How to cut down a small to medium sized tree in your garden


I just finished a nice job cutting down 2 small to medium sized trees, one in the customer’s garden and the other just on the inside of the fence line in the neighbouring garden. It was actually the tree in the neighbouring garden that was originally needed to be cut down since they needed it gone before building an extension to the property, but when I mentioned hiring a stump grinder for the day and only needing it for 30-60 minutes they decided to get more for their money and have a second tree cut down!

I always knew when taking on this job that I was going to write an article titled ‘how to cut down a small to medium sized tree in your garden’ so I made sure to take lots of pictures along the way. Although I still managed to miss one important picture of when I was pulling part of a tree with a rope whilst my business partner used the chainsaw to cut the tree trunk, making sure that it fell in the right direction, but hopefully I’ll find an example picture somewhere!

What is a small to medium sized tree?

There is no real definition of a small or medium sized tree, what I’m really trying to say is that I’m not giving advice to cut down a huge tree that’s likely to cause a substantial amount of damage to you or your property, within reason ofcourse! Above is an image of one of the trees that I will be speaking about in this article which I would say at approximately 14 feet high, although I would say that the absolute maximum height of tree I would recommend a hands on person to cut down with the help of one other person would be 12 feet high. If the tree is any taller than 12 feet then I would recommend hiring a tree surgeon to cut the tree down for you.

What tools do I need to cut down a small to medium sized tree in my garden?

It might come as a surprise but there isn’t actually a huge amount of tools needed to cut down a small to medium sized tree in your garden. In fact, we didn’t even use a chainsaw when cutting down these trees, instead we used a pruner. Come to think of it, all we used was a pruner with the help of an extension pole to help reach and cut the higher branches. Oh and some rope to help larger branches and the tree trunk fall in the right direction.

It’s worth noting that although in most cases they are not needed for cutting down smaller trees, if you do plan on using a chainsaw then it’s best to check the laws, rules and regulations in your country or region as certain requirements may need to be met. As a professional gardener in the UK, we need a chainsaw license to use one.

In reality, a pruner is a mini chainsaw, usually no more than 20cm or 8 inches in length (although I have seen slightly larger ones at 10 inches in length). Just like a chainsaw, a pruner uses a chainsaw chain and needs chainsaw oil to operate. The only difference is that it has less cutting length and comes on a pole, keeping it a safe distance away from your body and in most cases, doesn’t need a chainsaw license to use one.

Both trees that we cut down had a large stump but we got round this by cutting it from both sides with the pruner. I would recommend purchasing a landscaping multi tool like the one we use, manufactured by Titan. Our one comes with a number of attachments such as a pruner, hedge cutter, strimmer, brush cutter and extension pole but other landscaping multi tools are also available from other manufacturers.

Below is a link to a landscaping multi tool on Amazon. As an Amazon affiliate partner we receive a commission for any purchase made when being directed via a link on this website.

If you use a pruner to cut down the tree in your garden then don’t forget your chainsaw oil. I’ll include a link below.

If you do decide to purchase your tools from Amazon then you may aswell get some rope at the same time.

Don’t forget your personal protective equipment (PPE) when cutting down your tree

When cutting down your small to medium sized tree it’s important to wear personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. I would recommend wearing the below PPE when cutting down your tree.

  • A hard hat to protect yourself against falling branches
  • Goggles to protect your eyes
  • Ear defenders to protect your ears from the noise of the power tools (pruner)
  • A pair of work gloves

You can get an all-in-one hard hat, ear defenders and visor from Amazon (I’ll include a link below) but don’t forget to purchase some gloves, preferably the Arbortek work/handling utility gloves.

My step by step guide on how to cut down a small to medium sized tree in your garden

Below are my full instructions on how to cut down a tree in your garden yourself, well with the help of one other person ofcourse. The help of another person is important because not only will they help make decisions on where to cut next on the tree, they will also be able to help guide where parts of the tree fall and seek help should anything happen such as an injury. Although if at any point you feel unsure or unsafe then it’s best to let a professional tree surgeon cut the tree down for you! This is just an article to let you know how I cut down small to medium sized trees, to give advice if you are a hands on and confident person thinking about taking on the work yourself.

Step. 1 assess your surroundings

Before cutting down any tree it’s always good practice to assess your surroundings and look out for any breakable ornaments or garden decor, electrical cables, fence panels or anything else that could be a hazard should a large branch fall onto it.

