What Size Chainsaw Do I Need? [Ultimate Guide]

Are you considering buying a chainsaw but not sure what size you need?

There are so many different variations, it can become overwhelming. You have no idea which one is right for you.

Should you go for the biggest saw you can afford or just go with the most reviewed one?

Well you’ve come to the right place because in this post I’m going to inform you on what kind of chainsaw is the right one for you…

What Size Chainsaw Do I Need? Your chainsaw should be at least 2 inches longer than the width of the limb or tree you’re going to cut. For example, if the limb or tree is 10 inches wide, the chainsaw bar should be at least 12 inches long.

If you want a more detailed guide on the size of the chainsaw you need, keep reading…

How do I measure my chainsaw bar accurately?

It’s very easy, simply use a tape measure. Measure from the beginning of the bar (where the guide bar enters the engine)  to the tip of the bar.

If the measurement does not meet a full inch, simply round it up or down to the nearest even number.

For example, your bar is 10.8 inches long, you would round it up to 11 inches. If your bar is 14  inches long, you would round it up to 16 inches.

What size chainsaw chain do I need?

First of all, measure the bar size with a tape measure from where the bar enters the engine to the tip of the bar. Then round this measurement up to the nearest even number in inches.

For example, if a bar measures 18.4 inches, you would have a chain length of 20 inches. You could then start browsing chainsaw chains of  20 inches.

Bar size – Safe Chainsaw Sizes Recommended for Each Task

In this section, we’ll be breaking down each task you do with a chainsaw and size bar you’ll need to accomplish that task…


If you’re removing limbs (branches) that aren’t very thick you don’t need a bigger bar than 6 to 11 inches. Make sure to measure the width of the thickest limb you believe you’ll cut and get a bar 2 inches longer.

I’m cutting branches that are no thicker than 3 inches.

If that’s the case, you may be better off using a simple handsaw.


How to cut a large log with a small chainsaw
When to replace a chainsaw bar
What not to do with a chainsaw

Bucking (Cutting  firewood)

If you’re bucking, this depends on the size of the tree you cut down. First, you will need to limb the tree and then you can split it. Typically, a bar that’s 14 to 16 inches long will do the job.

But again, make sure to measure the thickness and get a bar 2 inches longer. (You may be able to use the same saw you use to prune to split firewood depending on the size, of course).

Felling small trees

We’ve all got that little tree in the yard and if you’re planning on cutting it down, a 12 to 14 inch bar will do the trick. 

Felling medium trees

A medium size tree is 14 to 16 inches wide. So a chainsaw with a 16 to 18 inch bar will do the job.

Felling large hardwood trees

This is where those thick hardwood trees you see in the park start to come in. You would categorize these as large trees. You will need to start from 20 inches at least to fell these types of trees. And get a bigger size if you feel it’s necessary.

Wouldn’t a chainsaw that’s really long be the best option for everything?

By this point, you might be thinking of getting the biggest saw possible to fix everything. This is a common mistake I see the average Joe making.

If you’re pruning and you get a 20 inch bar for pruning, it’s going to hinder you from getting the precise cuts you want. Also, the bigger the saw the more dangerous it is.

Since there’s more weight which means it’s harder for you to handle and will lead to fatigue faster. Also, a larger bar will lead to a higher chance of hitting the nose on something and this will cause kickback.

Kickback is where the nose of the bar touches something hard and causes it to fling-back to the user.

Not to mention that a smaller saw costs less. So why not save yourself some money?

What’s the best size chainsaw for homeowners?

This all comes down to if you’re pruning, bucking (splitting wood), or felling. For standard bucking and felling, a 16 inch bar saw will do the job for most homeowners.

A gas powered engine will provide more power than an electric engine. So for cutting hardwood like oak, gas is a better option.

What’s the max tree diameter VS chainsaw bar length?

