How to Find a Good Arborist Near Me

Trees add value to our lives and property in more ways than improving air quality, tempering the climate, and conserving energy for up to 30 percent. Properly maintained trees on your landscape help add 9 to 15 percent more to the value of your property. However, appropriate maintenance of trees is a delicate duty best left to qualified arborists near you who are well-trained to handle the powerful tools used. Annually, tree trimmers and pruners suffer over 500 occupational injuries, with statistics showing 760 and 1,400 work-related injuries in 2017 and 2018, respectively. When looking to hire arboriculturists nearby, ensure they understand your objective to add value, are conversant with the work and safety standards, and provide relevant answers to the following questions:

  1. Are You A Licensed Arborist?

    Licensure for arborists, also known as tree trimmers, varies by state. Seven states including California, Maryland, and Connecticut require a specialized state-level license. The guidelines for licensure in such states include testing and education. The arborist's knowledge of botanical diseases, plant identification, pesticide safety, and applicable state laws will be tested. In addition, states like Maine require a separate license for arborists working near power lines. In other states, where a specialized license is not required, arborists are allowed to practice with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) national certificate along with a general contractor or landscaper license.

    Note, a certification or license is an attestation that your arborist has the requisite industry knowledge to achieve your project successfully in line with state or local regulations. You are at liberty to request a copy of your arborist’s license and contact the licensing or certifying authority to verify status. Also the arborist may belong to one of these industry leading organizations, the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), and the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). You may contact such organizations for the status of a tree trimmer near you who claims membership of any of these associations.

  2. Are You Bonded and Insured

    Hiring certified and licensed arborists is important to avoid the serious accidents associated with falling a tree wrongly especially in a populated neighborhood. In 2019 alone, arborists themselves suffered over 1,000 casualties at work- 97 fatalities and 1,070 injuries. Therefore, hiring an arborist with good insurance coverage leaves you assured that injuries sustained by workers or caused to a third-party while working on your property will be catered for without additional liability to you. Generally, every contractor should hold at least these two insurance policies - General liability insurance and workers compensation insurance.

    Equally important is ensuring the tree trimmer near you has a surety bond to guarantee the satisfactory conclusion of the work as agreed. In case of a default on your contractor’s performance, the bonding company steps in to pay for the completion of the job. Note, there are different bonding requirements by state, county, or city. Contact your local consumer protection office to determine the minimum bond requirements for your kind of project.

  3. What Kind of Tree Work Are You Specialized In?

    Arboriculture is not a monotonous occupation, it has quite a number of specializations, each of which requires distinct knowledge and training. While there may be cases where a tree owner decides what services he wants, most tree care activities may require preliminary tree assessment. An assessment involves a professional diagnosis of a tree which also offers advice on what tree care service the tree needs, and which tree care specialist to hire.

    Your arborist may not possess the qualifications to provide all professional tree care services required. Some of the specializations of arboriculture include:

    • Tree Planter: This arborist is trained to recognize what species of tree to plant, how to plant them, where to plant them, and what season to plant them. This knowledge is important to optimize the growth of the tree.
    • Tree Pruners and Trimmers: These tree care specialists are trained in ensuring good appearance, healthiness, and safety of trees through timely trimming and pruning. Their responsibilities include removing weak, broken, or dead branches, removing branches interfering with other structures, pruning young trees into developing desired structures, and removing diseased or infected limbs.
    • Tree and Stump Removers: These tree care providers specialize in complete tree and stump removal. Although, tree removal measures are usually taken as an act of last resort when every other alternative can not completely solve the issue at hand. Conditions that make tree removal necessary include a dead tree, hindrance to development/construction works, landscape redesign, etc. These same conditions may also necessitate the removal of tree stumps - the sturdy portion of a tree trunk and roots that are left after a tree is felled or cut.
    • Emergency Tree Services: Emergency tree care specialists provide emergency tree care services in cases such as storm damage, or any other natural disaster. They are trained in the careful handling of urgent tree care needs.

    Inquire to verify your arborist is trained and experienced in the kind of tree care project you want to do before concluding on the contract.

  4. Who Will Do The Work?

    Sometimes you may have requested the services of a nearby arborist by proxy - for example, through a contracting company. Though you may have verified the contracting company’s legality and license, it is also essential to determine that the arborist they send over is competent and certified to complete your job. Where your work requires a team of arborists, aside from proof of certification and work experience, ensure every worker is adequately covered by your contractor’s insurance policy.

