Whether for cutting up downed trees for firewood, cleaning up after a bad storm, or doing some pruning around the yard, a chainsaw is a valuable companion for managing a property’s trees. With advancements in battery technology, there are more chainsaw options than ever to choose from.
Powerful gas chainsaws are suitable for cutting down medium and large trees, while corded electric chainsaws or battery-powered chainsaws are great options for pruning branches or removing small trees. Chainsaws range in size from small 12-inch models suitable for pruning to large 20-inch beasts that can take down large trees. With so many sizes and chainsaw types to choose from, selecting the right model can be challenging.
Keep reading to learn about the different types of chainsaws and which factors to consider when selecting the best chainsaw and to review some of the top models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL GAS: Remington Outlaw 18-Inch Gas Powered Chainsaw
- BEST OVERALL ELECTRIC: Greenworks G-MAX 40V 16-Inch Cordless Chainsaw
- BEST BUDGET GAS: Coocheer 62CC 20_Inch Gas Powered Chainsaw
- BEST BUDGET ELECTRIC: WEN 4017 Electric Chainsaw, 16″
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAS: Craftsman 42cc Full Crank 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT ELECTRIC: DEWALT 20V 12-Inch Max XR Chainsaw
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY GAS: Husqvarna 24 Inch 460 Rancher Gas Chainsaw
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY ELECTRIC: Makita-UC4051A Chain Saw, Electric, 16 in.
Types of Chainsaws for Cutting Firewood
Chainsaws are either gas-powered or electric, which include corded and cordless battery-powered options. Each kind has advantages that make them better suited for different applications. Below, learn more about the types of chainsaws.
Gas chainsaws are the most powerful type of chainsaw available. They run off of a fuel mix of gas and oil. Most gas chainsaws range in size from 16 to 20 inches. Gas chainsaws generally run faster than electric chainsaws, making them suitable for bigger jobs, like removing medium and large trees. They also are better for cutting through hardwoods such as oak and birch.
Gas chainsaws can last for about 40 minutes to an hour on a single tank of gas depending on how the chainsaw is used. They require more maintenance to ensure the engine runs properly and cost more than corded electric chainsaws.
Electric chainsaws include both corded and cordless battery-powered chainsaws. Corded chainsaws use a standard power cord that plugs into a 110-volt outlet, while battery-powered models use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. While these chainsaws have a push-button start, are quieter, and are easier on the environment than gas-powered chainsaws, they lack the raw power of gas chainsaws.
Corded chainsaws have access to a consistent supply of 110-volt power, giving them greater chain speed and more power than their cordless counterparts. Cordless chainsaws have slower chain speeds, which makes them better suited for pruning branches and cutting mainly softwoods such as pine. Keep in mind that electric chainsaws won’t work properly with all extension cords. In general, the longer the length of the extension cord and the higher the amps of the chainsaw, the thicker the gauge of the cord needs to be.
What to Consider When Buying the Best Chainsaw for Cutting Firewood
Power source, safety features, and bar size are just some of the crucial factors to consider when shopping for a chainsaw. Read on to learn more about these and other chainsaw features that may be important when searching for the best chainsaw for cutting firewood.
Since wood varies in hardness, different types of chainsaws cut better through different wood species. Gas chainsaws produce more torque and higher chain speeds than electric chainsaws, so they are ideal for cutting through hardwoods such as oak, maple, birch, and hickory.
Attempting to use an electric chainsaw to cut through hardwoods can cause the chain to bind in the wood and potentially overheat the motor, shortening the chainsaw’s life. Electric chainsaws are better for cutting through hardwood branches with smaller diameters or softer woods such as pine, cypress, and cedar.
Size and Weight
Chainsaw size refers to the length of the cutting bar. The cutting bar is the long metal piece extending from the body of the chainsaw that holds the chain. The rule of thumb is that a chainsaw bar should be at least 2 inches longer than the thickness of the material it is cutting to ensure the chainsaw can cut the entire piece in one pass.
So, an 8-inch-thick branch requires a chainsaw with a bar that is at least 10 inches long. They vary in size from small chainsaws with 12-inch bars to large gas chainsaws with 20-inch bars.
Chainsaws that use gas-powered engines are significantly heavier than electric-powered motors. The average gas-powered chainsaw weighs between 10 and 15 pounds compared to an electric chainsaw, which weighs between 6 and 10 pounds.
Gas chainsaws operate at greater speeds and have longer run times than electric chainsaws, making them ideal for cutting larger trees and branches or bigger jobs involving multiple trees. Since they have more power, they can drive long 20-inch bars, making them suitable for bringing down larger trees.
Corded saws are limited by their power source, while battery power saws have run times of about an hour. Corded chainsaws require larger 10- to 14-gauge extension cords and are limited to 100 feet, which is the longest extension cord. Looping together multiple extension cords is not recommended, as it creates a fire hazard.
