Editor's note: Bruce Chladny has resumed writing the Garden Calendar column after a five-month sabbatical with K-State Research and Extension.
The snow and ice that was once a magnificent winter wonderland is little more than melting piles of dingy sand, salt and road grime. Not only was the recent storm miserable for driving, but it was hard on landscape trees and shrubs. The heavy snow and ice accumulations on branches and trunks caused major damage. With many tree branches failing under the tremendous weight, homeowners are left wondering: "What do we do now?" Short of closing the blinds and pretending like there is no problem, hiring a "professional" to trim or remove the downed tree or limbs may be the only option. With so many names in the phone book to choose from, what should a homeowner look for? Here are some tips to help you make the decision between hiring a tree cutter and a licensed certified arborist.
Tree trimming and removal are tasks that just about anyone with a chainsaw and a truck can compete. However, for the property owner, the job should not be treated so carelessly. There is a huge difference between tree cutting and professional tree maintenance. For the best tree service, it is advisable to hire a licensed certified arborist, who specializes in the care of individual trees. They are capable of providing specialized care for trees of all species, ages and sizes. Hiring an arborist is a decision that should not be taken lightly.
Here is what to look for when hiring an arborist:
¢ Check for membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). These memberships demonstrate a willingness to stay up to date with the latest tree care techniques and information.
¢ Check for ISA or Kansas Arborist Association (KAA) certification. There is a difference between membership and being certified. Certified arborists are experienced professionals who have passed an extensive examination covering all aspects of tree care. These certifications indicate a higher level of knowledge and professionalism. Request that a certified arborist be on the job site at all times.
¢ Ask for proof of insurance. Do not be afraid to phone the insurance company if you are not satisfied. A reputable arborist carries personal and property damage insurance as well as workers' compensation insurance. KAA arborists must carry at least $50,000 property damage and $100,000 personal liability insurance. Many homeowners have had to pay out large sums of money for damages caused by uninsured individuals claiming to be tree experts. Kansas law allows for the homeowner to be held responsible for damages and injuries resulting from a botched job by an uninsured company.
¢ Ask for references to find out where the company has completed similar work to what you are requesting. Do not hesitate to check references or visit those sites.
¢ Do not always accept the low bid. Examine the credentials and the written specifications of the firms that submitted bids and determine the best combination of price, work to be done, skill and professionalism.
¢ Be wary of individuals who go door to door and offer bargains for performing tree work. Most reputable companies are too busy to solicit work in this manner. Improper tree care can take many years to correct itself or may never be corrected.
¢ Finally, get it in writing. Most reputable arborists have their clients sign a contract. Be sure to read the contract carefully and do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.