When looking for a tree care professional to care for your trees, there is no shortage of service providers to choose from. Unfortunately, not all are created equal and choosing the wrong company can potentially do more harm than good to your trees. However, with a little research and the following tips, you should be able to ensure that the company you select is professional, reliable, and properly trained.
First and foremost, ask for proof of personal liability, property damage, and workers compensation insurance. Without proper insurance, you as the homeowner, may be responsible for not only damage done to your property but for any workers that may be injured on the job.
Ask if the work will be done according to ANSI A300 standards. The A300 specifies procedures governing all aspects of tree care including: planting, pruning, fertilization, cabling and bracing, installation of lightning protection systems, and root management. Practices such as topping a tree, or using climbing spikes to climb a living tree, are specifically forbidden by the A300, and any company advertising or performing such actions is not in compliance with industry standards and best management practices.
Membership or certification by one or more professional organizations is often a marker of a quality tree care service. The Tree Care Industry Association, The International Society of Arboriculture and The American Society of Consulting Arborists are some such organizations.
In New Jersey the Board of Certified Tree Experts governs the testing and certification of the prestigious Certified Tree Expert or CTE credential. A recent bill that has passed the NJ legislature will make this a licensed credential in the near future.
Please note that online review sites, such as Angie's List and Yelp, can be useful but be aware that the homeowner writing the review may or may not be familiar with proper tree care practices. A reviewer may leave a high grade because they feel that they got a good price and the yard looked tidy afterwards. However, they may not be able to recognize whether the pruning, or other tree work, was actually performed correctly. Improper pruning of a tree can decrease overall tree health, predispose the tree to decay, and reduce the value of the tree substantially.