It typically costs between $200–$2,000 to remove a tree.
The tree’s size, condition, and location will impact the price.
A reputable tree service will have professional certifications and liability insurance.
You can use the tree as a source of firewood and mulch.
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You never think you’ll need a professional tree service until you suddenly do. But what is involved in the tree removal process, and how do you know who to hire?
Whether your favorite oak tree didn’t fare well in an overnight storm or you have a dead tree that needs to be removed, you’ll need to call in experienced pros for professional tree removal services. Here’s everything you need to know, from questions to ask and average cost to certifications and preparation.
Why Hire a Tree Service?
There are a variety of reasons you may find yourself in need of tree removal services near you. Sometimes a bad storm damages a tree and large tree branches fell on your roof.
An entire tree can fall in an unsafe location as well, potentially blocking a road or sidewalk. Dead or damaged trees can tumble onto houses and cars, which can be life-threatening (not to mention expensive). Finally, trees that are too close or attached to your home’s siding can cause mold growth.
They aren’t always trouble, though; in addition to being beautiful, trees can increase your home’s value. So, it’s worth the work to maintain them properly. Talk to a pro near you about tree cutting and removal services to see what’s right for your landscape.
Can You Just Take the Tree Down Yourself?
The number of safety issues associated with the tree removal process makes it a poor candidate for a DIY project.
Attempting to cut down a tree on your own is very dangerous, given how difficult it is to direct where a tree will fall. Since even smaller trees can weigh hundreds of pounds, misjudging the tree’s fall can result in serious or even fatal injuries, not to mention major property damage.
The tree itself isn’t the only danger. You’re much more likely to cut yourself while attempting to fell a tree versus an experienced tree removal pro in your area who knows how to avoid kickback and other perils of using a chainsaw at height.
Climbing a tree or a ladder to remove limbs adds falling to the list of hazards, along with electric shock if power lines happen to be nearby.
Plus, unless you plan to leave the stump in place, you’ll still need someone with special grinding equipment once the tree is gone. Save the DIY for another day and seek a reputable tree service to help ensure the safest and highest-quality results.
Determine Which Certification Tree Pros Hold
While you may be approached at some point (likely after a big storm) by a contractor advertising their services, not all tree services are certified or accredited.
Hiring the right tree service means choosing someone with accreditation from a well-recognized industry association such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).
An ISA certification tells you that the pro is knowledgeable, experienced, and “committed to properly caring for and maintaining their trees,” the association’s website explains. Services with this accreditation have undergone professional development, keeping them on the cutting edge of the industry’s best practices.
One benefit of working with someone with a TCIA membership is that they are up to date with regulatory practices in the tree care business. They also work with Congress to advocate for progress in the tree care industry.
An additional perk of hiring a tree service with one of these certifications is that many organizations require them to hold insurance.
Dig Deeper to Verify Insurance Coverage
Don’t just take a contractor’s word that they have insurance. You want to know a bit more to protect both you and the contractor, including the type of insurance they carry. Liability insurance ensures you won't have to pay if the company damages your home or possessions.
Worker’s compensation helps both you and the employee if the contractor is injured while they are taking down a tree. It also protects you from lawsuits that may be brought against you for something that went wrong during the job.
To verify that your tree removal pro carries insurance, ask the contractor for the company and agent’s name and phone number. If the contractor hesitates in giving you this, it could be a red flag. Then, call the insurance company and discuss the contractor’s coverage, and request a certificate of insurance. If the contractor provides it before you even call, you can still call to double-check.
You may find you are working with a bonded contractor, which means they carry private bond insurance. This can help because if they fail to do their job, you can seek reimbursement through the bond issuer. Being bonded also means they have agreed to comply with regulations based on any building permits applicable to the job.
Get Tree Removal Company Referrals
One major part of the tree removal process is finding the right pro for the job. Talk to family and friends to see if they have anyone to recommend. A quick post to your favorite neighborhood social media group can help you find great referrals as well.
When you are talking to someone who has used the company before, ask the following types of questions:
Were the service providers prompt with their timing, showing up when they said they would, and finishing the job in the time frame they planned to?
Were they professional and courteous to you and your property?
Did they complete the job well, preventing the need for future service calls?
Did they do anything you found to be dangerous or questionable?
Did they thoroughly listen to your requests and follow through on them?
Though it’s not required or expected, you can also tip tree removal contractors for a job well done and leave a positive review to show your appreciation.
