How to Fell a Leaning Tree in the Opposite Direction in 6 Steps

One thing you should never ignore is a leaning tree, especially one that is growing close to your property.

A leaning tree can be a mishap waiting to happen. If it is not taken down immediately, it can become a serious problem and can cause grave damage to property and even lives. 

This is not to say that every leaning tree should be cause for alarm and panic. All we're saying is you shouldn't turn a blind eye to a leaning tree. Some trees naturally lean and are pretty safe, but others will require immediate felling to either save the life of the tree or to prevent accidents from happening.

In this article, we’ll show you how to spot the difference and how to fell a leaning tree in the opposite direction.

How Worried Should You Be About a Leaning Tree?

As we've mentioned earlier, not every leaning tree should cause worry. Sometimes trees lean to get more sunlight as they grow taller, while some trees just lean naturally.

Once you've noticed a lean in your tree, the first step is to determine whether the lean is risky or perfectly safe. You do this by: 

  • Determining how long the tree has been leaning. Trees don’t start leaning overnight, and if they do, it's a symptom of serious structural issues. A tree that leans in a gradual slow process is very natural.
  • Finding out if it leans after bad weather. If you notice your tree leaning after a storm or heavy wind, you should get concerned because most likely, the weather has affected your tree, making the lean unnatural.
  • Noticing if it becomes worse quickly. Like we've mentioned, a leaning tree should be gradual but if it keeps getting worse, your only option may be to call a professional arborist.
  • Paying attention to the soil on the side away from the lean. If it’s cracked or raised and the roots of the tree are exposed, that's a bad sign.
  • Checking if it leans toward the road or where there are lots of structures.
  • Figuring out what angle the tree is leaning toward. A tree that is bent more than 15° is far from being natural. If the tree keeps leaning, the likelihood that the tree is going to fall is very high.

If you're still not sure after all these tips, contact a professional arborist. 

What Causes a Tree to Lean?

Some causes of a leaning tree can be natural or unnatural. While it's completely normal for a tree to lean, knowing the cause can come in handy, especially when considering other corrective methods.

  • Trees growing in places where there's no sunlight will naturally start leaning to get more sunlight to ensure their growth and survival.
  • A tree may lean if the weight of the tree is not evenly distributed. They tend to lean in the direction where there's more weight. 
  • Soil erosion can cause the roots to become exposed and unable to support the tree, hence causing a lean.
  • Bad weather conditions can also cause a tree to lean, especially heavy winds.
  • Trees like Eucalyptus nicholii are likely to develop a lean when growing. Its shallow roots don’t make it any better as it’s more susceptible to becoming bent from bad weather.

Trees that have a natural lean, especially at a young age, may not require felling. They can easily be replanted with a better structure. Trees that lean because of uneven weight distribution can easily be braced. Determining the cause of the lean will help you determine whether the tree should be felled or not.

Should You Cut Down Your Tree Yourself? 

 How to Fell a Leaning Tree in the Opposite Direction in 6 Steps

The essential step is to determine if you are up to the task of cutting down your own tree. Consider these factors:

  • Proper assessment of the height of the tree: It's advisable to not cut down a tree yourself if it’s taller than six feet. They can prove to be too intimidating for non-professionals, so leave it to the qualified arborist.
  • The size of the tree: Only fell trees that are small in size and that can easily be handled without much hassle. Larger trees require a professional who has years of experience.
  • The age of the tree: Older trees tend to have heavy branches, larger tree trunks, and thicker wood. It's going to take someone with a high experience level to do this job effectively. Young trees that are still developing are perfect for felling by yourself.

How to Fell a Leaning Tree in the Opposite Direction

Felling a tree is the process of cutting down a tree and placing it in a spot of your choice. Even though it's faster to fell a tree in the direction of the lean, felling in the opposite direction has many benefits.

First, felling a tree is safer for the buildings and structures around the leaning tree. It is also safer for you, the tree cutter. Before you can begin felling a tree, you should take a look into these precautionary steps, which includes getting the correct tools, materials, safety gear, etc.

Tools and Materials

  • chainsaw
  • An axe
  • A ladder
  • A measuring tape
  • Rigging ropes
  • Ground anchor pins 

Safety Gear

1. Have a good assessment of what you're working with

Before you begin working, you need to determine the center of gravity. Don't worry, this doesn't require taking out a measuring tape and using complicated formulas.

This is basically figuring out if the tree branches lean over a structure or anything that can be damaged. You need to figure this out in order to control the direction of the fall and ensure that it doesn't damage anything, including yourself!

2. Cut the branches

Do this to reduce weight on the tree or remove branches that are leaning over things that can be damaged. Use a ladder to do this and be careful while using a chainsaw. It is advisable to have an assistant to help you do this.

3. Take note of the back lean

Back-leaning trees can be difficult to work with, especially in heavier trees. But there’s a method that will ensure the task becomes as easy as possible.

A back lean is found in trees leaning away from the intended direction it is meant to fall. The back lean is the distance between the point of the intended fall and the apex of the planned undercut. The apex is the front of the hinge and the pivot point for the falling stem. 

The weight of the tree must be brought over this pivot point before the tree will fall. Now, what we're aiming for is to take the back-leaning tree toward the opposite direction (the intended direction). We'll do some calculating to make sure we have a pretty accurate idea of how much back lean you need to overcome.

After you've figured out the direction the tree is to be felled, that's when you begin the calculations with these easy steps:

  • After finding the offset center of gravity (where the tree will take its fall), stand 90 degrees away from the tree toward the intended direction of the fall.
  • Use a rope or an axe to sight the top of the tree and mark the location in the ground.
  • Next, use a measuring tape to measure the inches in diameter of the stump.

4. Make the undercut

The next step is to make cuts to create a wedge piece toward the direction of the lean. Use an axe or a chainsaw appropriate for the size of your tree to make the undercut in the opposite direction of the lean. Make sure you already know some chainsaw safety rules before attempting to use one.

You'll make two cuts, one at a 90-degree angle and the other above the first cut. Your second cut should be slanted in order to make it meet with the first. 

After this, a notch in the shape of a triangle will be removed and your job will become much easier. Make sure you're not cutting above one inch of the tree's thickness.

5. Start felling

The good news is that we're almost at the end of this process and no more calculations are required of you.

The next thing to do is to start cutting. It should be at least an inch over the direction of the notch. This is the point where the tree can fall at any time, so make sure you have all your concentration on the tree.

6. Steer clear

When the tree starts falling, your safety should be your priority so make sure you already have a safe position where you can stay away from the tree. This is the last step.


Learning how to fell a tree in opposite directions is pretty easy -– just as long as you're not doing more than you can handle and you have a very vast knowledge on how trees can be cut down. All you need to do is choose a day when there are calm weather conditions and then get down to business.

However, if you cannot safely cut the tree without hurting yourself or damaging anything else, it would be better for you to get the services of a professional.

Last Updated on April 30, 2022 by Tom Bradly

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Tom Bradly

My entrepreneurial journey started in 2006, when I dropped out of university. I wanted to work with my hands, to build things. Now I mix my background with computers with my first-hand experience with woodworking to provide insights into the tools I like best. I love everything about woodworking and have been building stuff for over 20 years of my life. I hope to pass some knowledge and expertise. See more at

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