How to Select a Tree Service
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An unqualified tree trimmer, in the blink of an eye, can esthetically and
physically ruin a tree that has been growing for decades. Before hiring a tree
service, do some research into proper pruning techniques or possible solutions
for the tree problem; this information will help you to ask the right questions.
Here are some general guidelines for choosing an arborist.
- Be certain the person you hire has the necessary training to do the job.
How did they receive this training? Is the person certified by at least one
international, state or local professional arboriculture association? How
many years has this person been in the business? If pesticides are needed,
is the person certified to apply them?
- Request copies of the company’s certificates of insurance and workmen’s
compensation. Request several references, and verify them. Ask if the job
was performed on time. Was there any damage done to the house, wires, lawn,
or other plants? Did they do a complete clean up? Were all promises kept?
- What is your initial impression of the company? Are the personnel neat and
safely attired? Is the equipment in good repair? Did you make the first
contact, or did they call on you? Be wary of any crews using the "we
are working in the neighborhood…" method of getting business. Be wary
of any crews not from the area. Be especially wary of alarmist tactics,
filled with unsolicited advice.
- Ask the following questions:
- How will they climb up into the tree? This might seem a silly question,
but the answer is very important for the continued health of your tree.
Unless the entire tree is to be removed, the trimming crew should never,
ever, climb up into your tree using cleats. Cleats create a multitude of
unnecessary wounds all along the trunk, wounds that may give insects or
disease entrance to the tree. A skilled arborist will climb into the tree
using a combination of ropes and ladders. No cleats, please!
- Ask where the company will make their pruning cuts. Compare their answers
with your research. Remember the Extension Office can provide you with
valuable information about how a tree should be pruned. The prospective
contractor should be familiar with drop-crotch pruning, and where to prune
with respect to the branch collar.
- Especially after ice, wind or snowstorms, one other term that might creep
into the conversation is "topping." If a contractor suggests
"topping" as a pruning solution, don’t hire him. Topping will
only create serious problems.
- Many apparent problems can be interpreted in different ways. You should
obtain several qualified opinions about the problem.
- Obtain more than one estimate. Each estimate should detail how the
contractor foresees doing the job, and what equipment will be used. Cost is
an important factor, but the science and art with which an arborist trims
and prunes is extremely important to the well being of the tree and to
whether it is a safe tree.
- Obtain a detailed written contract, which states when the work will be
done, and precisely what that work entails. If any chemicals are to be
sprayed, be sure that information is included, as well as the environmental
impact of the chemicals. Lastly, the total dollar amount should be
specified. Do not ever pay in advance.
Dennis Patton, DPatton@oznet.ksu.edu
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Johnson County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension