Storms can cause damage to tree limbs or entire trees. Damaged trees need to be removed or even pruned by a qualified professional to reduce the long term damage.

Take the time to find a qualified tree service - this is a very important protection for the homeowner. Often less credible tree services or individuals with saws follow storms for a quick dollar. Educating yourself on how to hire a reputable arborist can help prevent becoming a victim.

Certified Arborists can also help to determine if the tree can be saved or if it must be removed. Trees are most dangerous when they are on structures or at aggressive angles and injuries are most likely to occur.

A reputable tree company will not have you pay in advance for tree work nor will they go door knocking for work. They are just too busy!

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers these suggestions to look for when hiring an arborist:

  • Certification – Ask if the arborists on staff hold an ISA certification. ISA offers a range of certification credentials from Certified Tree Worker/Climber Specialist to Board Certified Master Arborist. To be certified, individuals must pass a voluntary comprehensive exam. Certification must be maintained through continuing education, which means they should be up-to-date on the latest in arboricultural technology and are knowledgeable of acceptable practices.
  • Licensing – Some states require licensing for tree care companies operating within that state. Louisiana included, require tree companies to be licensed. Licensing usually requires passing an examination and/or earning continuing education credits. Check your state's requirements, and make sure companies you are considering are in compliance. In some states licensing is the only necessary requirement. This could, therefore, supersede ISA Certification as a requirement to look for, however, if a tree care company from out of state is offering services, you should look for ISA credentials.
  • Professional Affiliation – Ask about membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and/or one of its chapters. Affiliation with industry organizations demonstrates a willingness to stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and information.
  • Advertisement – Check the local yellow pages directory or newspaper for arborists who list themselves as ISA Certified and/or state licensed arborists or who display the official logos of professional membership. Most reputable tree care professionals do not go door-to-door soliciting business, so avoid those companies that show up at your doorstep offering to prune your trees. 
  • Insurance – Ask for proof of insurance, and then verify coverage with the insurance company. A reputable arborist should have insurance to cover personal and property damage as well as worker's compensation. If you hire an uninsured tree expert, you can be held liable for any damages or injuries that occur while they are on the job. 
  • References – Ask for references from past customers, and do not hesitate to check them or to visit the locations where the company or individual has done tree care work.
  • Estimates – Do not be afraid to ask for an estimate, and remember that it is okay to get more than one. You should not always select the lowest bid. When examining the bids, you should look at all specifications and credentials as well as the work to be done to determine which company will provide the best service with the skill and professionalism needed to protect your investment. It is hard to compare estimates - make sure you ask what the goals and objectives are of each estimator for the tree in question. And most importantly, get it in writing. Most reputable arborist will have the customer sign a contract, so be sure to review it, and do not be afraid to ask questions. In Louisiana, it is the law to enter into a written agreement with the customer prior to any work being done.

Good tree work by qualified professionals is worth the additional expense. Poor work, no matter the price paid, can cost you a great deal in the long run. Professional prices should include insurance and may also include the use of specialized equipment. If you feel an estimate is high, do not hesitate to ask what the price includes. You may realize you are getting much more bang for your buck than what a less expensive tree service is offering.

Take the time to be an informed consumer and prevent yourself from becoming victimized. For more tree care information, or to find an ISA Certified Arborist, visit www.treesaregood.org. The Louisiana state licensed arborists can be found here: http://www.ldaf.state.la.us/ldaf-programs/horticulture-programs/louisiana-horticulture-commission/

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