Be Cautious When Hiring Tree Services to Help with Storm Clean-Up

Severe storms can cause major damage to limbs or entire trees, which often results in damage to nearby property. These trees need to be removed or trimmed by a qualified professional in order to lessen long-term damage to the tree and surrounding property.

Finding a qualified tree service is important protection for the homeowner. Sometimes less credible tree companies follow storms for a quick buck and blow out of town as fast as the storm. Knowing how to hire a reputable arborist can help prevent becoming a victim all over again.

A professionally trained arborist can determine if a tree can be saved. Even if the tree must be removed, safety and training are still needed to prevent additional damage from the removal. Most chainsaw injuries occur during storm cleanup.

In a time of disaster, a fast recovery is desirable, but not taking the time to hire a reputable tree service may create greater problems in the future. The worst result of haste may be paying in advance for tree work that is never completed. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers these suggestions to look for when hiring an arborist:

  • Certification – Ask if the arborists on staff hold an ISA certification. ISA offers a range of certification credentials from Certified Tree Worker/Climber Specialist to Board Certified Master Arborist. To be certified, individuals must pass a voluntary comprehensive exam. Certification must be maintained through continuing education, which means they should be up-to-date on the latest in arboricultural technology and are knowledgeable of acceptable practices.
  • Licensing – Some states require licensing for tree care companies operating within that state. Louisiana and Mississippi, two states hit recently by hurricanes, both require tree companies to be licensed. Licensing usually requires passing an examination and/or earning continuing education credits. Check your state's requirements, and make sure companies you are considering are in compliance. In some states licensing is the only necessary requirement. This could, therefore, supersede ISA Certification as a requirement to look for, however, if a tree care company from out of state is offering services, you should look for ISA credentials.
  • Professional Affiliation – Ask about membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and/or one of its chapters. There are also state arborist associations such as the Louisiana Arborist Association (LAA) and the Professional Arborist Association of Mississippi (PAAM). Affiliation with industry organizations demonstrates a willingness to stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and information.
  • Advertisement – Check the local yellow pages directory or newspaper for arborists who list themselves as ISA Certified and/or state licensed arborists or who display the official logos of professional membership. Also look for logos of business accreditation by organizations such as The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), who requires they have an ISA Certified Arborist on staff. Most reputable tree care professionals do not go door-to-door soliciting business, so avoid those companies that show up at your doorstep offering to prune your trees. If a tree care company from out of state is advertising, it is even more important to look for these logos of professional identification.
  • Insurance – Ask for proof of insurance, and then verify coverage with the insurance company. A reputable arborist should have insurance to cover personal and property damage as well as worker's compensation. If you hire an uninsured tree expert, you can be held liable for any damages or injuries that occur while they are on the job. If you hire a company that is from another state, verify that his insurance covers him for work done in your state.
  • References – Ask for references from past customers, and do not hesitate to check them or to visit the locations where the company or individual has done tree care work.
  • Estimates – Do not be afraid to ask for an estimate, and remember that it is okay to get more than one. You should not always select the lowest bid. When examining the bids, you should look at all specifications and credentials as well as the work to be done to determine which company will provide the best service with the skill and professionalism needed to protect your investment. And most importantly, get it in writing. Most reputable arborist will have the customer sign a contract, so be sure to review it, and do not be afraid to ask questions.

It is important to remember that good tree work by qualified professionals is worth the additional expense. Poor work, no matter the price paid, can cost you a great deal in the long run. Professional prices should include liability and workman's compensation insurance and may also include the use of bucket trucks and equipment. There may also be pricing that includes heavier specialty equipment such as cranes and loaders or hardware that may be installed in the tree. If you feel an estimate is high, do not hesitate to ask what the price includes. You may realize you are getting much more bang for your buck than what a less expensive tree service is offering.

Take the time to be an informed consumer and prevent yourself from becoming victimized. For more tree care information, or to find an ISA Certified Arborist, visit

Last modified: Thursday, 06-Nov-2014 10:37:42 EST