Both corded and electric chainsaws also aren’t as fast as gas-powered chainsaws. This makes them suitable for light home use, such as for trimming branches or cutting down small trees.
Gas chainsaws run on gas engines, which means they create exhaust. Like any gas engine, they produce potentially harmful or even fatal carbon monoxide gas. For this reason, they can only operate outdoors, where there is plenty of ventilation, to prevent the buildup of this gas. The amount of exhaust that a chainsaw produces is directly related to the size of the engine: A bigger engine will create more exhaust.
Corded and cordless battery-powered chainsaws don’t produce any exhaust, making them greener options than gas-powered chainsaws. And since electric chainsaws don’t create exhaust, they are more suitable for chopping up firewood in an enclosed space, such as a garage, woodshed, or barn.
The buzz of a chainsaw is a sound most people are familiar with, whether one associates the sound with lumberjacks clad in plaid and denim or 1980s horror movies. Even if gas chainsaws have mufflers to dampen noise, gas-powered chainsaws are by far the loudest, with an average sound range of 90 to 102 decibels. Though still loud, an electric chainsaw is about 10 to 20 decibels quieter than a gas chainsaw.
Since sound doubles in intensity for every 10 decibels, this means an electric chainsaw is between two and three times quieter than a gas chainsaw. In either case, ear protection is a good idea while using both types of chainsaws to avoid long-term hearing damage.
Chainsaws include a variety of safety features designed to prevent accidents. Many chainsaws have chain brakes, which stops the chain motion immediately in the event of a kickback. Chainsaw chains also feature guard links that prevent kickback along with a less aggressive cutting profile that takes manageable bits of wood.
Most models also have a metal chain catcher. This metal extends from under the guide bar to prevent a chain that’s been thrown off the bar from whipping back toward the operator. Most chainsaws have a switch on the top of the handle that engages the palm of the hand and must be pressed along with the trigger for the throttle to operate.
Some chainsaws feature hand guards, which are small plastic shields positioned in front of the handle that prevent hands from reaching the blade.
Chainsaws require numerous accessories for protecting the operator. Chainsaw chaps are specially designed pants that clog the chains of chainsaws to prevent the chainsaw from cutting into a leg and cause the motor to stall, shutting off the chain and preventing injury.
Chainsaws produce a considerable amount of debris in the form of sawdust and wood chips. This makes safety goggles an essential accessory. With chainsaws operating at 90 decibels and above, ear protection is a necessity. Other accessories for using a chainsaw include a helmet and gloves.
Our Top Picks
The chainsaws in the top picks below were selected based on their features, including power source, size, and budget, in specific categories. These are some of the best tools that can both help manage a property’s trees and help build up a collection of firewood.
With its rugged build, powerful engine, and features that make it easy to start, this gas chainsaw from Remington is one of the best all-around gas chainsaws on the market. Its 46-cubic-centimeter two-cycle engine provides ample power for an 18-inch bar that can handle most home chainsawing needs. While one of the main frustrations of a gas chainsaw is pull-starting a cold engine, this tool’s QuickStart technology makes getting started easier on an arm and back.
Though making this chainsaw a bit heavy at more than 16 pounds, a die-cast metal build adds a level of durability lacking in other chainsaws. An aggressive chain cuts quickly through hardwoods, while large bucking spikes provide ample leverage for cutting. Other attractive features include a five-point anti-vibration system and a cushioned handle that makes it easier to operate. An automatic oiler prevents the need to stop and lube the blade.
With its 16-inch bar and long battery life, the Greenworks G-MAX chainsaw is one of the top cordless electric models on the market. It leverages the power of a brushless motor to make the most out of a 40-volt lithium-ion battery. This combo creates 30 percent more torque than brushed motors, allowing this chainsaw to power a 16-inch bar, long enough to cut through trees and branches up to 14 inches in diameter.
The battery delivers enough juice to make up to 150 cuts, making it suitable for pruning limbs and cutting small trees. At a little more than 10 pounds, this chainsaw is lighter than comparable gas chainsaws, making it easier to maneuver. Safety features include a chain designed for low kickback and an electronic chain brake that cuts power in the event of kickback.
Despite its affordable price, this chainsaw still packs a punch with a powerful 62-cubic-centimeter engine that pumps out 3.5 horsepower, which is plenty of juice for powering its huge 20-inch bar. It’s powerful enough to take down large branches and good-size trees. It also includes some attractive features, including an ergonomic handle with a nonslip grip that does an adequate job of absorbing shock.
This chain features a more rigid blade that enables fast cutting while holding its edge through many cuts. A quick-stop chain brake adds safety in the event of a kickback. It has an auto oiler that delivers a steady stream of oil, eliminating the need for frequent stops to lube the chain. It also includes a safety start to prevent accidentally engaging the chain.
A quality chainsaw doesn’t have to be an investment. With 12 amps of power, this corded chainsaw from WEN features a 16-inch bar capable of cutting through small trees and branches up to 14 inches in diameter. A powerful Oregon chain efficiently cuts through hardwoods and softwoods, while an auto oiling system keeps the bar well lubricated while cutting.
