What Should I Look for in a Tree Service?

Alexandra Frost
Written by Alexandra Frost
Updated July 26, 2021
Fathers swings daughter under trees
Inti St. Clair / Brand X Pictures via Getty Images

Figuring out how to take down a tree in your yard can be a bit nerve-wracking, but with professional help that you can trust, it can be a stress-free process

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

You never think you will need a professional tree service until very suddenly and unexpectedly, you do. Maybe your favorite oak tree didn’t fare well in an overnight storm, and you look outside to find a large branch hanging precariously over your bedroom. While you need to act fast, you also need to take a bit of time and ask the right questions to make sure you are working with a reputable tree service company, or you could have an even bigger headache than before.

Why Hire a Tree Service?

There are a variety of reasons you may find yourself in need of a tree removal service. Sometimes a bad storm damages a tree, and large branches or the entire tree may have fallen into an unsafe location, potentially blocking a road or sidewalk. Dead or damaged trees can also fall onto houses and cars when they weaken enough, which can be life-threatening (not to mention expensive). Finally, trees that are too close or attached to your home’s siding can cause mold growth. They aren’t always trouble, though, and in addition to being beautiful, trees can increase your home’s value. So, it’s worth the work to maintain them properly.

Can’t I Just Take the Tree Down Myself?

It's typically not recommended to try to remove a dead or fallen tree on your own, especially ones that are quite large or could fall onto other structures, such as your home. Plus, you’ll still need someone with special equipment to come grind out the stump once the tree is gone. Save the DIY for another day and seek a reputable tree service to help to ensure the safest and highest quality results.

Determine Which Certification They Hold

While you may be approached at some point (likely after a big storm) by a contractor advertising their services, not all tree services are certified or accredited. Hiring the right tree service means choosing someone with accreditation from a well-recognized industry association such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

An ISA certification tells you that the pro is knowledgeable, experienced, and “committed to properly caring for and maintaining their trees,” the association’s website explains. Services with this accreditation have undergone professional development, keeping them on the cutting edge of the industry’s best practices.

One benefit of working with someone with a TCIA membership is that they are up-to-date with regulatory practices in the tree care business. They also work with Congress to advocate for progress in the tree care industry. 

An additional perk of hiring a tree service with one of these certifications is that many organizations require them to hold insurance.

Dig Deeper to Verify Insurance Coverage

Professionals hang from trees
Westend61 via Getty Images

Don’t just take a contractor’s word for it that they have insurance. You want to know a bit more to protect both you and the contractor, including the type of insurance they carry. Liability insurance ensures that if the company damages your home or possessions, you won’t have to pay. Worker’s compensation helps both you and the employee if the contractor is injured while they are taking down a tree. It also protects you from lawsuits that may be brought against you for something that went wrong during the job.

To verify coverage, ask the contractor for the company and agent’s name and phone number. If the contractor hesitates in giving you this, it could be a red flag. Then, call the insurance company and discuss the contractor’s coverage, and request a certificate of insurance. If the contractor provides one to you before you even call, you can still call to double-check.

You may find you are working with a bonded contractor, which means they carry private bond insurance. This can help because if they fail to do their job, you can seek reimbursement through the bond issuer. Being bonded also means they have agreed to comply with regulations based on any building permits applicable to the job.

Find Your Own Referrals—and Contact Theirs, Too

Typically you ask the service provider for referrals, and those can be valuable. But what if behind the three positive experiences they give you, there are hundreds of disappointed customers? To prevent this, do your own referral research by finding others who have used the service. A quick post to your favorite neighborhood social media group can reveal a lot. Then call the referrals the company gives you as well.

When you are talking to someone who has used the company before, ask the following types of questions:

  • Were the service providers prompt with their timing, showing up when they said they would, and finishing the job in the time frame they planned to?

  • Were they professional and courteous to you and your property?

  • Did they complete the job well, preventing the need for future service calls?

  • Did they do anything you found to be dangerous or questionable?

  • Did they thoroughly listen to your requests and follow through on them?

Don’t forget; you can also tip contractors for a job well done and leave a positive review.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.