    If you find out the job will be done by subcontractors, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that you equally ask to see their license and valid insurance cover. Not asking for the necessary documents may make you liable if anyone gets injured working on your property.

  5. Do You Offer Warranty?

    You should request an oral or documented warranty from your arborist with respect to satisfactory workmanship. This can be in the form of assurance of a standard job and post-job safety. While this may not always be necessary, such as in the case of complete tree removal, whether or not to ask -and what warranties to ask - eventually depends on the kind of work done. For a tree trimming service, you may ask for warranties covering tree users’ safety, the period before another trimming will be necessary, whether the warranty covers consequential damages, etc.

  6. Will This Job Require A Permit

    Trees are important plants in the environment and are not allowed to be tampered with at will. Tree removal alters the environmental landscape, New York, Colorado, and Washington are some of the states where a permit is required to carry out tree work. Ask your arborists if a permit is necessary to complete their job in line with local codes. A professional arborist near you is conversant with all local residential code requirements in respect of a tree project and knows how to obtain such permits.

  7. Will You Provide References

    Asking for references to past jobs shed light on an arborist’s level of experience, specialization, and workmanship. You may ask past clients how professional the arborist was and inspect the work done to assess how well he sticks to standards. If your arborist owns a website, check out the service reviews provided by customers near you. Also check for local customer reviews on Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review to determine whether former clients were satisfied with the arborist’s workmanship.

  8. Do You Have A Business License?

    Licensing is proof that an arborist near you is allowed to provide tree care services in an area. Authorities inspect the level of qualification, training, certification, and tool and equipment requirements before granting a business license. Ensure to request a business license that permits them to operate in the state. The Secretary of State Office provides a database of licensed businesses, you can verify your arborist’s business license from the database.

What Are Common Tree Problems

When trees begin to show any of the following signs, then you need to call your arborist right away:

  • Dead or Weak Branches - Tree users are exposed to the risk of being struck by a tree branch once a tree branch dies or becomes weak. To prevent an eventuality, a professional tree pruner should be employed to remove such a branch.
  • Broken or Fallen Tree: When the storm or any other element of nature takes its toll on a tree, it is best to call a trained arborist to handle it. This ensures that adequate care is taken during and after the exercise.
  • Obstructive Growth - A wrong growth direction for a tree comes with risks such as blocking the streets or walkways, interfering with infrastructures and utilities, etc. Pruning, or complete removal in extreme cases, becomes necessary.
  • Diseased or Infested Trees - Insect infestation may necessitate the services of an arborist. Different trees have distinct diseases and require knowledge of tree care science and art to provide adequate attention.
  • Tree Removal and Planting - During landscape remodeling, it may become necessary to remove specific tree structures or plant new ones. The services of trained arborists are required to ensure a professional job.

How Much Does Tree Work Cost

The cost of service usually depends on factors such as the level of expertise required for a job, the risks inherent, and the time needed to complete the job. Moreso, charges across geographical areas and states differ, as professionals will usually consider the client’s ability to pay. According to the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, tree pruners and trimmers earn an hourly wage of between $15 - $30 and an annual salary of between $31,830 - $63,240. However, it is important to note that the cost of tree work is not correctly estimated on a per-hour basis. Below are the price ranges for specific tree work. Please note that prices can vary from state to state:

Arborist Report
$300 - $450
Tree Inspection
< $100
Tree Pruning
Small Tree
$250 - $525
Medium Tree
$390 - $720
Large Tree
$500 - $1200
Extra Large
$740 - $2000
Complete Tree Removal
Small Tree
$200 - $500
Medium Tree
$500 - $900
Large Tree
$900 - $2500
Extra Large Tree
$2500 - $4500
Stump Removal
$50 - $500

What Are The Factors Affecting The Cost of Tree Work?

Even though the average arborist charges between $15 - $30 per hour, the nature of tree work is such that a job’s cost is not entirely determined by the amount of time spent to complete it. The tool, time, and technique requirements for tree trimming and pruning are different from tree removal requirements. In essence, arborists charge by the job rather than by the hour.

For tree trimming work, the cost may be determined by the number of branches to be pruned and the height of the tree. Shorter trees and trees with fewer dead branches will require less time and effort compared to tall, branchy trees. For example, high altitude trees such as white pine trees and mountain ash trees may necessitate using a bucket lift, and therefore command higher prices.

The type of trimming to be done also determines the cost of tree work. The cost for a canopy lift where lower drooping branches are cut short is different from what is incurred for crown reduction, which involves reducing the width or height of the foliage bearing portions of a tree.

