Can you use a Pole Saw on a Ladder? (And Other Questions)

We’ve gathered together a bunch of common questions about pole saws and tried to answer them here in a short, succinct Q&A post.

There’s no shame in asking important questions about pole saws before operating them, but remember we’re not providing professional advice here. Make sure you check regulations in your area (especially around using pole saws near power lines) and follow all common sense safety guidelines, as well as those provided in your power saw’s manual.

Pole Saw FAQ

Can you use a Pole Saw on a Ladder?

While it is feasible that you can use a pole saw on a ladder and not be injured, risk of injury and accident significantly increases at heights. Pole saws are designed so you can operate on high trees while keeping your feet firmly on the ground. If a job needs to be done beyond the comfortable operating height of a pole saw, it’s likely you’ll need professional arborists on the job who have the skills and equipment to climb trees safely.

Are Pole Saws Dangerous?

Of course! There are some massive dangers in using a pole saw. After all, you’re operating a chainsaw on the end of a 10 foot pole. Key dangers include falling branches, kickback, loss of balance, and falling from a height (although we’ve established you should have your feet firmly on the ground at all times).

The below video gives some interesting tips on preventing pole saw accidents. They suggest:

Operate the pole saw in fair weather. Wet weather doesn’t play nice with electric pole saws, and especially corded pole saws which would require you to run an extension cord across wet grass to get to a power outlet. They also highlight the importance of using the saw in daylight to help with visibility.

Keep your Cord Untangled. When operating a corded pole saw, the cords can become a nightmare to manage. The video reminds you to ensure the cord is untangled and to know where it is at all times. In particular, it can be a nightmare if the cord gets dragged over debris or tangled in a bush, and can cause you to lose control while in operation of the tool.

Beware of Roofs and Electrical Wires. Roofs and electrical wires are significant hazards at 10 – 20 feet. A branch falling onto an electrical wire can cause electrocution or damage to the power grid. Sometimes it’s best to get a professional if there are hazards like this, or the potential of damage to property.

Only Cut one Limb at a Time. If you’re cutting multiple limbs at once, chances are the first limb will fall and cause spring back and/ or shifts in the tree’s equilibrium. To keep better control, the video suggests focusing on one limb at a time and ensuring everything is stable between cuts.

Don’t cut Branches Thicker than 8 Inches. Pole saws generally can cut up to 8 inch branches. Beyond this, it’s best to get a professional on the job. This isn’t only because the tool will struggle beyond that thickness. It may also be the case that risk of damage to the tree or surrounds is significantly increased beyond that diameter.

This is by no means an extensive list, and it’s not within the scope of this article to outline all safety tips. For example, one tip they forgot to suggest is to, of course, ensure no animals or humans are within the line of fire when branches are falling!

What can a Pole Saw Cut?

A pole saw is primarily designed to cut tree branches up to 8 inches thick. Most commonly, they are employed after a storm to remove broken limbs from a tree. They can also be used regularly to ensure trees do not get too close to houses or electrical wires.

However, they are also very effective for cutting down vines. The one difficulty you can find when cutting vines is that the vines will often swing out of the way and prevent you from getting a good grip on them to cut them.

How Thick can a Pole Saw Cut?

Most pole saws can cut branches up to 8 inches thick. Some pole saws do have 12 inch blades, which is toward the higher end of the spectrum. Above 8 inches, though, you’re getting into territory where you’d want to call in a professional to climb the tree with a chainsaw and the appropriate climbing gear.

How High can a Pole Saw Reach?

Most brands promote that their pole saw reaches somewhere between 10 and 20 feet into the air. But beware that the advertised ‘reach’ of a pole saw doesn’t actually reflect how long the telescoping pole is. Often, the reach is measured by the length of the telescoping pole at full stretch, plus the assumption that a 6 foot tall man is holding it at hip height. On top of that, you usually operate a pole at an angle so the branches don’t fall on your head, so leave room for the diagonal as well.

How long can a Pole Saw be?

The length of a pole saw is different to its reach. Reach is measured by how high it is when holding it. The pole length is the raw length of the actual telescoping pole when fully extended. A pole saw usually has 6 – 10 feet of pole length. Note that the more you extend the pole, the less balanced the tool becomes. While most brands do a good job of concentrating most of the weight at the lower end of the pole, the blade weight is still considerable.

Are Battery Powered Pole Saws any Good?

While many professionals prefer gas pole saws because they’re more responsive and powerful, they’re also quite heavy. Some good quality electric pole saws are coming onto the market. The two options for electric models are cordless pole saws and corded pole saws.

A cordless model is best for professionals and contractors because often there isn’t access to power outlets. This is particularly important for pole saws, we think, because you often want to use a pole saw after a storm when often there is a blackout on the energy grid. This is when battery powered pole saws really come in handy.

Conclusion

Pole saws are versatile and very useful tools for cleaning up after a storm, keeping trees away from powerlines and roofs, and doing general yard maintenance. But there are some safety considerations that need to be kept in mind before using them. Generally, it’s not a good idea to use a pole saw on a ladder or use it on branches over 8 inches wide.

Note that this discussion does not provide exhaustive tips on pole saw safety or advice for your circumstances. For some support on pole saw safety, consult your pole saw manual or manufacturer’s website.