/Tree Trimming & Pruning using a Chainsaw

Tree Trimming & Pruning using a Chainsaw

Tree trimming and pruning are essential aspects of garden and property maintenance that not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space but also promote the health and longevity of your trees. Using a chainsaw for these tasks can make the work more efficient, but it requires knowledge, precision, and a strong commitment to safety. This guide provides an overview of how to use a chainsaw for tree trimming and pruning, along with crucial safety tips and precautions.

Understanding the Basics

Tree Trimming typically refers to the removal of overgrown branches to shape a tree and improve its appearance. Pruning, on the other hand, involves removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches to help a tree grow healthier. Both processes are vital for maintaining a tree’s structure and vitality.

Preparing for the Task

In the United States, many tree species are susceptible to a range of diseases, molds and fungi, many of which can cause significant damage. There are also a variety of insects, such as emerald ash borer beetle and pine sawyer beetle which can lead to rapid wilting, discoloration of leaves, and tree death, often within a few months of infection.

Before you start, assess the tree and the area around it. Look for dead or diseased branches, consider the tree’s natural shape, and identify any branches that pose a risk to structures or power lines. Planning your cuts in advance can help you work systematically and safely.

Choosing the Right Chainsaw

Select a chainsaw that fits the job. For most residential tree trimming and pruning, a lightweight, easy-to-handle model with a bar length of 10 to 16 inches should suffice. Ensure the chainsaw is in good working condition, with a sharp chain and all safety features intact.

Many homeowners opt for an electric or battery powered chainsaw due to the ease of maintenance and lower price point. However, many electric chainsaws can be underpowered compared to their gas-powered cousins. Be sure to choose a chainsaw that has enough horsepower to handle the task at hand.

Safety Gear and Precautions

When using a chainsaw for any task, safety should be your top priority. For tree trimming and pruning, wear the following protective gear:

  • Helmet with a face shield to protect from falling debris.
  • Hearing protection to guard against long-term hearing damage.
  • Protective gloves with a good grip to handle the chainsaw securely.
  • Chainsaw chaps or pants to protect your legs from cuts.
  • Sturdy, non-slip boots to ensure stable footing.

Additionally, ensure that the work area is clear of bystanders, especially children and pets, and that you have a clear escape route planned for when large branches or trees fall.

How-to: Tree Trimming and Pruning with a Chainsaw

  1. Starting Position: Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability. Hold the chainsaw firmly with both hands, keeping your left hand on the front handle and your right hand on the throttle.
  2. Making the Cut: When cutting branches, use the three-cut method to prevent tearing and damage to the tree:
    • First Cut: Make a small notch on the underside of the branch, about a foot away from the trunk, to prevent the bark from splitting.
    • Second Cut: Move out a few inches from the first cut and saw through the branch from the top down. The branch should break cleanly at the notch.
    • Third Cut: Finally, remove the stub by cutting close to the trunk, without damaging the collar (the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk). This cut should be made from the outside of the branch collar, preserving it to ensure proper healing.
  3. Working at Heights: If the branches are out of reach from the ground, consider using a pole saw or hiring a professional. Climbing with a chainsaw is extremely risky and generally not recommended for non-professionals.
  4. Direction of Cut: Always cut from the side of the branch that allows the chainsaw to push away from you when it goes through. This positioning helps maintain control and minimizes the risk of kickback.
  5. Post-Cutting: After trimming or pruning, inspect the tree for any uneven areas or additional branches that may need attention. Clean up all debris and cut branches to prevent pests and diseases.

Additional Safety Tips and Precautions

  • Kickback Awareness: Understand what causes kickback and how to prevent it. Never use the tip of the chainsaw to cut, as this is the most common cause of kickback.
  • Tree Health: Avoid trimming more than 25% of a tree’s foliage in a single season, as over-pruning can stress and damage the tree.
  • Weather Conditions: Never trim or prune during adverse weather conditions like high winds, rain, or lightning.
  • Professional Assistance: For large trees, complex branches, or any task that feels beyond your skill level, hiring a professional arborist is the safest option. They have the experience, equipment, and knowledge to handle the job safely and effectively.

Tree trimming and pruning with a chainsaw can be a rewarding task that contributes significantly to the health and beauty of your trees. However, it requires careful planning, the right equipment, and a strong adherence to safety practices. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your tree maintenance tasks are completed efficiently and safely, preserving the health of your trees and the safety of your property.