Cutting down trees: guide to cutting trees properly

Every now and then a tree has to be cut down. Professional tree felling is simple and safe – but can also be expensive. In order to save money, many quickly resort to their own chainsaws. But there are a few things to consider when cutting down trees.

It is not allowed to cut a tree just like that

Cutting down trees is usually the exception, because preserving the natural environment should be in everyone’s interest. Nevertheless, sometimes there are good reasons to have a tree cut down or to do this yourself. For example, rotten trees pose a danger and can become a problem during the next storm. But sometimes they simply interfere with the construction of a house or for other reasons. Once the decision has been made and there is no alternative to felling, however, you can’t just get on with it. In Germany, there are nature conservation laws that deal with this issue in detail.

Depending on the state (and sometimes depending on the city or municipality where you live), there are different regulations for tree cutting. Especially in densely populated areas, the protection of existing trees is important and is often given higher priority than the personal interests of a property owner. First of all, it is necessary to find out whether felling is possible at all, and if so, when and how tree felling may be carried out.

Important parameters for this are the following:

  • Trees are generally only felled in winter, provided there is no imminent danger. The period between the beginning of November and the end of January is the rule for this purpose.
  • Do not cut down trees from March to September to protect birds and other animals that make their homes in trees. Details are regulated by the Federal Nature Conservation Act.
  • In very densely populated areas, tree felling is often prohibited by additional regulations if the tree is very tall or has reached a certain age. Depending on the type of tree, most nature conservation authorities have set a certain trunk circumference for this purpose. If this is reached, the tree may not be cut down. Exact values are set by the cities themselves, and a distinction is also made between deciduous and coniferous trees.
  • Exemptions are granted if trees are diseased and may pose a danger. Under certain circumstances, trees may even have to be felled as part of the obligation to ensure road safety if they pose an increased danger. Exemptions are also often granted for certain construction projects.
  • If the location of a tree cannot be clearly assigned to an individual property (e. g. B. directly on the property line), all measures must be coordinated with the neighbor.

Cutting down trees is usually the exception, because the preservation of the natural environment should be in everyone’s interest. (#01)

Illegal tree felling can be very expensive

General recommendations regarding the circumference of trees and other rules cannot be given, since almost every city has its own rules for cutting down trees. Information can be obtained from the relevant nature conservation authorities. The individual federal states provide comprehensive information on this subject on the Internet. In Hesse, for example, you can find out here if a tree is to be felled. By the way, you should not underestimate the fines for violations.

If you think that you can simply get away with it once you have created facts and cut down a tree, you are mistaken. Fines for illegal tree felling can range from 50 euros to 100 euros, depending on the federal state and the severity of the violation.000 euros. Depending on the federal state, the fines vary greatly. You can get an overview of standard values and the general legal situation when felling trees here.

Costs for professional tree felling vary according to effort

Once the question of permission has been clarified, the tree can be felled. Hiring a professional tree feller is the safest and most convenient option – but also the most expensive. Costs are incurred not only for the actual felling, but also for all preparatory and finishing work, the possible removal of the felled tree, and so on.

Additional costs can arise in the case of particularly difficult local conditions and, last but not least, service providers calculate the costs according to the size of the tree and the associated expenditure. It is therefore worthwhile in any case, before cost estimates from several suppliers to obtain. They can often give an estimate in advance whether a permit will be granted or not. take care of the necessary formalities for this (for an extra charge).

Although exact cost estimates are not possible across the board, there are certain empirical values.

  • Permit for tree felling: ca. 50 to 100 Euro
  • actual tree felling: ca. 300 to 400 Euro (depending on size)
  • possibly. Removal of the tree root, further processing of the trunk into firewood, removal of foliage, branches, etc.: ca. 400 to 500 Euro

In addition, there are possible safety measures (e. B. in case of slope or other difficult local conditions).

If the question of the permission is clarified, one can cut down the tree.(#02)

Despite costs: Safety always comes first when felling trees!

If you see these cost estimates, you will naturally wonder if you can’t cut down a tree yourself. After all, there are cheap chainsaws in every hardware store and trees are felled for thousands of years. In fact, in many cases you can do it yourself, but you should pay special attention to the correct felling technique. In general, safety plays the decisive role in such a project. Not only the correct handling of the chainsaw, but also the right protective clothing and other safety measures are essential when felling trees.

If you want to cut a tree that is located in an unfenced area (for example, in a freely accessible forest area), you have to be even more careful to ensure adequate safety measures. Otherwise you could endanger bystanders. Of course, the required permit is always a prerequisite – simply going out and cutting down trees on your own (for example, for training purposes) can be very expensive.

