when cut.
  • You need to climb the tree trunk or use a bucket truck to reach cutting points.
  • The tree has many dead tree branches overhead that could cause injury if they fall.
  • You lack the proper technique, skills or equipment to safely manage the removal.
  • Council approval is required before removing the tree.

Assess and Prepare the Work Site

Careful planning and preparation are crucial steps in DIY tree removal. Before starting the work:

  • Check for overhead and underground utilities and clearly mark their locations. Contact local utilities to locate any buried lines.
  • Survey the site and determine where branches will fall when cut. Remove any structures or items from the potential drop zone.
  • Plan an escape route away from the expected falling direction of the tree trunk.
  • Clear any brush or obstacles that could impede cutting or using the escape route.
  • Check that ladders or climbing equipment can safely reach cutting points on the tallest branches.
  • Make sure tools are sharp and in good working condition.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment like a hard hat, gloves, safety glass, and steel-toe boots.

Tool List for DIY Tree Removal

Removing a tree is labor-intensive work, but having the proper tools makes the process easier and safer. Recommended equipment includes:

  • Chainsaw: Allows faster removal of the tree trunk compared to handsaws. Recommended for medium to large trees.
  • Ropes: Used to slowly lower cut sections to the ground in a controlled manner. This prevents damage from falling debris.
  • Wedges: Can help direct how a tree falls when making final cuts. Prevents twisting or shifting of the tree trunk.
  • Pole saw: For trimming smaller branches that a chain saw can’t easily reach. Extendable poles are helpful.
  • Loppers: Bypass loppers, anvil loppers, and ratchet loppers all make pruning tasks easier.
  • Protective equipment: Eye, ear, head, and body protection for safety when operating loud, dangerous equipment.
  • First aid kit: For treatment of any minor cuts or abrasions. Should contain gauze, bandages, antiseptic wipes, medical tape, etc.

10 Steps to DIY Tree Removal

When you’ve determined a small, healthy tree is within your skill level, follow these key steps for safe DIY removal:

1. Assess and prepare the work site

  • Check for any overhead or underground utilities.
  • Clear any structures or valuables from the area where branches will fall.
  • Plan and prepare an escape route before making any cuts.

2. Prune lower branches

  • Remove all branches up to about head height using a pole saw, loppers, or chain saw.

3. Consider canopy reduction

  • For large trees, selectively cut back upper branches to reduce wind resistance when the tree trunk is cut.

4. Make notch cuts

  • Use a chain saw to make a downward angled notch cut about 1/3 of the way into the tree trunk on the intended felling direction side.

5. Make a felling cut

  • On the opposite side of the notch, make a horizontal felling cut about 2 inches above the bottom of the notch to create a hinge.

6. Drive wedges as needed

  • If the tree begins shifting away from the intended falling direction as cut, use wood wedges to guide the tree trunk the correct way.

7. Retreat along escape route

  • As the tree begins to fall, walk quickly along the planned escape route to avoid impact from the falling tree.

8. Remove the tree stump

  • Using a chain saw, cut the stump close to ground level. For full removal, use a stump grinder or rent an excavator.

9. Cut tree trunk into movable logs

  • Working from the top down, cut the felled tree trunk into manageable 4-6 foot logs using a chain saw or log splitter.

10. Clean up debris

  • Once tree trunk and stump are removed, clean up all remaining branches, logs, and wood chips from the area.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

While the basic process of tree removal is straightforward, inexperience can lead to missteps. Here are some key mistakes to avoid:

  • Not having an escape route planned and clear of debris
  • Forgetting to look up and pruning branches that will soon be overhead
  • Cutting on the wrong side of the tree trunk and failing to control the felling direction
  • Leaving partially cut trees unattended, leading to uncontrolled falling
  • Working near utility lines without precautionary shutdowns if needed
  • Allowing branches or logs to strike nearby structures when falling
  • Operating equipment without proper protective gear


What size of tree can I safely remove myself?

It’s recommended to keep DIY removal limited to relatively small, single-trunk trees less than 30 feet tall with easy access. Anything larger has more risk of property damage or injury if not correctly handled.

Does tree size affect pricing from professional tree removal service?

Yes, most tree companies determine pricing based on tree height and trunk diameter, along with any complexity factors involved. Larger trees that require bucket trucks or crane removal can cost several thousand dollars.

What should I do with the wood from a tree I remove myself?

You have a few options: Chop it up for firewood, offer it cheaply or for free on classified ads sites for someone else’s firewood use, rent a wood chipper to produce mulch, or haul it all away to a landfill.

Is a permit required to remove a tree on my property?

Permissions vary by location. Some communities require permits or have restrictions related to tree preservation laws, while rural areas may have no removal oversight. Check with your local council to determine if any regulations apply.


In summary, DIY tree removal requires careful planning, use of proper safety gear, and execution of techniques.

For larger trees, removal should be left to professionals to avoid potential damage or injury caused by falling pieces.

Homeowners can develop skills to safely tackle many basic tree removals and avoid holes in their wallet from hiring a service.

But it’s crucial to always put safety first and know your limitations.