Recently, I was asked by a retired couple to look at some trees on their property that an “arborist” they hired said needed to be removed. The trees were not perfect, they were older water oaks but the “arborist” in this case told them that the orange growth (lichen) growing on the bark of their tree was killing it and that if they did not take the tree down the disease on their tree would start to affect the wood in their home. What the tree removal specialist was telling the couple had no basis in fact. The lichen was not harming their tree and it would not affect the wood in their house. My hope is that the “arborist” was uninformed and not simply preying on this couple’s fears. Granted, I was not there and am simply repeating what the couple told me but after I talked to them, I felt the need to write this article.
Diagnosing tree problems is a very specialized skill. It takes a lot of observation and study to get it right. Working and climbing in trees can be very dangerous and requires a lot of technical skill. Professional arborists should have those skills. The term arborist has been misused lately by some folks in the tree care industry. The definition of who is trained in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining trees and other woody plants. Many folks claim to be arborists, yet do not have the necessary skills or training.
At this time there is no licensure for tree services in the State of Florida. What is required is an Occupational License. Also, Personal and Property Damage Liability Insurance and Worker’s Compensation Insurance are both very important. Contact the insurance carrier to verify that the tree service you are going to hire has the insurance coverage they claim.
When should you need to hire an arborist? You may decide to do the work yourself instead of hiring an arborist. Even if you know where and how to prune trees, if the tree pruning requires the use of specialized equipment, the use of a ladder or your feet are not firmly on the ground, you should hire a qualified arborist. Many homeowners are injured each year trying to perform their own tree work.
The following are some tips to help select a qualified arborist:
- If they say they are going to top your trees, don’t hire them. Topping can create structural weakness that can create a dangerous tree.
- Have more than one arborist look at the job.
- Ask for written specifications on what they want to do. This helps you compare what each one will do.
- Ask for and check references. Someone that does a good job welcomes showing off their work.
- If it is recommended that a living tree be removed, make sure you understand why and agree with why it should be removed.
- Do not choose someone solely on price. The proper insurance and specialized equipment are expensive and typically the better arborists have higher overhead costs.
- Try and use an ISA Certified Arborist. Certification does not always guarantee a quality arborist, but there is a good chance that an ISA Certified Arborist is a professional that will utilize the most current tree care practices. You can find an ISA Certified arborist by going online at http://www.treesaregood.com and clicking on the “Find an Arborist” link.
- Check for Liability and Workman’s Compensation insurance by asking for the phone number of their insurance company and calling them to verify coverage. The photocopy of an insurance policy they give you may not be current.
- Ask them when the last training session they went to was, and what was the topic. This helps to identify an arborist that is current on the latest practices and treatments.
Arborists should be qualified, knowledgeable and be able to communicate effectively with their clients. By following these steps, a tree care consumer can feel more confident that they have hired the right person for the job.