It is better to learn how to use the chainsaw professionally. A chainsaw training course is recommended if you want to carry out tree felling on a regular basis (for example, on large properties with a high proportion of trees, z. B. for the removal of storm damage) or also has to cut down trees from time to time in a professional capacity. Then the comprehensive guidelines for occupational safety come into play, which should be observed at all costs.

Safety first. This is especially true for self-protection. Proper protective clothing and complete, functioning safety equipment from professional outfitters should be available at all costs. Even if you only want to cut down one tree, you must not skimp on security!

A complete protective equipment includes among other things

  • Safety helmet with protective visor
  • protective goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Hearing protection
  • sturdy clothing and footwear (recommended: safety shoes with steel toecaps)

For more frequent work with chainsaws, you should also invest in this special safety clothing:

  • Cut protection trousers
  • Scnittschutzschuhe
  • Cut protection gloves

This protective clothing not only protects against accidents with the saw, but also against flying splinters or sawdust, which can become dangerous projectiles due to the immense acceleration when working with the chainsaw.

It is better to learn how to use the chainsaw professionally.(#03)

Step by step: How to fell a tree

If you have complete safety equipment and basic knowledge of the use of the chainsaw, you can cut a tree yourself. First of all, the initial situation should be assessed. The following questions must be answered:

  • Which local conditions can lead to complications?? If there is a slope? If the tree is crooked? If the center of gravity of the tree crown is unfavorable for the desired direction of fall?
  • If the tree is already unstable (z. B. by fungal or pest infestation)?
  • Is there enough space for tree felling? Check not only the space conditions in the desired direction of falling, but also in the other surroundings (neighboring property, public sidewalk, etc).
  • If all the necessary permits have been obtained? If in doubt, ask the responsible nature conservation authority, even if it is your own property!
  • Pay attention to self-safety – even after the actual felling, working on the tree is dangerous.
  • Extensive protection of the danger zone: The radius around the tree should be twice the length of the tree. Uninvolved persons must not be in the danger zone. It is strongly recommended to put up warning signs and to use barrier tape
  • Securing it with a retaining strap or. an appropriate rope to pull the tree in the desired direction of fall is especially useful for large trees. Be sure to pay attention to the size of the crown; if the center of gravity is in a different direction, the tree cannot fall in the desired direction without taking additional measures.

The actual felling requires a professional cutting technique. First of all, a so-called felling notch is sawn.(#04)

How to fell a tree with professional cutting technique

The actual felling requires a professional cutting technique. First, a so-called notch is cut. This notch is cut on the side of the tree on which the tree is to fall. The horizontal notch (drop notch) should be about one third of the log thickness. The so-called drop notch roof is a second diagonal cut, which is then cut from the top to the drop notch bottom. This creates a wedge that is cut out of the trunk. The actual felling cut is now made on the opposite side of the falling notch.

Important: Do not cut all the way to the notch of the tree. A narrow bar is left in the middle of the trunk, which serves as a hinge when the tree falls. To prevent the felling cut from closing, you can also drive a wedge into the cut. If the tree does not fall by itself afterwards, you can give it a push with a few well-aimed blows on the wedge. In case of doubt, however, the felling cut must be deepened somewhat.

Important: If the trunk does not snap off as desired or even splinters when it falls, it is often under tremendous tension. If you then cut carelessly into the tensioned wood, serious injuries can be caused by parts of branches or the trunk recoiling. The larger the tree, the more likely the felling is something for an expert. Especially the estimation of the direction of fall can be very difficult in complex situations (e.g. B. in built-up areas) can be difficult.

The laws of physics (such as the determination of the center of gravity of the tree crown) cannot be overridden by a rope. After successful felling, care must be taken when cutting the trunk to avoid possible stress fractures and splintering. Later disassembly is often easier with the help of a log splitter.

video: Felling a tree

Conclusion: cutting down a tree is not witchcraft if you do it right

You can fell a tree yourself if you use the correct felling technique and observe all safety rules. This is not only recommended from a legal point of view (z. B. to avoid damage to the neighbor), but also essential from a health point of view. Good equipment starts with the chainsaw and ends with protective clothing. Especially for more frequent work with the saw, you should invest in good protective equipment. Before you cut down a tree, you must also obtain the necessary permits, otherwise it can be very expensive.

Image credits:©Shutterstock cover image: _ Chelle129 -#01: Dmitry Kalinovsky -#02: Dmitry Kalinovsky -#03: fabiodevilla -#04: Mikhail Olykainen

About the author

Marius Beilhammer, born in 1969, studied journalism in Bamberg, Germany. He has been writing for technical magazines for many years, and also works as a freelance author on a wide range of market and business topics. As a Franconian cheerful nature, he always finds the balance between lightness and comprehensive know-how in his work due to his pronounced affinity for technology.

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