Angie's List: Safety first. Dead trees should be removed by a professional

A dead or dying tree is a major safety hazard

TAMPA - "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree." It would seem poet Joyce Kilmer never neglected a tree in his life. Too often though, homeowners take the trees in their landscaping for granted. "A well-maintained yard can add as much as fifteen percent to the value of your home and that includes taking good care of your trees," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List . "What people may not realize is that it can actually be dangerous to ignore your trees. It can cause property damage or someone can get hurt if a limb falls from a dead tree."

Trees add beauty to the landscaping of any home. However, poorly maintained trees or trees damaged by storms, can die before their time, create personal safety hazards for your family and even cause property damage to your home.

Angie's List asked highly rated tree care companies about how to know it's time to remove a tree and the methods involved. "Obviously die back in the trees, you'll see the trees loose leaves things of that nature," said certified arborist Stephen Courchaine. "Dead branches, decayed trunks those are things homeowners can look for that can lead them to believe that the tree needs to be removed." Courchaine said trees die for any number of reasons. "Insect infestation, disease attacks; both of those can cause trees to die. Construction damage... and when I say construction damage I mean things like grade changes where you've changed the grade of soil, altered root system that can cause a tree to die, decay in trunks and things of that nature." Each year, thousands of trees in the U.S. are also damaged by storms, wind, lightning and ice, causing millions of dollars in property damage.

If it's time to remove a tree from your property, the best methods are those used by trained arborists. Hicks adds, "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."

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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