In the case of complete tree removal, the prices charged for cutting down a tree depend heavily on the size and type - hardwood or softwood - of the tree in question. Accessibility of a tree site, prevailing weather, and the presence of obstructive structures that arborists always have to look out for are other factors that determine the cost of tree work.

What Qualifications Should Arborists Have?

The qualification requirements for arborists in the United States differ from one state to another. However, extensive formal education is not a prerequisite to qualify as a tree worker. Therefore, it may be wiser to stick to the training provided by certified training organizations and institutes and limit job qualification requirements to what is stipulated by a legally recognized association of professional tree workers.

The ISA is the most recognized body of professional arborists in the United States. The society offers varying certification levels for its members, who have to take and pass different qualifying exams for each certification. The six certifications offered by the ISA include:

  • ISA Certified Arborist: The requirements for this credential include three or more years of full-time, acceptable, hands-on work experience in arboriculture and/or a recognized university degree in arboriculture, landscape architecture, horticulture, or forestry. A bearer of this certification must be trained and vast in all branches of arboriculture. This qualification is recognized by the ANSI.
  • ISA Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist: Holders of this certificate are qualified ISA Certified Arborist professionals who have chosen to specialize in urban forestry or municipal arboriculture. ISA Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist has earned at least additional three years of overseeing the cultivation and maintenance of trees in the urban area.
  • ISA Certified Arborist Utility Specialist: These professionals have been trained in electric utility pruning, electrical knowledge, storms response, and customer relations. They have at least 2000 hours of work experience spanning two years or have undertaken consultancy for a utility with at least 4000 hours spanning over a maximum of ten years.
  • ISA Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist: Candidates who possess this credential have demonstrated the skill and endurance required to climb trees, proven to adhere to safety standards, and can make their way around the upper tree parts. Candidates are trained in First Aid, Aerial rescue, and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
  • ISA Certified Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist: This certificate is proof that holders are competent aerial lift operators and can conduct thorough truck and tree inspections. Their skill is important for overall tree work as it improves quality care, safety practices, and work productivity.
  • ISA Board Certified Master Arborist: This certification is earned by ISA Certified Arborists who have reached their career peak. It is the highest-ranking certification offered by the ISA.

Do You Need An Arborist or A Handyman?

For perceived simple tree care tasks, you may not know who to call between a trained arborist and a handyman near you. Basically, an arborist is a tree scientist and provides care for individual trees, while a handyman is focused on the fee without concern to standard and safety required to complete the job. Note, a handyman has no extensive professional education required of practicing arborists who had undergone more hands-on and scenario-based training. The services of an arborist are what you need in any of the following cases:

  • Tree Pruning and Trimming
  • Total Tree Removal
  • Stump Removal
  • Tree Disease Diagnosis and Care
  • Tree Planting
  • Soil Fertilization and Modification For Improved Tree Health

What Are Common Post Tree Work Expenses?

Most tree works usually require post-work clearing and overhauling. Depending on the terms of services, arborists are expected to clear the site of a job and ensure it is safe for non-professionals to use. However, in a case where the client has negotiated “no post work clearing” for a lower fee, then it becomes necessary that the client does the following after tree work is completed:

  • Inspecting tree for dead branches or dangling tree parts
  • Inspect site for harmful tree parts such as thorns, hidden stumps, etc
  • Check to ensure that no tool is left behind by the arborist.

Ensure to complete the inspection in daylight for a clear view of the site.

Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Tree Work Expenses?

Typical homeowner insurance policies cover damage to the house arising from fire, burglary, storm, and smoke. Whether or not your homeowner insurance covers tree care expenses depends on how comprehensive it is or whether it was clearly stated in the insurance contract. To avoid ambiguity, it is wise to have your insurance policy provider clearly state events covered by your policy before you sign the contract.

While it may be possible that a good insurance policy covers tree repair work on your property after a storm, it may not cover routine maintenance care for trees on your landscape.

Can I Use Digital Payment To Pay My Arborist?

Yes, you can. Most professionals today have embraced digital payment technology due to its speed, safety, and convenience. It is also very useful for record-keeping purposes, as it is not possible to lose a digital payment record. However, ensure to inform your arborist beforehand if you are going to be paying for his services via a digital payment platform. This will let you know if they accept such payment methods. Regardless of whatever means you eventually pay with, ensure to collect a receipt for payment.