4 Tips for Hiring the Right Tree Service

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I read this article and the several others related to tree topping. As Holly (above) also says, none of them defined topping or explained the difference between topping (bad) and pruning (good). Could someone do that, please?

holly m bednar


Your article addresses the issue of tree topping, but you don't define the procedure. The picture that is included in your article shows a trimmer taking of blranches/leaves from the top of the tree. When I had my trees topped they removed branches from the lower trunk. This was quite different from what I expected and would assume other consumers would be surprised by this.



It's important to be an educated consumer; there are different kinds and levels of tree pruning - from only removing dead branches 4" and larger down to removal of dead or misshapen branches less than 1". Crown elevation removes lower branches - I did not know, did not communicate with one "expert", and since then my 100-year old oaks will never be the same. A good arborist will take the time to communicate with you about needs, expectations and results. Good work is not cheap, but you can't easily replace your trees.

Cindy Clark


You forgot one thing! Check the tree trimmer's criminnal background! I checked the liability insurnce - even called the agent to verify that the policy was in effect. I checked work comp - even called the state of Florida, division of work comp, but I did not do a criminal background check! Big Mistake! This guy was a big criminal with a long record of prior frauds connected to the way he did business! Buyer beware!!!

Evan Keller


You mentioned insurance, but all insurance is not created equal. Did you know you could be held liable for an injury or death on your property when hiring a tree service in Orlando which lacks Workers’ Compensation coverage? While many tree services may carry liability insurance, few have Workers’ Compensation. This coverage is critical in an industry as dangerous as ours, and it is mandated by law. Sadly, most local tree services skirt the law to save money, leaving their workers and their customers exposed to liability. If they don't show it to you, they likely don't have it.

Alarmingly, when the vast majority of tree services cut this corner, they expose you to the liability of million dollar lawsuits. Remember, all insurance is not created equal! Insist on being provided with proof of current Workers Compensation rather than settling for less important, less expensive coverage. Only Workers Compensation shields you from paying for exorbitantly expensive injuries.



ISA and TCIA are great resources to find a certified arborist. Also, don't forget you local chapters. For example here in Massachusetts we have the Massachusetts Arborist Association (MAA) that works with local arborists.

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I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

That's very difficult to answer without seeing the house. As one poster said, the prep is the most important part. On newer homes that don't have a lot of peeling paint, the prep can be very minimal even as low as a couple or a few hundred dollars for the prep labor.

On a 100 year old home with 12 coats of peeling paint on it, then the prep costs can be very high and can easily exceed 50% of the job's labor cost.

A 2100 sq ft two story home could easily cost $1000 just for the labor to prep for the paint job. That number could climb too. Throw in lots of caullking  or window glazing, and you could be talking a couple or a few hundred dollars more for labor.

Painting that home with one coat of paint and a different color on the trim could run roughly $1000 or more just for labor. Add a second coat  and that could cost close to another $1000 for labor.

For paint, you may need 20 gallons of paint. You can pay from $30-$70 for a gallon of good quality exterior paint. The manufacturer of the paint should be specified in any painting contract. Otherwise, the contractor could bid at a Sherwin-Williams $60 per gallon paint and then paint the house with $35 Valspar and pocket the difference. $25 dollars per gallon times 20 gallons? That's a pretty penny too.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is $2000 to $4000 and up, depending upon the amount of prep, the number of coats, the amount of trim, and the paint used.