Tree Cutting Checklist
When you are felling a tree, it is imperative that you take different safety measures to ensure the safety of you and those around you as well as understanding the risks to surrounding property, buildings and vehicles.
In most cases, you can carry out the pruning and cutting of your trees without hiring a professional to do the task for you. However, if you are a beginner, you should avoid cutting big logs or felling big trees when starting off.
In this tree cutting checklist guide, we are going to share some of the most important things that you should be thinking about before you start using your machine and begin cutting anything especially if it’s your first time, or you are a relative novice. Creating a personal checklist either written down or in your mind will enable you to be more prepared for all eventualities, and reduce the risk of a bad event occurring when it comes to using a chainsaw regardless of the type.
Consider the Possible Risks
We all agree that cutting a tree is risky to both you and the properties around. You need to ensure that you have calculated the risks and at least choose few mechanisms of reducing it. It is both dangerous and difficult cutting big trees and certain techniques need to be employed to prevent saw jams and safe cutting. For this reason, you should either hire a trained professional to cut those huge trees you need removed. If you still would like to do it yourself then you will need a heavy duty saw and possibly a few other tools and understand the process of cutting larger trees fully. You will need to apply extra safety measures because the stakes are higher when the size of the tree being cut is bigger.
Consider an Insurance Policy
There’s no doubt that a tree can accidentally cause damage to other properties. In urban and sub-urban areas, it’s common for trees to grow along property boundary lines. The reality of the matter is that the owner of the land where the tree touches the ground is the owner of the tree. For this reason, you take full responsibility of all the possible risks that this tree poses to the utility lines, neighborhood and other properties close by.
Therefore, when cutting a tree, you must be aware that you can be financially liable for all the damages it can cause. However this is more likely to happen in cases where the damages are caused by your own carelessness to begin with. You need to first of all gauge the possible risks and the potential damages that an insurance policy can cover before cutting the tree. Many professional tree felling companies have their own insurance cover however it’s best to confirm this before hiring any contractor especially where the risk to surrounding properties is greatest.
Although they say prevention is better than cure, there are some instances where an accident can occur regardless of using the correct preventative measures. For this reason, you need to be in full gardening safety gear to reduce the impact of an accident where you become injured with flying debris or contact with moving machinery parts.
When it comes to falling trees, safety is not a throwaway word. What this means is that you should take safety seriously and implement all the measures of ensuring that you remain safe while operating the chainsaw.
There are a few essential Safety Gear PPE Items that you should ensure are on your list. You need head protection gear such as a helmet, foot protection, ear protection, hands protection and eventually eye protection. Their combined protection will ensure you are safe. Ear muffs will prevent your ears from damage in case you are using a gas powered chainsaw, eye protection will keep your eyes safe from flying particles and the helmet will prevent falling objects from hurting you or worse.
Prepare All the Materials and Tools You Will Need
Prepare your chainsaw and ensure that the tank or battery is full. You don’t want to be in a situation where you start cutting a tree and then realize when the tree is about to fall there’s no more fuel or your battery is on its last legs. If you are using a rechargeable chainsaw, ensure that the battery is charged fully and all the other tools are in place. The other thing is to get your safety gear gathered up and wear it as your prepare your tree cutting.
Do a Safety Check
This is simply just a check over on the safety side of things to ensure that your chainsaw and everything associated with the cutting operation is in order. Check whether the chain tension is adjusted properly and ensure that the chain cannot rotate when the brakes are engaged. The other thing is to check is that the faceplates and the bar nuts are fitted the right way and they are firmly fitted. Also check if the air filter is properly installed on fuel powered saws. Another fundamental to check is that the chainsaw chain is sharp and is ready to tear through the tree in question. Never cut with a dull chain. Instead take the time to sharpen the chain before attempting the cut.
Check the Fuel/Charge
In this task, preparation is key. For this reason, you need to plan ahead and ensure that your machine has enough fuel or charge. Those who prefer using gas powered chainsaw should ensure that the fuel tank is full of the correct fuel. If you decide to use a rechargeable chainsaw, then ensure that the battery is topped up fully. Double check that you have enough fuel in the tank before starting a big cut especially if you have been limbing or pruning smaller branches prior to the main cut. The more time you take cutting a tree the riskier it becomes. For this reason, you should ensure that there’s nothing that will derail you in the process. As well as checking the fuel and battery levels it is also important to check the chain bar oil levels are topped up before starting.