What to Expect During Professional Tree Removal
Removing a full-grown tree is no small feat. Depending on where the tree is located, the process can involve large trucks and heavy machinery, all of which will assemble on your property for the job.
Professional tree removal services typically take one of two routes to remove a tree. If the tree is far enough away from structures, power lines, and other trees, the service may opt to bring it down in one piece, a process the pros refer to as “felling” the tree.
If the tree is close to buildings or other obstacles, felling the tree won’t be an option, as it’s too risky. Instead, workers will scale the tree and remove it piece by piece, beginning with the upper limbs and working their way down to the trunk.
Depending on the tree's location, the service may use a bucket truck, allowing workers to reach the tree’s upper limbs without having to climb it. The service may also bring in a crane, which allows workers to lower large branches to the ground safely after they’ve been cut.
How to Prepare for Tree Removal
Given the heavy equipment involved with the tree removal process, prepping your yard is crucial to protect your property and ensure the job goes smoothly. Clear your driveway of any vehicles, so they are out of the way of the tree removal service’s trucks and machinery and won’t be damaged by any falling debris.
Since there’s a high likelihood of falling branches, remove any breakable items, such as flower pots, lawn ornaments, and outdoor furniture. Leaving these items for the tree removal service to move could delay the process and may add to the overall cost of the service.
The cost of tree removal can vary from as little as $200 up to $2,000 with the average cost being about $750 per tree. There are several variables that can impact the cost of the removal, including the tree’s size, location, and condition.
Expect to pay about $8 per foot to remove smaller trees that are under 30 feet, while taller trees will cost about $15 per foot.
Removing a tree that’s close to structures and power lines requires more care and hence more time, increasing the cost of the service. Trees with significant decay or hollow sections that make it structurally unsound present greater hazards for workers, increasing the cost of removal.
If the cost of removing a tree is too steep for your budget, you might be able to get the tree cut down for free. Utility companies will sometimes pony up for the removal if the tree is threatening a power line. Your local government might be willing to foot the bill if the tree is affecting public right of way, such as a road or sidewalk.
Tree Removal Process
Although the pros will handle the tree removal, understanding how the process works will give you peace of mind and allow you to monitor the job, so you can ensure it’s done right.
Professional tree cutting and removal services will know exactly how to cut the tree to ensure it falls safely in the right direction.
If the service decides to fell the tree, they’ll cut a notch near the base of the trunk to direct the fall of the tree, and then make a cut on the opposite side until the tree topples over.
If the service decides to remove the tree in pieces rather than fell it, a professional will climb the tree or use a bucket truck to reach the uppermost limbs.
After ascending, workers will typically attach large limbs to a crane before cutting them, so they can be lowered to the ground safely.
Once the tree is down, workers on the ground will commence removing the limbs and cutting the tree into smaller pieces in a process known as “limbing” and “bucking.”
The service will cart the tree pieces away in a truck and clean up any debris created by the tree removal.
After Tree Removal
Once the tree has been felled, limbed, and cut, larger limbs and sections of the trunk can be cut up into smaller pieces for firewood, while smaller branches and narrow diameter sections will go into a chipper and turned into mulch.
One thing to note about the tree removal process is that the stump will be left behind if you don’t pay extra for removal. You can ask your tree pro to cut the stump as close to the ground as possible, or you can request to have them remove the stump with a large piece of machinery with a cutting wheel to grind it out for an additional cost.
Be sure to find out the cost of stump removal when vetting the tree removal service. Get quotes from a few local stump grinding companies to compare before making a decision.
Will Tree Removal Pros Clean Up?
There are usually smaller branches, leaves, and other debris littering the area around the removal site following tree removal. A reputable tree removal service will clean up any debris created by the tree removal, including branches, leaves, wood chippings, and saw dust.
That said, don’t assume all tree removal services will provide post-tree removal cleanup. You should inquire about this service during the hiring process.
Will Firewood Be Left?
A large tree can be an excellent source of firewood if you have a backyard fire pit or wood-burning fireplace. Ask the tree removal service to cut and stack larger sections of the tree for firewood. Keep in mind that it typically takes six to nine months for wood from a freshly cut tree to dry out enough to use as firewood.
Some tree removal services will actually sell firewood from trees they cut down to offset the cost of the service, so you may need to pay more for the tree removal if you plan to keep the wood.