A large, easy-to-use dial allows the operator to loosen or tighten the chain quickly on the fly. With a total weight of just 10 pounds, this chainsaw is easy to maneuver while limiting fatigue over long pruning sessions. A large hand guard prevents hands from slipping off the handle and onto the blade.
Weighing in at 13 pounds, this gas chainsaw from Craftsman is one of the lighter models on the market. That doesn’t mean it’s light on features. though. The 16-inch bar is long enough to fell a 14-inch-diameter tree or branches, and its high output engine cranks out 42 cubic centimeters, giving it exceptional power for its size. While gas chainsaws can be notoriously hard to start, Craftsman eases that frustration with EasyStart technology that makes it easier to start.
A low-kickback chain cuts through hardwood without binding, while large bucking spikes provide excellent leverage for working through larger diameter wood. A chain brake stops the chain automatically in the event of a kickback. This model also includes Craftsman’s three-point anti-vibration system, making the chainsaw more comfortable for the operator. A side-mount tension system makes adjustments easy, preventing delays.
Because this one weighs less than 9 pounds, it’s hard to find a lighter chainsaw than this battery-powered model from one of the best-known names in power tools. The DeWalt chainsaw runs on a powerful 20-volt battery that powers a 12-inch bar, making it suitable for pruning branches and small trees around the yard. The chainsaw is powered by a brushless motor, which gives it a longer run time than other battery-powered chainsaws, with about one hour of use before it needs to be recharged.
A sizable wraparound handle makes it easy to cut from multiple angles, while an auto oiling system ensures the bar is well lubricated throughout the job. An Oregon bar and chain make this chainsaw suitable for cutting trees or lumber while minimizing kickback.
Big tree-cutting jobs require a chainsaw with plenty of power and plenty of length. This 24-inch model can take down large trees, making it ideal for large properties. The 60.3-cubic-centimeter engine powers a long 24-inch bar that’s meant primarily for professional use and for big jobs requiring a longer bar. This chainsaw is on the heavier side at 22.6 pounds, but the features on this model are plentiful and include Husqvarna’s X-Torq engine, which consumes less fuel than other chainsaws.
A SmartStart system makes cranking up this chainsaw easier while eliminating endless pulls. Durability is always a high priority with chainsaws. Its air injection centrifugal air-cleaning system keeps debris and dust from contaminating the air filter, leading to longer engine life.
With features that make it easier to use, a higher-performance motor, and features that protect the motor from burnout, this model from Makita is one of the top electric chainsaws on the market. This corded model features a maximum chain speed of 2,900 RPMs and a 16-inch bar length that can cut through large branches and small trees.
A large metal spike bar provides a substantial fulcrum for powering through thicker wood. Adjustments are easier with this model than with a tool-less blade and chain adjuster. A built-in current limiter inside the motor automatically reduces power when the chain gets overloaded, preventing the motor from overheating, extending its life. Large rubberized handles ensure the chainsaw won’t slip out of the operator’s hand while making difficult cuts.
FAQs About Chainsaws for Cutting Firewood
With so many kinds of chainsaws on the market, you may have some lingering questions. If you’re still wondering about what size or type of chainsaw is right for your property, then read on for answers to some of the most common questions about these powerful tools.
Q. Can electric chainsaws cut trees?
While electric chainsaws are best suited for cutting limbs and pruning, larger 16-inch electric chainsaws also can handle smaller trees.
Q. Are electric chainsaws safer than gas chainsaws?
Electric chainsaws are safer than gas chainsaws due to the slower chain speeds, reducing the odds of dangerous kickbacks, and they run only while cutting. They also have shorter bars of no more than 18 inches, while some gas chainsaws have 20- or 24-inch bars.
Q. How big a tree can a 20-inch chainsaw cut?
A 20-inch chainsaw can cut large hardwood trees up to 3 feet in diameter, although they are much harder to use and are primarily reserved for professionals.
Q. Can I cut the wet wood with my chainsaw?
While you should not use an electric chainsaw to cut wet wood for obvious safety reasons, using a gas chain is perfectly fine. Just keep in mind that damp wood will likely create more buildup from sawdust around the chainsaw.
Q. How do I clean and maintain my chainsaw?
Remove the chain and let it soak in a solution of ammonia and water. While the chain is soaking, use a brush to scrub the chain to remove any debris. Lube the chain liberally with oil after it dries. Clean the body of the chainsaw by wiping it with a dry cloth. Use a brush to remove any debris lodged inside of it. Remove the air filter and clean any debris out of it. For gas models, periodically check the spark plugs for wear. If the plugs are worn out, replace them.
Q. How long will my chainsaw last?
Despite the beating chainsaws generally take, they actually can last a surprisingly long length of time. If well maintained, a chainsaw can last 10 years or more.