Check for Obstacles
If you want to be safe in this process, ensure there are no obstacles that you are unaware of in and around your working environment. A good jockey will always walk a racetrack before a race to spot any potential hazards. We recommend doing the same especially if you are using your chainsaw in unfamiliar ground like at a neighbor’s house or in a friend’s back yard. This will help you spot any potential hazards that may exist like that hidden electricity line or that hornets’ nest just over your head. You don’t want to begin cutting a tree only to find your leg covered in ants or being attacked from the sky by angry hornets defending their home.
So ask yourself are there are any obstacles that would make the cutting task risky or even block your escape should something go wrong. What this means is that you should clean away all the braches, bushes and other obstacles that could otherwise make the task difficult and hamper your escape route. We will say this again because it’s important, you should check whether there are any major obstacles such as electricity lines, telephone lines and buildings and act accordingly.
Check the Direction of Fall
At this point you will be well on your way to having a good level of preparation. Now the next step is to take a little time to observe the tree itself. This will serve two purposes firstly you will be able to identify any signs of disease or broken branches, animals or birds that may be displaced, or threats from nests including spider, ants and wasps or anything that could be perceived as a threat while cutting down the tree.
The other reason for looking at the tree is to determine the possible falling direction. There are several factors that can determine the falling direction of a tree and you should take into consideration all of them.
First of all, consider the direction of the wind, as this can have a big impact on the way a tree will fall or indeed act as it is being cut. The other things to look for is how the branches look, how they are positioned and how they have grown. You can step away from the tree and watch it from a distance to get a clearer picture of its natural direction. The falling direction of a tree will determine how gravity will act on the tree once it is cut and begins to fall. You will want to use the gravitational pull of the earth to your advantage when cutting a tree as it ensures a higher level of safety and predictability. After you have determined the falling direction, clear the way for the tree and ensure that there are no obstacles such as buildings or wires that will be effected.
If there are obstacles along the way, there are several other methods you can use to fell the tree. If you are in the US, you can use an arborist who is a member of the International society of Arborists (ISA) and if you are in Australia, you can get a member of ISAAC.
If you want to do it yourself you can use a rope to pull the tree to your preferred direction and even employ certain advanced cutting techniques to make the tree fall in the direction you desire. This is an advanced technique and you need to understand how this method works fully before attempting it yourself and also inform others of how the process works also. In most cases, you will need a rope that is twice as long as the tree being cut. There are several reasons for this and one of them is to ensure people will pull it from a safe distance. The other thing is that you shouldn’t compromise on the quality of the rope, ensure it is a very strong rope and the equipment used is up to standard. Arborists will know how to fit these trees and they also know the best tools needed for the job.
Deploy a Warning Sign
If you know that you are going to be working in a busy area where people and cars pass by, deploy a warning sign so that everybody will be safe and know that a tree is being cut down. In this situation never cut down a tree on your own as you will need somebody else controlling traffic and people flow while you are cutting. You should first of all get the other person to clear the area from passing people and cars and then fit a warning sign at a safe position and direction.
Prepare the site to make sure that you and others are safe. Clear all sides to ensure that there is nothing that will block you when escaping. You need to ensure that the site is safe and secure for the task. Make sure there are no children, pets or even passersby. You may as well ask everyone who is not working on felling the tree to leave the place. They should all stay at a safe place. Prepare and be sure of at least two escape paths. Make them as clear as possible. This is to ensure that if the tree falls on your side, you will have a clear path to escape. Ensure that the two paths are directly opposite to each other running at an angle of 45 degrees. Place any accompanying tools in a place far away from the tree’s base. Ensure that no tools are sitting on any of the escape paths as they may trip you.
Check the floor of your working area. Remember there is likelihood of slipping on a wet surface or even slipping on uneven grounds, or branches. Ensure that your working area is dry and safe. If possible, avoid working in such places until the ground dries out and is not soft or mucky. You can get a professional to do the task in this case even then they may recommend letting the are dry up a little before carrying out the job.
