Tree service pros branch out after D.C.-area storms

Tree service pros branch out after D.C.-area storms

Somerset, Md., member Joanne Steller weathered a violent storm known as a “derecho” last June and then Hurricane Sandy in late October, worrying about her 60-foot-tall red oak. The 50-year-old tree remained upright through both storms despite having sustained snowstorm damage two years earlier, but Steller feared she was tempting fate. “We didn’t want to take a chance,” she says.

After receiving three bids, Steller hired highly rated Mulheron Tree Experts in Kensington, Md., to remove the dead tree. The oak stood 10 feet from Steller’s sunroom and only 10 feet from a fence, so it would have caused significant damage if it fell. “The tree would have crushed our house and our neighbor’s house,” she says.

Last year’s powerful storms, which city officials say toppled 467 trees and knocked 11 trees onto houses in the District of Columbia alone, prompted Steller and other homeowners to call area tree service professionals to pre-emptively trim or remove trees before they sustained further storm damage or harmed adjacent property. Troy Shasteen, a certified arborist and estimator for six-time Super Service Award winner Richards Tree Service of Annandale, Va., says he’s still cleaning up damage from last year’s storms. “We were backed up over six months,” he says.

Costs vary, depending on the time, equipment and manpower needed to complete the job. Shasteen says costs range from $290 to $25,000, adding that high-cost jobs often include cranes, bucket trucks, unusually large trees or trees with limited access, such as those enclosed in a fenced yard. Gordon Frazier, owner of highly rated Gordon W. Frazier Tree Service in Castleton, Va., and a certified arborist, says trees that look healthy but have dead branches, low-hanging branches or branches that overhang structures probably only need to be trimmed, not removed. He adds that homeowners should ask a tree service company for proof of workers’ compensation insurance for its employees to protect themselves from being held liable for on-the-job injuries. Shasteen says homeowners’ insurance companies in the D.C. area covered Hurricane Sandy and other storm-related property damage from felled trees, but it won’t cover preventive work.

Tree experts say last year’s storms attracted storm chasers, who solicited services by knocking on doors but often did shoddy or incomplete work. Chevy Chase, Md., member Mario D’Ambrosio, who hired Mulheron to trim large branches 
in his yard, says it happens often in his neighborhood. “They don’t have any credentials, no names on their pickup trucks,” says D’Ambrosio, who found Mulheron on the List. Shasteen suggests homeowners check a tree company’s insurance credentials before hiring. “If they don’t volunteer this information, I’d be skeptical,” he says.

Steller praised Mulheron for the work he did on her $2,100 tree removal, though she misses the tree. “Losing a tree of that size and longevity is an emotional process,” she says, “but they were sensitive to that and were very careful.”

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