7 of the Best Tree Removal Tools and Equipment You Need

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated March 28, 2022
Family enjoying time together in the backyard
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These tools will have you yelling “Timber!” in no time

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Trees are a wonderful feature on any homeowner's property—most of the time. Yes, while trees are desirable, they can cost thousands of dollars to replace. Sometimes, you want to remove a dead tree, or perhaps the tree is just an impediment or an eyesore. Whatever the case, you may consider chopping a problematic tree down.

However, tree removal is not as simple as grabbing an axe and wailing away on the trunk until it comes crashing down. In reality, it's a painstaking process that involves investigation and the right tools and techniques. Here's what you need to know about the tools and equipment you'll need.

1. Chain Saw

A chain saw is your heavy-duty cutting tool. You'll need it for larger trees that resist options like an axe. However, you need to use it carefully. In addition to being a significant safety risk to those who are inexperienced with it, it also won't cut as effectively if you don't use it properly. Place the running chain saw against the wood with a light touch, and then slowly apply pressure all the way through the cut.

2. Handsaw

There are many different kinds of handsaws and hacksaws, from small ones that are only good for saplings and branches to large two-person handsaws meant for larger trees. Generally, you should use handsaws for smaller trees and saplings.

3. Polesaw

Gardener using pole saw to trim a tree
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Polesaws are like miniature chain saws at the end of a long stick. They're most commonly used for cutting off thick branches high up in the tree where they're hard to reach. However, you can use this tool to cut down smaller trees, too. Keep in mind that there are both manual and power polesaws, and some are better suited for shrubs than trees, so consider this factor before you purchase one.

4. Axe

This is the traditional way to cut down a tree, but it's definitely a workout as well. Axes work with all tree sizes, although it could take you all day to take down an enormous tree with it. You'll want to chop at a 45-degree angle, first from the top and then from the bottom, until you get a third of the way through the tree. Then, go to the other side of the trunk and do the same thing.

5. Wedge

The purpose of a wedge is to control the direction that a tree falls. It also prevents the bar and chain on your chain saw from getting pinched. You may need multiple wedges for larger trees to give you enough leverage to tip the tree in the direction you want.

6. Hatchet

Using hatchet to cut a tree branch
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Hatchets are similar to axes, but they're smaller. They're generally only suitable for the smallest of trees. You would have trouble feeling even a medium-size one with a hatchet, and you'd risk breaking the hatchet. Another difference is that you only use one hand to swing a hatchet, which changes the dynamics when chopping.

7. Wood Chipper

Once you've knocked down a tree, you'll have to get rid of it. This could include chopping it into wood for lumber, or you can eliminate it by feeding it through a wood chipper to get rid of it completely.

Climbing and Rigging Equipment

Arborists holding ropes preparing to remove a tree
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In addition to the cutting equipment listed above, you’ll also need climbing and rigging equipment if it’s a larger tree. Some equipment used for this include:

  • Helmet: You'll need one to protect yourself from falling trees as well as falling from tall trees.

  • Protective glasses: Glasses will keep debris out of your eyes when you're cutting.

  • Work gloves: Gloves will help prevent splinters and other injuries from cutting.

  • Straps: Straps are necessary to keep you from falling out of your rigging.

  • Pulleys: Pulleys give you the leverage to navigate up and down the tree.

  • Rope: It helps you move up and down the tree and keeps you secure.

  • Ascenders and descenders: These pieces of rigging equipment make it easier and more efficient to move up and down a tree.

  • Rigging plates: These plates keep your rigging system firmly in place.

  • Winches: These help you pull yourself up to reach higher points in the tree.

  • Cable hoists: This is a steel cable that's vital to the strength of your rigging system.

Preparing for a Tree Removal

The process of tree removal generally takes three basic steps. 

Examine the Tree

Two arborists measuring spruce tree trunk
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The first step is to examine the tree to determine information like its age, length and width, and how healthy it is. All these factors play into how difficult removing the tree will be and what tools and preparation you'll need to make. Hire a professional arborist near you for this step.

Prep the Yard and Your Tools

The next step is to prepare the area for tree removal. That means clearing the yard of anything that the falling tree could strike. Also, you'll need to gather all the equipment you need, such as a chain saw, axe, protective glasses, and helmet.

Rig the Tree Where You Want It to Land

This last step is the most important because you don't want the tree to land unexpectedly, particularly when that place could be on the roof of a nearby house or top of your head. You can notch a tree to help direct where it will fall, weakening one side of the tree so its point of failure guides it to fall in a specific direction. This process is called "notching and hinging."

Removing a Tree Stump

A tree stump grinder is the fastest way to get rid of a tree stump if you choose to remove it after cutting the tree down. You can rent a stump grinder machine, but it may take several hours to grind the stump down completely.

It costs an average of $270 per day to rent a stump grinder, with a typical range of $90 to $440 per day. Contact your local home improvement store to check their rates. Or hire a local tree cutting company to do the work.

Hiring a Tree Removal Specialist

While you may be able to do the job yourself with the right tools and a small tree, it’s a good idea to hire a pro for this service. Cutting down a tree could be dangerous to yourself and others, and it could cause serious property damage if you cut it incorrectly and it falls in the wrong direction. This is a high-stakes project, so make sure it’s done right.

Considering the cost of tree removal is between $200 and $2,000, it's just not worth the risk to save a little bit of money. Contact a tree removal service near you for a quote—it may cost less than you think.

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