Using the above image as an example, there were plants in the flowerbed, a garden fence and a shed roof that we needed to be careful of. There’s not much we could do about the plants so we just let the customer know that we will be as careful as possible but there is a chance that we could damage them. The customer was more than fine about this and confirmed that the plants held no sentimental value.

Following this conversation, me and my business partner agreed to cut the tree branches into small sections so that there were no heavy branches falling to the ground or onto the fence etc.. This also made sense since it would make bagging up the tree branches much easier.

We also made room in the garden by moving some garden furniture for when we would cut the tree trunk since this would be the riskiest part of the job. For this we use a rope to guide the tree to fall in the direction that we want but I’ll explain this in more detail below.

Step 2. Begin cutting your tree branches

Before you begin cutting your tree branches, don’t forget your personal protective equipment (PPE)! As you can see in the above picture, we started cutting the tree branches from the lowest point, gaining access to the higher tree branches as we worked our way up. This allows us to have a better view of the branches above and helping us making decisions on where to cut next etc..

Whilst my business partner cut down the tree branches, I was removing them and bagging them up into bulk bags to help keep a safe working environment. The last thing we wanted was for him to trip and full with a petrol powered pruner in his hand!

Step 3. Begin cutting the tree down from the highest point and work your way down

At this point, we couldn’t reach any higher with the pruner and so we had to start cutting the tree down from the highest point we could reach which would mean that it was time to start cutting the tree trunk itself. Ofcourse we could have used a ladder to reach the top branches before cutting the tree trunk, but we felt confident to start cutting it down with the top branches still intact. This was mostly due to having a safe place for the tree to fall.

Here is the important bit! Do not just cut the tree trunk from a low point as the lower you make the cut, the more length of tree that will fall. Start high, only cutting small sections to lower the risk of causing injury or damage to yourself or your surrounding. It’s a this point we used a rope to guide the tree.

Simply tie the rope around the highest point of the tree and have someone make a cut whilst you pull tight in the direction that you want the piece of tree trunk to fall. The rope should be long enough to keep you a safe distance away from where the tree trunk should fall and be mindful of how far below the rope you make the cut. If you cut the tree trunk too close to the rope then the tree could fall in the opposite direction.

Keep working your way down the tree trunk until all you’ve got left is the stump.

Step 4. Remove the tree stump

Removing the tree stump is optional and many of our customers don’t bother having it removed, although this could be due to the cost of hiring a stump grinder to get the job done.

As a business, we only use stump grinders as this is the quickest way to remove the tree stump but there are other ways that you could do this yourself and over a longer period of time. You can read my full guide which gives 6 ways to remove a tree stump in your garden.

How to get rid of the waste after cutting down your tree

As you can imagine, after cutting down a small to medium sized tree you may be left with a fair amount of waste and if your a hands on person cutting the tree down yourself (not a tree surgeon or gardener) then it’s unlikely that your going to have the means to easily dispose of it.

Whatever your plan, I would recommend cutting the branches into small enough pieces and bagging them up into large bulk bags like the one pictured above. This way you can put the tree waste to one side in a smart and tidy manner until you are able to get rid of the waste.

Below is a link to these large bulk bags on the Amazon store incase you’re wondering where to get them from. As an Amazon affiliate partner we receive a commission for any purchase made when being directed via a link on this website.

There are a number of ways to get rid of your tree waste besides paying someone to come and do it for you, infact I’ve written a guide showing some free ways for getting rid of your garden waste which should come in handy.

My thoughts on how to cut down a small to medium sized tree yourself

If your generally a hands on person that takes on DIY jobs then I would say it’s possible to cut down a small to medium sized tree yourself (with the help of another person) but if any part of you lacks the confidence to do so then I would recommend getting a professional to cut down the tree for you.

As a professional landscape gardener, cutting down trees tend to be one of the easier jobs that we take on. In fact, we much prefer these jobs to laying patios and artificial turf! Cutting a small to medium sized tree doesn’t actually take long either with each of the above trees being cut down to the stump in less than an hour. The part that takes longer is actually the cutting of already fallen branches and bagging them into bulk bags!


Please note that the above guide on how to cut down a small to medium sized tree in your garden is just to show you the way that I do it. What works for me may not work for you. It is a guide, to give advice and help where needed and should not be taken as step by step instructions. If in doubt, have a professional come and do the work for you!

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply