What you need to know before hiring a tree service

After branches of a Douglas fir fell following a winter storm, this yard was in need of serious maintenance. Members from a professional tree service carefully climbed the trees to remove the affected areas. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Martin B.)

After branches of a Douglas fir fell following a winter storm, this yard was in need of serious maintenance. Members from a professional tree service carefully climbed the trees to remove the affected areas. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Martin B.)

Hiring a tree service

Trees can add value to your property, but they can also become a liability when they're diseased, stressed or just unruly. Follow these tips before calling the tree experts.

When heavy branches hang over your house, you risk the possibility of a falling limb causing extensive damage. And a tree is slowly claiming territory on part of your home, you risk mold growth on your siding. Damaged or dead trees are unsightly and potentially hazardous during a storm. For these and many other reasons, you need to know how to find the best tree service. Remember, always leave this type of work to the professional arborists or tree experts if you're not highly skilled in the field.

• Look for credentials and licensure. A company can do a lot of damage if its employees aren't properly trained, so check into the company's credentials. Find out if the company is licensed. An unlicensed company presents an enter-at-your-own-risk gamble that you don't want to place a wager on. Operating a tree-removal service without a license is illegal.

• Check into the company's insurance. A company without adequate insurance coverage is an establishment that you don't want working anywhere near your home. You want to ensure that the company has liability insurance and worker's compensation insurance. Liability insurance guarantees that if the company causes damage to your home or possessions, it covers the expenses. Worker's compensation insurance protects both you and the company's employees by covering any injury that an employee sustains while working on your property. Additionally, it protects you from a lawsuit if anything should happen while the company is cutting trees.

• Ask for referrals. This is just good common sense. Don't hesitate to ask the company for referrals from customers who had similar work done. You're entitled to know what to expect and how other people felt about the services provided. Remember, the company is going to be doing work that, if done improperly, could potentially cause a heavy limb to fall on your house. For the best referrals, don't forget to check Angie's List for member reviews and ratings.

• Get an estimate. Always get an estimate on the job and be sure that it's in print. If a tree service is even slightly hesitant about this, it may mean that the company is out to make a quick buck at your expense and may charge you additional fees for services that you didn't want.

• Look into what the company charges. Evaluate how the company is going to charge you for the services performed. For instance, is the company going to charge an added fee for stump grinding, or is there one flat fee for the entire project?

• Inquire about the equipment used. You want to make sure that the company has all the necessary equipment for the job. Communicate exactly what you need done to the best of your ability. The company may not even take on your particular job if it needs a special type of equipment that it doesn't have.

• Compare the services offered. Although stump grinding may be extra, some companies don't provide this service at all if it doesn't have the necessary equipment. Additionally, if the company doesn't have access to a crane, it may not be able to do work above a certain height. This is especially important if tall trees populate your property.

• Employee training. Ask about the employees' backgrounds. You want a company that hires workers with many years of experience performing this type of service. Inquire if there is an arborist on staff.


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