How to spot tree care fakers.
October 7, 2013
Every homeowner eventually needs to hire an arborist. Perhaps your tree doesn't look healthy, is in urgent need of pruning, or may be damaging a roof or adjacent structure. In some situations, a tree may have become a hazard, or has already fallen and you need emergency tree services. Trees need regular care and so it's a good idea to have a relationship with a professional arborist.
For any of your tree needs, a certified professional arborist can take care of you. Unfortunately, the State of Texas - and many other states - doesn't regulate who can provide tree care services. There are many individuals with no more than a truck and a chainsaw who sell themselves as "tree care professionals" or "arborists". They'll tell you they can take care of your trees and happily take your money, only to leave you with what translates to a butcher job and trees that will most likely succumb to decline from poor treatment. Tree care is a true bio-science. It takes education, training and certification to provide the kind of proper care they need. So how do you spot the "tree fakers"?
The "tree guy was just around the corner..."
They show up at your door one day, unsolicited, and tell you they're doing work in your area, or just around the corner. Perhaps he mentions a neighbor's name. They'll point out some "problems" with your trees and tell you they can fix them. Take care, as they are probably fakers. Sure, they may have a truck and a chainsaw, and can definitely chop up your trees, but good quality tree care companies have work on the books in advance. Their services are in demand and they don't need to "househop" around your neighborhood to find work. Ask these companies for their credentials; are they certified arborists? Make them provide certification information. Are they accredited and insured? Get proof. If not, and they happen to drop a large branch on your roof, repairs will be on you!
Best advice is to turn these folks away. Check them out online with services like Angie's List that verify certifications and licenses.
The "guy my friend knows..."
You heard about this person through a friend, or a friend of a friend. They say he's trimmed their trees for them and they hire him because he doesn't cost as much as a real tree company. He used to be in some other kind of business, but got laid off at some point so now he's a "landscaper" or "arborist". He mows lawns and trims trees. He can come right away and says that anything you need done is no problem. While his work is not great, he's cheap. So why not go for it? He's going to save you money, right? WRONG.
Again, someone with no more than a truck and a chainsaw will most likely do more damage to your trees, which will cost you down the road. Trees that have been over pruned, pruned improperly, or not properly diagnosed can become weak and then hazardous. Not to mention, you lose all the aesthetic and curbside appeal once a tree has been butchered. Remember, you get what you pay for. Hiring a certified arborist to first assess your trees properly, then do the work properly, will keep both your trees and your wallet happier in the long run.
Another red flag: when anyone shows up with a step ladder to prune your trees. Then they whip out a pole pruner and proceed to stand on top of it to "lift the canopy". Real tree companies invest in training their staff to expertly climb trees, so that they can strategically remove the right branches, not just prune the ones they can reach from the ground.
But "they look legit..."
So these guys have a truck with a tree-related logo on it. They've left a ton of flyers or business cards on your front porch. So they must be legit, right? And probably cheaper since they're working so hard to get your business. Again, anyone can get a logo and call themselves a landscaper or a tree expert with no credentials – the state isn't going to stop them. Don't be too quick to assume they actually know anything about trees. Always ask for ISA Arborist certification numbers for staff they say is certified. Will one of their certified arborists come inspect the trees before any pruning work or treatments are performed? Are they accredited and insured? If they damage your property, will they be responsible, or will you? A logo doesn't equal legitimacy. Nor does simply calling oneself an expert.
Get the facts about these potential tree care fakers before you let your trees go under the knife (or chainsaw). Wouldn't you do the same for your pets? Trees add serious value to your property, reduce your energy costs and bring pleasure and enjoyment to your living spaces. Hire the right professionals to take care of them, and they'll do a much better job of taking care of you for many years to come!