Once you have decided that you need to contract with a tree company, how can you decide which one to hire?
Here are a few considerations to help you make a decision:
1. Don't be impatient or in a hurry to contract with someone. Except when a storm has caused a tree or large limb to fall on your house, most tree problems are not emergencies and do not need immediate treatment. Hiring someone without doing your homework can result in a bad decision. If the company does not answer your call immediately, it is probably because they are very busy and that probably means they are good and in demand. If they have not called back within a couple of days, call again. If you call several, don't just hire the first one that calls back. Speak with all of them, ask questions, and then make a decision.
2. Ask questions like:
- Are you or does your company employ a certified arborist?
- What is his certification number? (see page about certified arborists) Number should be a state abbreviation followed by four digits, like MI-0610
- How many years have you been in business?
- What is your experience with the problem at hand?
- If I want a second opinion, who do you recommend that I call? A good company will know who the other good companies are and will refer you to one. If they don't, you probably do not want to do business with them.
3. Do some research into the problem if you can. If you know enough about the tree or problem, use the internet to find out some of the recommended treatments. You should seek references like university extension services, not commercial websites that are trying to sell a specific product.
4. Do not expect a free consultation about a difficult problem. If a professional evaluates a difficult problem, he should be compensated for his time. Businesses have to make money. "Free" consultations may result in the necessity of selling unnecessary services to pay for the time and expenses.
5. Free estimates are possible if you know exactly what you want. For example, if you have an ash tree that you wanted injected and you have measured the circumference, a company could probably give you a price over the phone.
6. If you don't know what is the problem or what you want or need, then a professional consultation is in order. A certified arborist can diagnose and recommend and then you can shop for someone to provide the services if any are needed.
7. NEVER respond to walk up solicitation by a tree company. Ask them what they think the problem is and then go through the process above with them and other companies. Get a professional consultation. Many trees have been inappropriately removed or treated as a result of door to door tree men.
8. ALWAYS ask to see insurance documentation and to see a copy of the company's business license. Any reputable tree business will not hesitate to show you proof of insurance. Many of them carry extra copies of the proof. It is wise to make a copy or take a copy so you can call the insurance company to verify if coverage is in effect. We have encountered situations where a company has made one payment, obtained the insurance proof, and then let the insurance lapse by not paying further payments. We have also seen insurable losses, but the company refuses to tell the customer the name and number of the insurance company. If you have the insurance sheet in hand and call the insurer, you will avoid those problems. If the company is unable or unwilling to provide it, do not hire that company. The insurance proof should have the business' name on it and verification of liability AND workers comp coverage. The license should be a current state of Michigan license with the business name on it.