Tips for choosing a competent tree service professional

Tips for Choosing a Competent Tree Service Professional

Unlike electricians, plumbers and similar trades, accreditation and standards are not required for tree work in most places. But it matters! Trees can be irrevocably damaged by bad pruning! A feature tree that has been disfigured by thoughtless hacking can erode your property value.

This is tree topping. It harms trees, does not make your property safer, and may erode property value. Professional arborists will not do this kind of work. Flush cuts, bark tearing and spike holes frequently accompany this kind of poor work.
This is tree topping. It harms trees, does not make your property safer, and may erode property value. Professional arborists will not do this kind of work. Flush cuts, bark tearing and spike holes frequently accompany this kind of poor work.

Accreditation and adherence to acceptable standards is voluntary in our industry. The quality of the work you receive and the standards that it should adhere to are up to the service providers. But there are standards. They are called the ANSI A300 standards.

  • If you are tempted to engage the services of an unsolicited caller (a ‘door knocker”), at the very least, ask for proof of general liability insurance. Since such bids are not likely to be initiated by proper tree care professionals, restrict such work to clean ups or tree removals, not trimming or pruning.
  • Don’t be swayed by unsolicited claims that trees are hazardous unless you can clearly see that a tree has become hazardous. If you are uncertain, get an opinion from a proper arborist. Not all leaning or less than perfect trees are hazardous.
  • If you are requesting bids from tree service companies, and are seeking advice on whether a cherished tree needs removal or not, be aware that tree services companies that perform removals only, or mostly removals are far more likely to declare a tree should be removed since that is their primary business.
  • Ask how a tree that is being trimmed or pruned will be accessed. Do not allow climbers to use spikes on trees that are not being removed. Spike holes in trees make a tree more susceptible to disease and decline. Such effects will not be apparent for several years.
  • Real arborists will refuse to ‘top’ live, healthy trees. This is the indiscriminate reduction of a tree to make it considerably smaller. This is sometimes sold as a way to make a tree ‘safer’.
  • Real arborists will not sell you pesticides or treatments unless a clear diagnosis can be made. Pesticides cannot be applied as a ‘magic spray’ that might cover a bunch of ill-specified possibilities.
  • A proper tree service company ensures that its employees are properly dressed for hazardous work and wearing proper PPE (personal protective equipment). This includes helmets with hearing protection and safety glasses. This might be hard to verify, but it’s worth asking about.
  • Be suspicious of bids where you are asked to pay 50% up front. Established tree services normally expect payment upon satisfactory completion of a job, unless a job is of unusually long duration, perhaps over several weeks.
  • North Carolina does not require licencing for tree care services. A tree service company may have a business licence, but this is not a quality assurance or legitimacy matter.
  • If a company has an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) Certified Arborist on staff, it’s an indication that tree pruning and advice given will be as per modern industry standards. However, not all good arborists are certified, and some certified arborists may not do great work. Certification is voluntary and means that the arborist has passed exams and taken training. Certified arborists should be able to tell you their certification number, and its currency and validity can be verified online at http://www.isa-arbor.com/faca/findarborist.aspx

"We are looking for a few good clients!"