When hiring an arborist or tree care company to do work on your property, there are several important questions to ask them. You want to be sure that the arborists are properly certified, insured, and using best practices methods for tree pruning — or your trees and your property could suffer as a result.

1. Are They Fully Insured and Certified?

It is critical to hire a reputable tree care business that is fully insured. Tree care can be dangerous work and you want to make sure that the company you hire carries liability insurance, in case of injury or damaged property.

Workplace safety insurance (WSIB) is another type of insurance that will protect workers on the job. A good employer or business owner will want to take care of their employees, just as much as their clients, and will carry WSIB coverage.

International Society of Arboriculuture logo

Many people may not know that WSIB is NOT mandatory for a professional tree care business in Ontario and that arboriculture is a relatively unregulated industry in our province.  There are a few college programs in Ontario that teach arboriculture, but anyone can start a tree care service with no training at all.

The ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) is one of the certifying bodies that requires arborists to keep updating their knowledge base. A certified arborist will have current ISA training and in-depth information about safety procedures and tree care techniques that will benefit you and your trees. Remember to ask about these certifications!

2.   What is Their Experience in the Field?

When you start working with an arborist, you should ask them the following questions:

  • How many years have you been practicing tree care?
  • Who did you learn your skills from?
  • Where & when did you receive your certifications or latest training?

Two arborists sweeping in backyard after tree care job

Just because someone owns a tree service doesn’t mean they are using best practices.  The industry is always evolving and a good tree service will be up to date with new methods. 

It is so important that the arborist you hire has experience to do the job you have hired them to do. Tree removals are relatively straightforward and, as long as you don’t damage property or injure someone, it’s hard to judge the skill level of the arborist after this type of job. The tree is gone, leaving no evidence behind.

With pruning, however, the evidence remains present. Bad pruning is clear and noticeable by the trained eye. It takes a lot of training, plus years of experience, to be good at pruning trees properly.

If an arborist has never worked for another, more experienced company, they may not even realize that they are pruning trees incorrectly. Arborists who have apprenticed for reputable companies in the past will have a good skill set that sets them apart from someone who just started their own business right out of school.

3. What is Their Reputation in the Local Community?

Man with two kids in wheelbarrow doing volunteer work
Volunteering for a Communitrees planting project on the Elora Cataract Trail

When hiring a contractor, you want someone with a good reputation and, with the Internet, it is easier than ever to find reviews. Try to also ask people that you trust about who they use in the community. Ask your friends, ask your neighbours.

Find out if the tree care company is active with volunteering in their community. A good tree care business will be well known to their community, due to the nature of their work. Remember that you want to know what kind of service the arborist provided — do not just hire someone that your friend or family member knows.

Make sure that they have experience with the type of work that you need for your property. Again, removals and pruning are two different skill sets. A tree service may be able to remove a tree quickly, but that does not mean they will be able to properly prune your mature tree.

4.  What Kind of Equipment Does the Business Use?

The two most commonly used methods of working in trees are using an aerial lift or climbing the tree with ropes and harnesses. There are certain situations where one method is preferred over the other, but all tree work methods have pros and cons.

Aerial Lifts

Aerial lifts have the ability to work in the tree, without relying on the tree for safety. This can be beneficial when the tree is structurally unsound or would otherwise pose a hazard to a climber. Aerial lifts are great for removing trees near roads and with easy access. If a bucket truck doesn’t fit into your backyard, a spider lifts can be used as a smaller alternative.

One issue with aerial lifts is that they can sometimes be difficult to maneuver in a thick tree crown.  Some pruning techniques can be harder to do properly with the bulky lift equipment.

Climbing Arborists

Arborist climbing tree doing pruning work with harness and safety equipment
Climbing a tree with ropes, harnesses, and other safety equipment.

Climbing arborists can get into a tree with no heavy equipment. This is a great option for backyards and other situations where access is difficult, space is tight, or where heavy equipment may damage an underground system like a septic tank or drainage bed.  

Climbing a tree gives the arborist a different perspective of the tree. When an arborist climbs a tree, they are able to spot defects and other issues within the crown up close.

When pruning, a climbing arborist is able to shape the tree from within and access places that might be difficult to reach with a bucket.  Proper pruning cuts may be harder to achieve from a bucket truck in certain situations.

A note about Ladders

Ladders are another method of accessing a tree but should be used with extreme caution. Orchard ladders are among the safest ladders for tree pruning, but they should only be used in small trees. If a tree service uses extension ladders as their main way to access the tree, be cautious— this is typically frowned upon within the industry.

5. What Clean-Up is Included in Their Pricing?

Arborist cleaning the sidewalk after tree care jobClean-up is something that you want to clarify before making an arrangement with a tree care company. You want to make sure that all the material will be taken away and that the property is restored to its previous state (or better). This means raking up twigs, leaves, and sawdust, blowing off driveways and making sure all the material from the tree are removed from the property.  

Cleaning up after a tree pruning job or tree removal adds time and cost to the job. The better the clean-up, the more time is spent and the higher the cost. If you don’t mind doing it yourself, you can request no clean-up and save yourself some money. You can save even more money if you keep the wood and/or brush to deal with yourself.  

At Baum Tree Care, we take pride in our clean-up services and it is the number one thing our clients comment on after a job! For more information on tree care services from our team, contact us today for a free quote.