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What Size Chainsaw Do I Need for Cutting Trees?


This is truly an open-ended question since there is no one answer. What size chainsaw do I need for cutting trees? To begin, what size are the diameters of the trees you intend to cut?

If you’re like me, you have small trees on your property which are unsightly or are falling down. They’re either a potential safety hazard or – at the very least – an eyesore. For those jobs, I recommend one of several models of battery or electric chainsaws available either online or at your local hardware store. These chainsaws usually have smaller bar lengths of 10 – 14 inches, making them ideal.

On the other hand, if you’re facing heavy-duty cutting, you need a chainsaw with a bar of 14 inches or greater. This article explores in-depth the various sizes of chainsaws and why some are better than others depending on the task at hand.

Bar length

Without a doubt, the bar length of a chainsaw is the most important factor that determines not only the size of your saw, but also the type and volume of work it can take on.

Allow me to explain:

The longer the bar, the more effective it is at cutting trees with larger diameters. I know from personal experience working in the forestry industry for years. A gas-powered chainsaw with a bar length of 20 inches or more is most effective for felling large hardwood trees such as oak, spruce, birch, beech and hemlock, many of which can be 30 – 36 inches in diameter.

Perhaps you are a forestry professional or just a woodlot or property owner who needs to cut down large-diameter trees. If this is your situation, I highly recommend a professional – grade chainsaw.

These require a bigger budget, but will make your job a whole lot easier. You can check out my recommendations here.

While I am on the topic of professional – grade saws, another factor you must take into consideration is engine displacement and horsepower. As logic dictates, the more powerful the engine is, the stronger the saw. And, in cases of cutting down large-diameter trees, power matters.

Cutting the small stuff

The average homeowner who has a garage with tools he or she occasionally uses on the weekends in all likelihood will not require the use of a gas-powered chainsaw with a 45cc (or higher) engine.

If you’re like much of the rest of society, you might do a bit of light cutting four or five times during the year. You can’t go wrong with an electric chainsaw – even battery – operated units will work just fine.

Electric and battery chainsaws are all the rage these days with homeowners and are mass-produced for the consumer market. Cutting off unsightly limbs. Trimming and pruning. Cleaning up hedges or some light storm damage. Chainsaws with bar lengths of 10 – 14 inches will serve you well.

Experience should be considered

I cannot stress this enough: if you’re not experienced with the use of a chainsaw, a powerful unit with a bar length of twenty inches or higher is not for you. Beginners should purchase a chainsaw with a guide bar of 18 inches or less, preferably 10 – 12 inches. Once you are comfortable handling a smaller, lightweight chainsaw, then by all means upgrade to a more professional, gas-powered model.

Another advantage of starting out with an electric or battery – operated saw is that maintenance isn’t a major concern. Trust me, those bigger, more powerful models require more maintenance than many busy folks have time or energy for. You need to clean the filter, have the knowledge to fix minor mechanical issues and know the right types of fuel to put into the engine.


Not only the diameter of the trees you will be cutting, but the location is another thing to keep in mind. If you happen to be cutting small – diameter trees such as poplars or small spruces, then an electric or battery – operated chainsaw is fine.

On the other hand, if you’re concerned about having freedom of mobility – even if you’re just cutting small trees – then a smaller gas-powered unit is more preferable. Many ordinary people own large pieces of land (including woodlots) and they need to be able to roam freely and not be constrained by the length of a cord or battery life.

To recap, I will go over the bar lengths of chainsaws and how they are determined by the diameter of the tree you wish to cut.

It is desirable to use a guide bar length of 20 inches or more to fell larger – diameter trees. That being said, it isn’t always necessary. You may or may not be aware that smaller chainsaws are capable of felling large trees or cutting up large pieces of wood. The key is doing it in two passes.

A 16 – inch guide bar is more than adept at cutting trees twice its length. This is a known fact amongst professional foresters. While this is true, you must consider if your chainsaw’s engine is powerful enough to slice through a log that is 32 inches. If not, you won’t be successful in getting the job done. If you have many 32 – inch trees to cut down, it only makes sense to purchase a heavy – duty gas – powered model.


As you’ve learned by now, when cutting small – diameter trees, you need only use an electric or battery – operated unit to successfully get the job done. Many people reading this article are homeowners who do a bit of light cutting three or four times a year. For these folks, I recommend a chainsaw with bar lengths no more than 14 inches.

Not all users of heavy-duty chainsaws are forestry professionals. It isn’t uncommon to have massive trees growing on your property, especially if you live in the suburbs or in rural areas. If you’re not working in the woods for a living but are comfortable with the handling and operation of chainsaws, a saw with a bar length between 16 – 20 inches should be fine.