Everything to Know About Hiring an Arborist

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated March 7, 2022
A garden with trees
Photo: Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty Images

Highlights

  • An arborist is like a tree doctor.

  • Arborists care for healthy or diseased trees.

  • You can hire an arborist for general or emergency tree care.

  • Hiring an arborist costs an average of $860.

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Whether you need help trimming the branches of the red maple in your yard or clearing away a fallen tree after a thunderstorm, an arborist can help you. These tree experts have the skills to care for trees at any stage, from tiny saplings to 100-year-old giants. But how do you know when you need a certified arborist’s help? Here’s everything to know about hiring an arborist.

What Is an Arborist?

An arborist is a professional that studies and cares for trees. Think of an arborist like a tree doctor. These experts are well-studied on ways to care for trees, from planting them to growing them to removing diseased or hazardous trees.

What Does an Arborist Do?

Arborists help keep trees in good health and protect humans from weak or falling trees. After a storm, an arborist may come to remove broken branches or remove fallen trees and their stumps.

Perhaps you notice holes in your trees’ barks or the pine needles of your evergreens turning brown. An arborist can identify and help eradicate pests or get to the root, pun intended, of the problem. While they can’t always save a tree if the damage is too extensive, they can at least safely remove trees and prevent disease from spreading throughout your landscaping.

Arborists aren’t just there to care for sick trees. These professionals can also help you successfully plant new trees, so they live long, healthy lives. They can also provide general tree maintenance, like trimming and pruning, which is especially helpful for the giant oak tree in your front yard.

Do Arborists Need Certifications?

Certification isn’t always required to become an arborist, but arborists can go through third-party certification programs that offer additional training on tree care and safety. Popular certifications for arborists include programs from The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Arborists that perform tree removals may also benefit from earning the Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP) credential from TCIA.

When Do I Need to Call an Arborist?

A family gardening together
Photo: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Any time you’d like help with the trees in your landscapes, you can hire a local arborist. Perhaps the sentimental tree you planted when your now-adult child was born is looking worse for wear. An arborist can help diagnose any problems and provide solutions to save the tree.

If a tree breaks or falls after a storm or becomes diseased beyond repair, an arborist can also safely remove the tree so it doesn’t fall on your home. In some regions, invasive tree species can create problems for native plants. An arborist can identify problematic trees or advise you on which trees are best and worst for your neighborhood.

Planting a new tree? An arborist can help you ensure it grows to its full potential by providing tips on balancing soil nutrients, watering, and fertilizing. An arborist can also help you with general upkeep, like pruning or trimming trees of all sizes.

What to Look for When Hiring an Arborist

Handling trees can be a dangerous job, so it’s important to check that your arborist is insured before hiring. At a minimum, make sure the arborist has liability insurance and workers’ compensation in case a branch falls on your roof or a contractor is hurt when trimming the top branches.

If you’re hiring a tree service, make sure they are licensed in your city and/or state. For the best protection and peace of mind, you should opt for an arborist that has a certification, such as the ISA or TCIA certifications. These show that the pro you hire underwent proper training to care for and remove trees safely. You can verify an arborists’ certification using the ISA verification tool or the TCIA accredited arborist database.

In general, when you hire an arborist or other contractor, choose someone that communicates quickly. With trees, a fallen branch or cracked trunk can quickly cause extensive damage or become a serious hazard that needs handling as soon as possible.

Cost to Hire an Arborist

Hiring an arborist costs anywhere from around $250 to $2,500, depending on the size and location of the trees and the work you need done. Trimming small trees may cost as low as $75, plus $25 to $100 for cleanup, while removing a large tree and its stump may cost $1,700 or more. 

Because trees are tall, and it’s not always easy to see how healthy or weak they are, it’s dangerous to attempt trimming tall trees or removing any trees yourself. Plus, tree root systems may be near utility lines. That’s why it’s important to budget for a professional arborist to help you with your tree care.

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