How to Select a Certified Arborist

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Healthy trees receive regular attention from knowledgeable arborists. But how can you tell if an arborist is truly an expert? Pick an inexperienced arborist, and your trees could suffer. Fortunately, there are ways to distinguish the true tree gurus from mere amateurs. In the following paragraphs we discuss how homeowners can find and select skilled arborists. We highlight questions to ask when hiring a professional, suggest which credentials to look for, and offer general tips about referrals and online reviews.

Call an arborist both to benefit from his or her expertise, and to stay safe throughout tree care tasks. Many tasks associated tree and shrub maintenance can be done at ground height, without the need of a ladder. However, if you are unable to access taller branches without the use of a ladder, it is best to call a professional. Working at height requires specialized training and equipment and is risky for the average homeowner because of the large number of variables, such as power lines, chainsaw manipulation, other buildings, etc.

Hiring the wrong contractor can have grave consequences for the health of your trees. Let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking arborists before hiring them for a project.

Questions to Ask before Hiring a Portland Certified Arborist

  • Can they provide up to date certification of insurance, as well as a copy of their work contract, or in Oregon, their Certified Arborists at workconstruction contractor number?
  • Do they have recent references? A quality company should be more than willing to provide up-to-date references.
  • Will they give you a detailed estimate? This should include information about how long the project will take, the kind of equipment that will be used, as well as information regarding accessing the trees safely.
  • What about a professional appearance? You can ask if the company uses spikes (which damages trees), offers “topping” (also harmful to trees), and if personal protection equipment (PPE) is used by all members while on a job site. Finally, ask how the workers will clean up the fallen leaves and branches that are trimmed away.

Credentials. As in all established fields, quality arborists tend to obtain industry certifications. Ask potential arborist contractors if they employ a Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP). You can also look for endorsements from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). For work that needs to be done near the electrical wires, the contractor will need to be an Approved Line-Clearance Arborist.

General tips for Selecting a Certified Arborist

Beware of scammers. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who pose as tree care professionals, but who are undertrained and/or underinsured. Here are some tips to help you identify true tree care professionals, and steer clear of those who would do a substandard job.

  • ANSI A300. Quiz the people you talk to about ANSI A300 standards for tree trimming. See if they know about this.
  • Beware the use of certain terms such as “topping,” “lion’s tails,” and “hat racking.” These are often indications of an inexperienced or undereducated tree trimmer.
  • Be sure to ask for credentials, verification of insurance, customer recommendations, and a detailed work proposal. If any of these items are lacking, beware!
  • If you see differences in bid prices, it might be because a company is underinsured, or is under-experienced in estimating how many cuts—and therefore how much time—it will take to prune correctly. (The correct answer is about 1000; it takes about 1,000 cuts to expertly prune a tree.)
  • Ask about permitting required to remove most large trees. Portland has some stringent requirements about this, as well about which trees can be removed. Be careful to double check permitting requirements, especially if your contractor insists that no permit is needed.

Your trees are valuable to you and to the urban landscape around you. Don’t take chances with unlicensed, underinsured operators who may not know what they are doing. Hire a professional arborist and rest assured that your trees will thrive under the meticulous care of those who have the know-how to do the job safely and correctly.

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