When cutting down a tree you need to have the right technique. Depending on the tree, you cut it at an angle and/or opposite sides. This is for more advanced chainsaw operators and beginners should only try this on smaller trees.

Here’s a video of professionals at work:

How big of a tree can a 20 inch chainsaw cut?

Again, this comes down to the technique the operator is using. For a beginner, a 20 inch chainsaw will be able to comfortably cut an 18 inch thick tree.

Some professionals can cut a 36 inch thick tree with a 20 inch saw.

Pole Saws

So I wanted a separate section on pole saws because they’re quite unique. Simply put, a pole saw is a saw on a pole.

Yup, who would have thought? But in all seriousness, they’re incredibly useful for pruning and great for senior citizens. 

You can reach high branches and cut them off with ease. Depending on the model, you can adjust the length of the pole to allow for easier pruning. They’re lightweight and versatile.

Engine size

You’ll find that the bigger the chainsaw, the more powerful it is. This is because the bar will be bigger so there needs to be more power to operate it optimally.

If you plan on cutting down an oak tree, you will need a powerful engine. And a powerful engine will probably have a  20+ inch bar attached to it.

What CC chainsaw do I need?

Pay attention to the bar length, for example, cutting down large trees will need a 20+ inch bar. The CC will be proportional to that.

Engine size is measured in cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic inches. In general, the bigger the number, the more powerful the engine. [1]

Your experience and physical strength

For some reason, no one likes to consider their experience and physical strength when deciding on the size of a chainsaw.

Just know that if you’re a beginner and you get a bigger saw, the more dangerous it is. So it might be best to get a small and cheaper saw for the first couple of months and get some practice.

I would recommend this guide if you’re a complete beginner to chainsaws. It’ll give you a much better understanding on chainsaws.

When it comes to physical strength, make sure to read descriptions to see how heavy it is. If you’re a more senior person or petite woman, you may find it difficult to operate heavy-duty chainsaws.

If you can, go and take a class on using chainsaws.

Gas or electric?

Gas or electric, which one’s right for you?

Well that all depends on what you’re doing…

For example, if you’re felling, you’re going to need as much power as you can get. That’s why you’ll want to go with a gas saw because gas gives a lot more power than electric.

For lighter work like pruning and cutting small fire logs, an electric chainsaw will do.

Let’s say you have a bunch of logs you want to cut. They’re in your garden and you have something to cut them on. Your best option would be a corded electric chainsaw.

This way, you have unlimited stamina for cutting and plenty of power since you’re just splitting logs.

If you’re going out to cut trees, keep in mind that electric chainsaws will run out of juice. You’ll typically get a solid 30 – 40 minutes of use out of it.

Which is good and manufacturers are always working on improving the time. With a gas chainsaw, it’s going to last a lot longer out in the wilderness where there’s no power.

So a gas saw is best for felling and going out into the wilderness. An electric saw is best for pruning and splitting softwood logs in your backyard.

What’s the best brand chainsaw?

Of course, this is completely subjective, but from my research, Husqvarna is the best. They’re simply the most reliable and can last a decade with ease.

They’ve been around since 1689, at first being a weapons foundry. They then went on to make sewing machines, bicycles, motorcycles, kitchen equipment, and of course, chainsaws.

So they have over 300 years of making electrical equipment and that’s what makes them so reliable. They know exactly the type of people they serve and manufacture robust items. Again, this is just my opinion, however…

..it’s the opinion of many other chainsaw enthusiasts. Husqvarna has been producing top of the line chainsaws since our parents were using them.

You know how people say, “they don’t make things like they used to”? Well Husqvarna STILL “makes things like they used to”.

Final words

So I hope I answered your question, “What size chainsaw do I need?”. 

It all depends on the kind of job you’re doing…

…you can’t get a saw that’s going to prune and fell trees. But you can get a saw that splits firewood and fells trees. So you can get one size fits “most”, not one size fits “all”.

Hope I answered your question!

Happy Sawing.

– Adam