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Tree Care 101

How Much Will it Cost to Cut My Tree Down? (The Basics of Tree Removal)

This is a question that we get in our offices daily, the simple answer is, we don’t know until we look at the tree. There are so many variables involved it is impossible to give an estimate of cost of removal (which is why estimates are free). But, there is one general rule that always applies: time. How long will it take to remove your tree?


Since the tree will remain consistent for every tree service who looks at it the only difference is what kind of skill,experience, and equipment does the tree contractor who’s bidding your tree work have?


If one tree guy has a pick up truck, a chainsaw, and some ropes and another tree guy has bucket trucks, cranes, and large lightning loaders to remove the wood debris. The time to remove your tree is going to be markedly different, not to mention the safety factor.


With that in mind, people are often amazed that the company with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment can bid the same price or cheaper than the guy with the pick up truck and chainsaw. The reason for this is simple, it will take pick up truck guy two days to do what it will take well equipped, professional tree contractor four hours to do.


There are three main types of removals. Crane assisted removals, bucket truck removals, and climbing/rigging removals. Commonsense dictates that the harder the tree the more it will cost.


Now for brass tacks. A 50 inch diameter, 75 foot water maple, in a fenced in backyard, limited access with heavy equipment, complete removal with cleanup, no stump grind. A realistic, ballpark expectation, $1,000-$2,000, depending on hundreds of different variables.


Obviously, a small tree could be as low as $200 to remove with a stump grind.

But, a large tree, or several trees can be a massive amount of work and therefore cost more.


No, tree work is not cheap. But, more than any other contractual work you will ever have done on your property, who you hire matters! The consequences of a mistake can be devastating to a homeowners property, or even deadly to the contractors employees. As we say in the business, this isn’t plumbing.


We hope you give us the opportunity bid on any upcoming projects on your property. For more tips on the basics of hiring a tree service, see this related article.

Hiring a Tree Service

Some general rules apply to a homeowner searching for a tree service.

  1. Liability AND workers compensation insurance is a must. Because of the extremely dangerous work involved in removing a large tree (or even trimming), having proper coverage for your property and for the employees of the company in your yard is a must. Most homeowners don’t realize that if an employee of a contractor is injured while performing work on your property, the homeowner is also liable for that employees injury if the contractor is unable to cover the cost of medical treatment. We all know how much a serious injury can cost, and most contractors will not be able to cover it if they don’t have workers compensation insurance.
  2. Proof of insurance comes from the contractors insurance company made out to the homeowner. It will come via email, fax, or snail mail. The contractor will not simply have a “copy” of their insurance papers to show a homeowner. It is to easy for a less than honest contractor to buy a cheap policy, then cancel it after they receive their paperwork.
  3. No money should be needed by the tree contractor before the job. Their are no ‘material’ cost involved in tree work. Therefore no deposit should be required or asked for. Usually payment is expected upon completion of the work to the homeowners satisfaction.
  4. The agreed upon price should not change unless more work is added or unforeseen complications come up (ex. there are major cavities in the tree that couldn’t be seen from the ground so a crane has to be brought in). These ‘complications’ shouldn’t occur very often, an experienced estimator should usually be able to identify these beforehand and discuss these with you. And, if something comes up, all work should cease until a new price is agreed on. A tree service should never present you with a bill that is more than the estimate at the conclusion of the job and expect you to pay it. It is not uncommon for a less than reputable tree service to ‘bid’ a job cheap just to get the buisiness and then try to compensate for their lack of expertise in the bid process or their poor planning by trying to get more money at the conclusion of the job.

All in all, a good tree service will form a long term relationship with their customers and strive to make every interaction positive. After all, tree services are caring for a living organism on your property, so wether it is time to remove a tree, or treat one there is a certain level of trust involved that does not carry over to a plumber, electrician, or carpenter. We hope you give us an opportunity to earn your trust.

Common Signs of an Unhealthy or Dying Tree

Trees are strong, robust organisms that can outlive many generations and survive some of the toughest ecological conditions. Yet there are many environmental factors that can contribute to a tree’s ill health or damage. These can include everyday weather conditions such as rain, lightning, wind and either extreme heat or cold. We too can unwittingly cause stress to our trees, especially to the roots.The roots can extend 2-3 times further than the canopy. Damaging them by digging for construction projects or compacting the soil around roots by parking cars over them can cause distress to the tree.

A healthy tree will display positive signs of good health. For instance limbs that extend from the main trunk, a full crown and healthy branches are good indicators. We recommend keeping an eye out for early symptoms of ill health by having trees annually inspected (depending on the tree and conditions), particularly after a storm or periods of severe weather. This article will discuss some of the key signs to watch out for, helping you to spot an unhealthy or damaged tree.


Splits, Cracks and Cankers


While cracks and splits in trees are pretty common and can happen for numerous reasons, some can be more sinister than others. Deep cracks and splits in the tree trunk can be a sign of a tree weakening.


A late frost in spring or extremely cold temperatures are often the cause, particularly after a sunny day when the tree has had chance to warm. This is when the inner and outer wood of the tree expands and contracts at different rates. Large trees with multiple trunks displaying splits or cracks can result in a high failure rate. Inspect the trunk and large branches for deep cracks, as this can be a sign of structural weakness requiring a full evaluation. Cankers are holes where the bark has broken off. They can increase the risk of a stem breaking due to a weakness in the structure. Any damage to bark can provide an entry point for fungi and disease.


Weak Branch Unions


Weak branch unions is a term used to describe when an area of branches is not securely attached to the tree. These weaknesses occur when the bark isn’t as strong as the wood, thus weakening the union of branches. Weak branch unions can be caused by two branches growing within close proximity, allowing bark to grow between each branch.


Decay and Fungus


It can be tricky to identify decay in a tree, as it often happens from the inside out. Having said that, there are several signs that can indicate a tree is decaying. Mushrooms around the base of the tree or bracket fungi growing on the trunk or branches is a sign of hidden decay. The fungus may have been active in the wood for some years as these visible signs are the fruiting bodies. There could be an area of soft crumbly wood behind. It is also a good idea to examine the branches and trunks for peeling bark and hollow or rotten areas.


Sizeable decay pockets – particularly where branches meet the trunk can indicate architectural problems.


Poor Tree Architecture


This is where a tree has an irregular growth pattern and can indicate a weakness or structural imbalance. Poor tree architecture can occur for many reasons, often after years of poor pruning, severe weather, climate and abnormal growing conditions.


Dead Wood or Dying Limbs


Tree dead wood—also known as widow makers—are lifeless, dry pieces of wood that can be hazardous and snap very easily. Sometimes they are lodged up in a tree, other times they are still attached. In most cases dead wood is extremely brittle, limiting flexibility and making it almost impossible to bend in the wind, as opposed to healthy flexible branches on the tree. For this reason they are very likely to break and fall and can be extremely dangerous.


Dead wood should be removed immediately, if dead branches are higher up the tree, heavy or out of reach, then an expert should be consulted.


While there are many signs of poor (and good) health in a tree, the above covers some of the more common issues. If you have any concerns about your trees, or the problems raised above, then please contact us to discuss an expert evaluation of your tree.

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