How to Select an Arborist or Tree Service Company

If you need a ladder, you need an arborist.

As Tree Stewards say: If you need a ladder, you need an arborist!

While Tree Stewards do not recommend specific companies, we do provide advice for selecting a good service. Above all, we recommend contacting a certified arborist working with a bonded and insured tree company. You could ask for recommendations from neighborhood list serves only, but not all tree services employ professional arborists or have the bonding you want. You want a certified arborist caring for your trees the same way you want a licensed veterinarian caring for your pet. Here is a step-by-step for selecting and contracting with an arborist:

(1) is the listing of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist for our region. You click on Accept and are given a choice of states and counties. You can choose either Arlington or Fairfax county since only counties are listed (sorry Alexandria) and up will come more than 50 names of arborists along with the services they provide as well as each one’s advanced trainings. You’ll note most arborists are employed by tree service companies, and they will list services such as pruning, health care, cabling, etc. Others only provide consultation services of assessment, expert witness, pre-construction, etc., and will refer you to other tree service companies for the actual work.  You can find local consulting arborists at Consulting arborists

Select several and call or email describing your need. You want to select an arborist who has experience in your area of need, whether it is construction issues, risk appraisal or getting a healthy tree check-up. Do ask about fees over the phone. A consulting arborist charges for her/his time coming to assess your tree while many tree service arborists do not charge for an initial visit and provide a quote on future work to pay for their time. If you are concerned as to whether your large tree is a risk, but you really don’t want to lose it, then you might feel more comfortable with the advice from a consulting arborist who has no economic interest in promoting additional services.

(2) Schedule meetings in your yard with at least two or more certified arborists the same way you’d ask more than one remodeler to view your home. Certified arborists carry their license on their person, so don’t hesitate to ask to see it. Ask if a certified arborist will be supervising the actual work, and if not, inquire about the training and experience of the work foreman. Use that knowledge as a factor in your decision. If there is a significant difference in suggested treatment of the trees, ask for explanations. Just like physicians, arborists may approach a problem with different strategies but each should be able to explain the rationale. If you do internet research on the recommended services, Tree Stewards recommend using only sites from University Extension Services (ending in “.edu”) or from governmental forestry websites (ending in “.gov”)

Climbers must practice safety first.

Be sure the tree service you use requires tree climbers to practice safety first. Climbers need to be adequately roped to prevent falls.

(3) Reach an agreement on the scope of the work to be performed, obtain a written estimate and ask for proof of insurance. Working on large trees has risks, for the worker high up and any targets on the ground so be sure the company has trained workers, uses safety equipement and carries adequate liability insurance. Ask for referrals and take time to follow-up and make the calls. Always get a second opinion.

(4) When you have selected a tree service, try to schedule the work when you are home and available to meet with the crew prior to the start of the work. Talk with the arborist or the crew chief or foreman who will supervise the work. Be sure to review the scope of the job with the foreman to ensure there are no misunderstandings. If anything concerns you, insist on speaking with the certified arborist who estimated the job.

You want the best service for your trees, and reputable firms do not want dissatisfied customers. Communicate often and well with the company and give it a chance to make corrections if you are not satisfied with the work.

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