Angie's List: Removing trees

Trees add beauty to the landscaping of any home. However, poorly maintained trees can die before their time, causing personal safety hazards for your family and even property damage to your home.

The consumer review website Angie's List says thousands of trees in the U.S. are damaged each year by storms, winds, lightning and ice. There are some ways to look for dead or decaying wood, and spotting it ahead of time can save you money in the long run. Homeowners should look for things like poor leaf development on the crown, discoloration and separation of the bark in the main stem, and dead wood on branches or the trunk. If you notice any of these things, it may be time to call in a professional.

Angie's List creator, Angie Hicks, has some advice.

"While removing a tree might seem like a very simple job, it's important to hire the right professional to take care of it. You want to make sure that it's taken out of your yard properly so you don't cause any damage and you want to make sure the workers that are doing it are safe as well so they know exactly how to tackle a project. Because if the tree is already dead they potentially can't climb the tree to remove limbs," says Hicks.

She goes on to say that "you want to make sure they have the proper insurance because the last thing you want is someone getting hurt on your property or when those limbs are dropped it causes any damage to your property."

Angie's List has some tips for consumers who are looking to hire a tree service:

  • Don't procrastinate: If you have trees that look structurally unsound or in decline, don't wait to have them looked at. Taking care of the issue immediately can also save you from further costs. Your trees should be inspected on a regular basis.
  • Consider a certified arborist: If you have trees that are aged or diseased, an arborist can help determine what special care you might need to keep the trees and your yard in good shape. Cutting down a tree is a dangerous job and a task that homeowners should not DIY.
  • Check qualifications: Don't just hire anyone with a chain saw and pickup truck - removing a tree can be extremely dangerous. Gather estimates from at least three companies and vet them thoroughly. 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).
  • Ask for proof of insurance: Make sure the company's policy adequately covers property damage and injuries that could occur on your property.
  • Walk through the job: Have the contractor tag or walk through the yard with you so you know exactly what trees need work and what is being removed. Map out how the areas where the contractors will be working and how they will access those areas. Make sure you've cleared those areas of cars and other items to ensure nothing is damaged by falling limbs.
  • Put it in writing: Agree to the terms and details of the project, outlined in a contract, before any work is done.