Tree Removal and the 10 Critical Things You Need to Know

tree removalTree removal on your property can turn out to be both dangerous and costly if you make the wrong decision about choosing who will remove it.  Basically, if you have a tree on your property that you want removed, you have three choices:

  1. Remove the tree yourself which is dangerous
  2. Hire someone to remove your tree on-the-cheap which becomes a liability issue
  3. Hire a professional tree removal company to do it right the first time

Tree Removal – Let’s Get Started

When making a decision about tree removal, remind yourself about the old adage of being “penny wise and pound foolish.”  Hiring someone from a Craigslist ad, for example, might get the job done fast and cheap but the risk you are taking could cost you big money in the long run.  Anyone with a chain saw, old rope, beat-up pickup truck, and a crazy brother-in-law can go into the tree removal business.  Most of these folks have little experience and often no license (or they have a fake license).

Here are 10 critical things to consider before choosing the persons risking their lives and the lives of your family removing a tree in your yard.

1) Is It A Heritage Tree?

heritage treeMany communities have a Heritage Tree law that protects certain trees from tree removal without permission from the city or county.  Cutting down a heritage tree without permission can result in a huge fine.  For example, in Sacramento, CA., there is such a law.  If the tree trunk circumference measures 100 inches or greater it’s a protected heritage tree.  Certain types of trees are protected, regardless of their size of their truck.  You must check to see if your area has such a law before removing a tree.  By the way, you also need permission to trim a heritage tree.

2) Are There Any Buried Cables?

buried cablesAre there any buried cables, sewer or gas lines, or sprinkler system pipes running underground near the base of the tree? Are there overhead power lines nearby?  Working near power lines is extremely dangerous.   Removing the stump, the last part of tree removal, can cause serious damage to underground cables and lines.  Imagine damaging the natural gas line that runs to your house.  Are you aware of all the lines and cables buried in your yard?  Remember, the tree roots are often entangled with these cables and pipes. If you do perform the tree removal yourself, you can call the free service Underground Service Alert where they will mark underground cables.

3) Is Your Tree Close To Your House?

tree close to homeIs your tree close to your house or your neighbor’s house?  Are there long, heavy limbs hanging over the roof?  During removal, just one of these big limbs landing on the roof can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage that is your responsibility.  Removing these limbs is very dangerous.  They are very heavy.  Tying a rope over such a limb in the hopes of pulling it away from the roof as it is cut is a foolish move.

4) Is The Tree Hanging Over A Neighbor’s Property?

Is your neighbor aware of your tree removal plan?  Even if it is on your property, part of it may be hanging over his or her property.  You should get permission from your neighbor before removing a tree.  Often, a neighbor will agree to share the tree removal costs if you consult with him or her first.  Remember, this becomes a serous liability issue if any damage is done to your neighbor’s property.

5) Do You Have An Umbrella Liability Insurance Policy?

Umbrella Liability Insurance PolicyDo you have an umbrella liability insurance policy to protect you should someone be injured removing your tree?  Most responsible homeowners have at least a $1 million dollar policy while today a $2 million dollar policy is more common.  This is cheap insurance should you ever be sued.

6) Will The Person You Hired Clean Their Mess?

tree removal clean up messWill the person or persons performing the tree removal run all the limbs through an on-site shredder and haul away the debris so nothing is left of the tree on your property or in the curb.  First, it may be against the law to put all the tree parts in the curb for the city or county to remove.  Second, why should your tax-paying neighbors have to pay to have your debris removed?  Only thoughtless, selfish, irritating neighbors fail to hire someone to remove the tree and haul away the debris.  Don’t be one of these people that the other neighbors hate.

tree removal licensed7) Is The Tree Removal Person Or Company Bonded?

Is the person or company hired to remove your tree bonded to protect you in the case of an injury or property damage?  Hire no one who isn’t bonded and can provide the proof.  You can bet that the folks you hire that show-up in a beat-up old truck with no company name on the sides aren’t bonded.  And most likely aren’t licensed either.  You’re taking a big financial risk hiring these folks in order to save some money.

8) Is The Tree Removal Person or Company Licensed?

Is the person or company hired to remove your tree licensed by the city as professional tree trimmers?  It’s against the law to hire these unlicensed people.  Insist on seeing their license and check their license number with the city to ensure it isn’t a fake.  Just because someone shows you a piece of paper doesn’t mean it’s valid.  Please note that the tree trimming and removal profession is one of the most dangerous occupations.  Workman’s compensation premiums paid by these companies are very high and this is why it costs more to hire professionals.  Fly-by-night tree removers don’t have workman’s comp.

9) Is The Right Tree Removal Equipment Being Used?

tree removal stump grinderDoes the person or company hired to remove your tree have all the required equipment to do the job properly.  Often, it requires a cherry-picker (the big truck with the arm and basket on the end) to remove limbs hanging over the roof and those very high in the tree.  Also required is a chipper that is pulled behind the truck.  Finally, they should have one or more stump removers to grind the stump so it is below ground level.

10) Is Your Tree Removal Person Or Company Trustworthy?

tree removal trustworthyIs the person or company trustworthy?  Have you checked the person or company with the local Better Business Bureau?  Better yet, what about checking on Angie’s List or Yelp?  Have you talked to other people who have used the person or company you are considering hiring?  Do your homework first and make sure your hire a reputable company with years of experience.  Only a fool would hire an unknown person or company to perform a dangerous task like removing a tree from your yard.

Removing a tree can seem like a simple job to anyone not having done so before or not having observed it being done by professionals.  Hey, grab a rope, a ladder, a chain saw and some friends and begin cutting.  Very quickly you’ll realize you are in over your head and need help.  Hopefully you will realize this before someone gets injured or property damage is done.

There are a number of major projects that do not belong on a do-it-yourself list and this is at the top of the list.  Tree removal is a major project that should never be contracted out to unlicensed people who merely claim to be professionals.  Professionals advertise in the yellow pages, have a website, have professional-looking business cards, have formal contracts you sign, and a business address where they keep professional equipment to do the job.  Take a drive by the business address provided to ensure you are working with a professional tree removal company.

You just might get very lucky by hiring the cheapest person or company to do the job but you are taking a major financial risk that luck will be with you and nothing bad happens on the job.  Trust us when we tell you this is one risk that is not worth taking.

Hire a professional tree removing company knowing that it’s very unlikely anything will go wrong but if it does, you are protected.

Tree removal is not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish.

4 thoughts on “Tree Removal and the 10 Critical Things You Need to Know”

  1. Good topic, but sorry there is some bad info here and really horrible pictures. A little clarification: BONDING is more for construction companies who may get paid up front but then not complete the project, the term doesn’t really apply to tree work. The thing you want to LOOK at is their insurance certificate with General Liability and Work Comp.

    In the above photos there is no use of PPE, and the chipper operator is behaving dangerously by putting his hands inside the infeed chute.

    Make sure your tree service wears their PPE – helmets, safety glasses, hearing protection, and chaps – it’s the law.

    Check references too, it may be the only way to know it they are decent or not.

  2. I feel like the distance from the tree to the house (or any important structure) is always huge. You never know when the next storm is coming (unless the weather channel announces a hurricane coming your way) so it’s best to get rid of it ASAP.

  3. You’ve got great tips for having trees removed. I like how you said that we need to let our neighbors know that we’re removing it. Our tree hangs over their front yard a bit, so I’ll be sure that they’re aware.


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