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Disclaimer

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has added a link to a translation service developed by Microsoft Inc., entitled Bing Translator, as a convenience to visitors to the DEC website who speak languages other than English.

Additional information can be found at DEC's Language Assistance Page.

How to Select an Arborist or Tree Service

The health and appearance of trees are most affected by the person with the pruning saw. Proper planting, pruning and care of a new tree can lead to a structurally strong and healthy tree for many years. Improper care can drastically shorten the life of a tree and waste the money and time invested in raising it to maturity.

A qualified professional will perform tree work properly and safely, but an unqualified person may further damage the tree, and more importantly may not be insured, leaving the liability burden to the client.

Hiring a professional deserves careful consideration. Remember the following points when hiring or contracting with an arborist or tree care service:

picture of a topped tree
topping is harmful to trees
  • Check your telephone directory's yellow pages under "Tree Service" for a listing of those businesses which do tree work in your area. While anyone can list themselves in the phone book, a listing indicates at least some degree of permanence. Be cautious of any professional that advertises "topping" as a service. "Topping" is not an approved tree maintenance practice.
  • Ask for certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage and worker's compensation. Then, contact the insurance company to make sure the policy is current. Under some circumstances you can be held financially responsible if an uninsured worker is hurt on your property or if the worker damages a neighbor's property.
  • Ask for local references. Take a look at some of the work, and if possible, talk with former clients. Experience, education and a good reputation are signs of a good professional.
  • Don't rush into a decision just because you are promised a discount if you sign an agreement now. Be sure you understand what work is to be done and for what amount of money. It is generally not a good idea to pay in full until the work is completed.
  • Most reputable tree care companies have all the work they can handle without going door to door. People who aren't competent arborists may solicit tree work after storms, seeing an opportunity to earn quick money. Storm damage creates high risk situations for both workers and property. Legitimate professionals never ask for payment in advance.
  • In most cases get more than one estimate and let each contractor know you are soliciting for other bids.
  • A conscientious professional will not use climbing spikes except when removing a tree. Climbing spikes open unnecessary wounds that could lead to decay.
    arborist using climbing ropes
    arborists use specialized equipment
  • Good tree work is not inexpensive. A good professional must carry several kinds of insurance as well as pay for expensive and specialized equipment. Beware of estimates that fall well below the average. There may be hidden costs or the professional may not be fully insured or trained.
  • Ask if the arborist is certified by either the New York Arborists Association or the International Society of Arboriculture. Certification is not required by the State of New York but it does indicate that the arborist has a high degree of knowledge. See the New York State Arboriest, ISA Chapter link in the right column of this page.
  • In your area many professionals may not be certified, if the professional you are considering is not certified, determine if he/she is a member of any professional organizations. Membership in professional organizations does not guarantee quality, but does indicate professional commitment.

For more information on tree care and hiring a tree care professional contact your local DEC Office or County Cooperative Extension.