Hiring Professional Tree Services

AMES, Iowa--In some tree damage situations, the homeowner can clean up fallen material and remove damaged branches on smaller trees. But in many cases, a tree care professional needs to be hired to manage the situation safely. According to Jesse Randall, ISU Extension forester, examples of situations where a tree care professional should be consulted include: the tree needing repair is near utility lines, the repair work requires climbing, removal of large branches is required or the tree is leaning on a structure or an adjacent tree.
"In cases of widespread tree damage it is not unusual for individuals calling themselves 'tree specialists' to start showing up throughout the area looking for work. Owning a truck and a chainsaw does not automatically qualify someone as a tree care professional," said Randall. "Most people in the tree care profession call themselves arborists."
Arborists are people who specialize in the management and care of individual trees, and their education and/or training is in the field of tree care. There are qualified arborists throughout the state, but Randall advises Iowans to protect themselves and their property by considering the following suggestions when dealing with storm damaged trees and hiring individuals or companies for tree care services.

When hiring tree removal

1) Before anything is done, be sure any trees in question are on your property. If the tree is in the public right-of-way contact your local city officials to see who is responsible for managing trees in these locations.
2) If your tree is immediately adjacent to power lines, contact your local utility for potential assistance with pruning of broken branches or removal of hazardous trees. Do not prune around utility lines. This work should be done by trained professionals only.

3) Beware of people knocking on your door offering to work on your tree. Most established arborists do not create new business by going door-to-door.
4) In some communities arborists must be licensed to work within city limits, so check with city hall to see if this is a requirement and for a possible list of licensed arborists. If you live outside of a community or there is no list available from city hall, check the yellow pages in the phone book for a listing of tree care professionals under the heading Tree Services or Tree Care. Also, check with friends or neighbors who have had work done by a reputable company or individual.
5) Make sure the individual or company has insurance for personal and property damage, and workers compensation. Ask for evidence of this insurance. In some cases communities have ordinances that specify insurance requirements for arborists; contact city hall for this information.
6) Ask for, and check, local references or past clients.
7) If time permits, obtain tree work estimates from several arborists. Make sure to get a written estimate listing all work to be done. Read through the details carefully, and be sure you understand what will be done. The cost of good tree care is not cheap. Most arborists have a heavy investment in equipment, labor, safety training and insurance; a bid for a job has to reflect many of those costs.
8) Before the work starts, obtain some type of written contract that specifies what will be done, how it will be accomplished, the costs, and the start and completion dates for the job.
9) Don't pay for the job until everything agreed upon is completed.
10) Finally, arborists will be very busy for weeks and possibly months helping concerned clients following a major storm, so be patient and prepared to wait to get your needed work completed. In most cases, tree services will try to get to you immediately if your tree is a danger to people or surrounding structures.
For more information on taking care of your damaged tree or trees, contact your local Iowa State University Extension office.
Photo courtesy of Keven Arrowsmith, Iowa Department of Transportation.