Prune the Tree Trunk
The first thing that you should do with your machine is to prune the trunk and ensure there are no branches that could otherwise interfere with the process of cutting the main tree trunk. You can either use a machete, axe or even your chainsaw to prune the trunk first. It’s important that you don’t let anything interfere with you while you are cutting the tree. The last thing you need is a low lying branch hitting you or tripping you while operating the chainsaw so sort out these branches and tree limbs first.
Check For Tree Scars and Disease
Tree scars are also something that shouldn’t be underestimated. They are usually a determinant of the technique you will adopt in falling the tree. They can very well determine the direction that the tree is going to fall. You should check to see if the tree is discolored or soft in some places before you start cutting it. In addition, you need to be very careful if you notice that the tree has swollen tissues or has signs of diseases.
The tree may be infected by rot and the fibers holding the tree together could very well be weakened. This can affect the direction of the tree when it falls and can also control your determine your cutting technique. In this case, you can use a winch if you are unsure of the direction the tree will fall. Never attempt to cut a tree that has very obvious signs of rot or disease to the point of it crumbling and falling apart. Even if you suspect minor disease and rot damage you are best to leave these cases to the experts due to the higher levels of unpredictability and equipment needed.
Choose and Organize Your Tools
There are several tools that are involved In the process of falling a tree. However, there are also several factors that determine the type of equipment to use and one of them is the size of the tree to be cut. You can get and fix a rope to control the falling direction of the tree if the tree is tall and you want it to fall in a specific direction and away from an object etc. For small trees, you can manage the whole process without using auxiliary felling tools. However, if you are dealing with larger and bigger trees, or unusually shaped trees then you can get a felling wedge to help provide a greater falling force in one direction and prevent saw jams. A felling wedge is usually better than the many different types of breaking bars.
Decide on Your Cutting Technique
With everything checked and okay up to this point and after you have ensured that the trunk is twig-free up to shoulder or indeed head height, you can now decide on the chainsaw technique that you are going to use to fell the tree. We will outline more about cutting techniques in future posts.
Just bear in mind that the hinge you cut should have an undeviating thickness and also the breaking bar or felling wedge should be introduced to prevent larger more substantial trees from pitching against the guide bar and causing a jam.
There are several techniques that you can use for felling a tree and many of them depends on the size of the tree and also the size of your chainsaw. You should determine the height of the tree also before cutting. There are several methods that you can use to determine the height of the tree including Clinometer method, Axe Handle method and pro-sight method. After you have a reliable estimate, determine the diameter of the tree. However, this is where majority of people get confused. Some people look at the circumference of the tree which is not a big deal in this case.
Choose a Good Method of Starting Your Saw
You have double checked that your working area is safe and there are no obstacles in the way, the next thing is to start your chainsaw and begin making your first cut. There are two basic methods of starting a fuel powered saw. On the ground or between your legs. For both methods, just ensure that the chainsaw brake is engaged. If you are using a rechargeable chainsaw you will only be required to start it by pressing a button. The great thing about starting your chainsaw happens to be that it is made a whole lot easy if you are using electric powered chainsaw or a rechargeable chainsaw.
Keep Your Eyes on the Falling Tree
You have to keep your eyes on the falling tree at all times to ensure you know the direction it is beginning to travel when it starts to give way. Always refrain from running for safety in a careless or reckless way. Immediately once the tree starts to fall and you have observed the falling direction, vacate the area in a systematic and prompt way. You just need to get a few meters from the trunk in the right direction and you are good. In any case ensure beforehand that there are no obstacles in either direction that could hamper your escape and once you have a clear path to escape you will be able to begin the task of cutting up your newly felled tree.
To Wrap Up
So if you follow the checklist outlined above you will be well on your way to achieving excellent results in a safe and consistent way. Once you work in a systematic way then you will automatically be able to consider and indeed remember the most important factors when it comes to cutting down a tree of any size shape or type. As always we recommend to start off small and as your confidence, knowledge and experience levels grow then you can work on more demanding tasks. Remember if you don’t feel comfortable cutting a bigger tree then don’t. Call in the professionals and they will at least be able to fell the tree which if you like you can then begin to cut up in a safe manner.
Either way we hope you will find this tree cutting checklist helpful and above all useful when deciding to cut down even the smallest of trees. Checklists are helpful because the chances of things being forgotten or indeed overlooked are reduced substantially.
Check out the Rechargeable Chainsaw Blog for more on rechargeable chainsaws and chainsaw related information.