What Size Chainsaw do I Need | Our Guide to Making the Right Choice

A man using a chainsaw

If you are considering purchasing a chainsaw as a home power tool, the first thing you are probably wondering is, ‘what size chainsaw do I need?’ To answer that question, you are going to need to consider what kind of work you will be doing with your chainsaw, as well as the pros and cons to chainsaws of different sizes.
This guide will walk you through all the important things you need to know regarding chainsaw sizes, so that you can decide on the best size of chainsaw for your needs. 

What size chainsaw do I need for different jobs?

Different tasks will require chainsaws of different sizes. As a general rule, we can say that the bigger the piece of wood is that you will be sawing, the bigger your chainsaw will need to be – but there is a little more to it than that. Let's say you're wondering how to cut down a tree with a chainsaw, you need to know the right size of your tool, right?
Okay, here are a few important factors to consider.

Chainsaw size and weight:

chainsaws storage

Finding the right size chainsaw is all a compromise between the size and power of the saw and its weight.
Bigger chainsaws are almost always heavier – and a heavier chainsaw is harder to hold and use for a long amount of time. 

That’s why, if you are going to be working on smaller tasks, you will want to choose a smaller, lighter chainsaw.
For trimming branches, cutting firewood, pruning or other small jobs, an electric chainsaw might be a great choice. 

Light electric chainsaws can still have long blades for use on larger pieces of wood, but they have slightly less powerful engines. Because of the lack of a big, gas-powered engine, they are much lighter and easier to hold.

For trimming higher branches, though, you might want to consider a heavy but powerful pole saw. Pole saws have long handles that allow you to reach higher. Even though they are heavier, the ergonomic design of a long pole chainsaw will help you handle bigger jobs that would be out of reach with an ordinary gas or electric chainsaw.

When it comes to gas-powered chainsaws, you are always going to have to deal with more weight than with a small electric saw for cutting wood, but you will have the power and the chainsaw bar size to cut down full-size trees or saw bigger logs.

To sum it up, for your own comfort, you should always look for the lightest saw possible that will be able to handle the job you have in mind. 

Occasional light use:

If you are purchasing a chainsaw to have for occasional light use and gardening jobs at home, we recommend something with a small bar size and a lower weight, that will be easy for you to handle.
An electric chainsaw is best for lighter uses.

Corded or battery-powered, electric saws are easy to start and comfortable to hold, with minimal vibrations. They are also generally quieter.

The bar size of an electric chainsaw is typically between 12 and 18 inches. For light use, a 12 inch bar should be large enough.

cart with logs and chainsaw

That means that you will be able to safely cut through branches that are 10 inches wide or smaller. If you have bigger cutting jobs in mind, you can consider an 18 inch bar – just be aware that it will be a little heavier.
We would not recommend a heavy, gas-powered chainsaw with a 20 inch bar or longer for light use and yardwork. It will just be more weight, noise and hassle with chainsaw storage than it is worth. 

Moderate use:

A chainsaw for moderate use – and by that we mean semi-professional logging work, bigger clearing jobs and property maintenance – will be a little bigger and heavier than a chainsaw for light yardwork.

If you plan on using your chainsaw to cut down full trees, you should probably go with a gas-powered model, and invest in a longer bar. The chainsaw bar length will directly affect how much you can cleanly saw through at one time. For moderate use, a bar length of 20-24 inches should be plenty. Even an 18 inch bar will do the trick.

Be aware that if you are choosing a gas-powered chainsaw, it is going to be heavier and have more vibrations, making it harder to hold and maneuver. A chainsaw of this size with vibration reduction technology might be helpful, especially if you are going to be working with your chainsaw for extended periods of time. 

The engine of your chainsaw, for moderate use, should be between 40 and 50 cc. Anything more than that will be an unnecessary amount of power and weight. 50 cc is a very powerful chainsaw – if that is your choice, we recommend that you have a little training or experience before you get started. 

Heavy-Duty Use

Finally, when it comes to heavy-duty use (professional logging and clearing, foresting, storm cleanup, etc.), it is safe to say that bigger is better.
For heavy use, you will want a chainsaw bar length of over 24 inches. Some blades go up to 36 inches or longer – it depends on how large the trees you are going to be felling are. For the engine, around 55 cc should be a good starting point, but for the most power, you are better off with over 60 cc or even as high as 120.

Another factor to keep in mind for a heavy-duty chainsaw is durability. Bigger engines means more expensive maintenance when they break down – check out the user reviews or your chainsaw before you buy it, to make sure that it will last you a long time. An air-powered cleaner or automatic oiler can help with the long term durability of your engine, as well as the bar and chain.

You should also remember that the more powerful your engine is, and the longer your bar is, the heavier your chainsaw is going to be. If you want something you are going to be able to walk long distances with or use for extended periods of time, you may want to favor a lighter weight over power. 

Other considerations when choosing a chainsaw size:

chainsaw equipment

Besides compromising between power and weight, there are a few other factors that play into choosing a chainsaw size. 

One is chainsaw chain sizes. The chain of your chainsaw is not just dependent on the length of the bar – chains are also measured in pitch, gauge and number of drive links.

The pitch is the measurement of three drive links in a row, at the gauge is the distance between each link. You should have a good idea of what these measurements are on your chainsaw, in case you ever need to replace the chain.

Another important factor is bar length. The length of the chainsaw bar is not necessarily tied to the power of the engine – you can get a long bar chainsaw with a lighter electric or gas-powered engine, and have a longer blade without adding to much weight. Just keep in mind that a less powerful chainsaw will not be able to cut as quickly and smoothly, no matter how long the bar is. With all those things in mind, you are ready to find the right chainsaw for you. Remember to consider weight, noise and vibrations, and keep in mind what kind of jobs you will be using it for.

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