Tips For Selecting an Arborist

Keith Fontenot  |  5/26/2010 8:07:01 PM

With the start of hurricane season, and after receiving several calls recently about the health and condition of trees, you should carefully evaluate your shade trees for problems.  If works needs to be done, it’s best to hire a licensed arborist.  Here are some things to consider when hiring an arborist.

• Check in the Yellow Pages under “Trees” for local companies that do tree care.  Having an ad in the phone book indicates the company has some degree of permanence.  The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry website lists the licensed arborists in Louisiana by parish, and our LSU AgCenter office has access to that list as well.

• Beware of door-knockers. This is especially common after storms when non-professionals see a chance to earn some quick money.  This practice also occurs when someone has their equipment and/or workers in an area and they try to get additional work close by.  In this manner they don’t have to go through the expense and time of moving long distances for additional work.

• Never let yourself be rushed by bargains such as, “If you sign an agreement today, I can take 10 percent off the price.”

• Ask to see their state arborist license. All practicing arborists must be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

• Ask to see certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage and workman’s compensation.  Then phone the insurance company to make certain the policy is current.  Some unscrupulous individuals may work this as a scam.  They buy insurance for a short period, get a certificate, don’t pay the policy, but keep that insurance certificate for an extended time period. Call the insurance company.

• Ask for local references and look at other jobs the company has done. Check with the Better Business Bureau.

• Have more than one arborist look at the job and give you estimates to ensure you get a fair price.  This also allows you to get other opinions on what work needs to be done.  From speaking with several homeowners, there is a very wide range of pricing to do the same work, depending on who is doing it.

• A good arborist will never recommend or agree to “topping a tree” except under rare circumstances (such as to save the tree after severe physical damage to the crown).

• Do not allow an arborist to use climbing spikes to climb a tree unless the tree is being removed.

• To make sure the work is performed to the standards you expect, a written contract is recommended.  It should include the dates when the work will start and finish, exactly what work will be done, what cleanup work will be done, when that cleanup will be done and the total dollar amount you will be charged.  If a tree is to be removed and the stump ground down, make sure the company agrees to remove all of the wood chips.

• It’s recommend that you be present while the work is being done, even if you have to take off from work.

Selecting an arborist to do work is like so many other things we do.  The more background information you get and references, the more comfortable you will be.  Getting more than two bids on a job will usually save you money, in many cases a lot of money. The more pressured and pushed you are to do something, the more uncomfortable you feel.  Under a pressure situation you are less likely to check on insurance or get a contract to outline liability for damages to your or your neighbors property.  In most cases a tree situation can be taken care of in due time without having to rush into an agreement.

For more information on licensed arborists, or tree care in general such as planting, pruning, removal, etc. please feel free to call or come by our office of the LSU AgCenter at 230 Court Street, Ville Platte, Louisiana or give us a call at (337) 363-5646.
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