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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > Buying Guides > Guide to Buying a Chainsaw

Guide to Buying a Chainsaw

A chainsaw is one of those tools that can be described thusly: When you need one, nothing else will really do. We'll help you find the right one for your needs. Lowe's is happy to provide this chainsaw guide as a service to you.

From the original gas-powered saws that took two people to operate to today's lightweight homeowner versions, the chainsaw has come a long way in the last 40 years. Use our chainsaw guide to determine the machine that’s right for you.

Types of Chainsaws

Gas powered

Gas powered saws offer maximum power and portability.


Electric saws make short work of smaller yard chores.

There are two types of chainsaws: gasoline-powered and electric. Your access to a power source helps determine which type you need, so think about where your woodcutting projects are going to be.

Gasoline-powered chainsaws use a two-cycle engine (requiring mixing of oil and gas). Mobility and power are the main advantages of gas. Disadvantages include the bother and smell of mixing oil and gas, pull cord starting and the additional overall maintenance needed.

Electric saws are great for smaller yard chores. They're quieter than their gas-powered cousins, lightweight, easy to start and require less maintenance. However, they have less power than gasoline-powered saws. They also add the bother of dragging a cord around behind you.

Pole saws are available in both gas and electric versions. These slightly smaller versions of their larger cousins are mounted on an extension pole. The cutting reach is extended up to 12' (depending on the model).

Decisions, Decisions

Before you go shopping, look around the yard and think about the jobs you plan on tackling. The size of the wood you plan to cut and how often you cut are factors in selecting the proper tool. Think about how large and powerful a saw you can handle comfortably and safely.

Chainsaws come in many sizes. Saws are measured by two means: Bar length and engine displacement.

  • Bar length is measured from the cutting tip to where the chain enters the housing. Bar length represents the active cutting area — the largest size wood the saw will cut in a single pass. When determining the size you need remember the saw's actual safe cutting ability is twice the bar's length (ex. a saw with a 14" bar can cut through a 28" log).
    Standard bar lengths for most homeowner saws are 14", 16", 18" and 20". Although these are only two inch increments, each larger size brings increased weight and power. Larger saws also increase the safety concerns for the user. Sizes over 20" can be hard to handle — leave these for the pros.
  • Engine displacement is an impressive term that simply measures a gasoline engine's size. The measurement is represented as cubic centimetres (cc) or cubic inches (cu. in.). Use these measurements to compare models. A higher number delivers more power.
    Homeowner models have less than 3.8 cu. in. (62 cc) ratings, though most of these saws normally range from 1.5 to 2.8 cu. in.

You may also notice other numbers, the chain pitch and chain gauge. These are probably most important to remember when replacing a chain.

  • Chain pitch is the spacing of the rivets on the chain. The saw's sprocket has the same spacing. The normal pitch is 3/8".
  • Chain gauge is the thickness of the chain. It should fit the groove in the bar.
SAFETY NOTE: A chainsaw is a powerful tool and commands attention to safety. Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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