Choosing any contractor to work on your property is something everyone has experienced. We check credentials for contractors like plumbers, builders, and electricians, but what about tree care contractors? Does anyone think about what to look for in a company that deals with trees? I mean, it’s just trimming a tree, right? Or in some cases, it’s only cutting down a tree, right?
When it comes to needing tree work, most folks use the approach they take for other large projects such as roofing, landscaping, or even putting in new windows. They have a general idea of what they want completed and they get a few estimates. Now, if someone were to adopt any of the above adages such as “It’s just trimming a tree” or “It’s just cutting down a tree,” price might be the only deciding factor. It is no secret that tree work can be very costly, but do those folks really know what they are getting for their money? Is there any way to know if it’s truly a good deal? Here are a few important factors to consider.
In order to distinguish a good deal from a bad deal, you must give each estimate a fair shake. Find out exactly what work will be performed so that you can compare. What kind of proposal do you have in front of you? Is it even written down? If one of your estimates for “trimming” a maple tree in the front yard is for $200, and it’s given verbally and agreed upon via handshake, it may not sound like a bad quote. Now compare that to written quote for the same tree, with a detailed outline of what work will be performed. It lists that the company will remove all deadwood 2″ in diameter and larger and prune away from the home to a distance of 8 feet for $800. The quote is either emailed or mailed, and you must sign and return it. How can the two quotes be compared to each other? The first quote might accomplish the same as the second, more expensive quote, but how do you know that? It doesn’t state what will be done. They cannot, for any homeowner’s purposes, be compared. There are a lot of branches in a tree. Which branches need to go, and which branches can stay? How can you trust that the estimate will yield your expected results? You can start by looking into the company’s education.
Education is something that, although lacking in our industry, is getting better. Knowing how to properly prune a tree and what it means for the overall health and vigor of the tree is something that CAN be taught. I often mention credentials, and while certifications aren’t always a fool-proof method of weeding out a true tree care professional, it is a step in the right direction. One good thing to look for is someone who has a full-time, certified arborist on staff. I mention full time because there are companies that may say they have a certified arborist on staff, but only refer to them and pay a yearly or monthly consulting fee. So their certified arborist doesn’t actively work for them; he/she is there to consult, or sign papers when certain contracts require a certified arborist.
A certified arborist is someone who, I hate to say it, passed a test. The test consists of anything and everything tree related: tree biology, biomechanics, climbing techniques, rigging techniques, tree identification, among many other things. As a person who has proven that they know a little bit about the industry, they should have a good idea on how best to care for your trees.
Another great thing to look for is some sort of degree in Urban Forestry. There are many great programs for bachelor’s and associate’s degrees offered throughout the country. Folks pursuing this degree have a passion for bettering their knowledge-base to become great at what they do.
Professionalism refers to who works for the company, how they carry themselves, and the image they portray.
A few things that can determine professionalism in a tree contractor are things like: personal protective equipment (hard hats, chaps), clean vehicles, how well the job done, how clean the area is after the job is complete, availability for communication, and returned phone calls.
When a company invests in proper PPE (personal protective equipment), it really shows that they value their employees. Valued employees tend to appreciate their jobs, which is reflected in the type of work they do. They show pride in what they do and they constantly seek improvement. This, in turn, gives the client a better value when their services are performed. The same can be said about having clean work vehicles and cleaning up after a job. If a vehicle is maintained well and clean, and a job site is kept neat and tidy, chances are that the employees are taking pride in their job, which often reflects in their work performance as well.
Perhaps one of the most professional things a tree company can do is be available to talk and return phone calls. Tree care is a service industry. Tree companies cater to a customer’s needs, and there is no way they can do that if no one answers the phone, or if they don’t call back when they say they will, if at all. If through the process of obtaining an estimate, the company has either not returned phone calls, or failed to answer the phone at all, it may be a warning sign.
When choosing a tree care company, be sure to consider the thoroughness of the estimate, as well as the company’s education and professionalism. When all three of these elements come together, you are sure to receive quality service.