Sick or damaged trees can be a safety issue

Published On: Aug 19 2012 10:08:22 AM EDT

Each year, thousands of trees in the U.S. are damaged by storms, wind, lightning and ice, causing millions of dollars in property damage.

Proper tree care is an investment that can lead to substantial returns. Well-cared-for trees are attractive and can add up to 15 percent of value to your property.

Angie's List asked highly rated tree service companies about how to know when it’s time to remove a tree.

Some signs that homeowners should look for include dead wood of either multiple branches or the trunk, poor leaf development in the crown, and discoloration and separation of the bark on the main stem. When a large branch breaks off the main tree and gets lodged within the other branches or if a significant crack is found, the tree should be removed.

Causes:

  • Insect infestation and disease
  • Construction around the root system
  • Lightening strikes
  • Changing grade over root system
  • Too much mulch around base

The best methods for removing trees are those used by trained arborists.

“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 also 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,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Costs for removal:

  • Determined by size, location, objects around the tree (homes, fences, service wires, etc.)
  • Does the tree need to be lowered in sections due to dangerous conditions with regards to dead limbs?
  • Clean up/disposal.
  • Stump removal is often a separate cost.

Angie’s List Tips: Hiring 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.

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