When to Hire a Tree Care Professional and How to Choose One

World-Renowned Arborist Mark Chisholm Shares His Advice
Release Date: 6/16/2010

Press Inquiries: 
Anita Gambill (757) 486-9151 
Main Image


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – With spring, the landscape has come alive and is vibrant and growing once again. Suddenly, you look around and notice that it feels as though the plants are moving into your living space. Fear not, you can take control and reclaim your space, and the summer is a fine time to do it.

When to Hire a Tree Care Professional

Limbs from larger trees and new shoots on shrubs can start to reach toward the house and patio, enclose a walkway or even start to fight each other for the same space and sunlight. It is necessary to periodically remove the lower tree branches in order to enable lawn care or even just walking unrestricted beneath the tree. Cutting back limbs and leaf-growth to create setbacks from the house and garage is another issue that may need to be addressed. Many of these jobs can be handled with a little bit of knowledge on how to make the proper cut, paired with the right tool for the job. Just be aware that there are jobs out there that truly warrant professional help.

Whenever you feel that a job may be a little out of your league, you need to listen to your instincts and look to hire a professional. Working at height requires proper training, safety precautions and protection. There are many variables that need special attention, such as dealing with trees that can reach a target (e.g. house, patio, pool area, street…), electrical conductors, wildlife habitats, trees that are growing from neighboring properties or common grounds and so on. As a professional arborist, I never recommend an untrained person attempt any work unless they are standing on stable ground. We never work unsecured when doing aboveground tasks.

How to Choose One

How do you begin the process of locating a tree care professional? Follow these tips to help find the right professional for you:

·         First and foremost is insurance. Ask for an up-to-date certificate of insurance to be sure that you will not be held liable if damage occurs or an accident happens.

·         Look to hire an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist ( www.isa-arbor.com ), a Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) Accredited Business or one employing a Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) ( www.tcia.org ) or a pro with a similar designation that tells you that they have passed an exam to demonstrate knowledge in the specific field of arboriculture. Some states have their own programs like the New Jersey Certified Tree Expert program. Each individual will have their own certification number for identification.

·         Never allow a tree to be pruned by someone wearing spikes to aid in their climbing. These methods are outdated and create small wounds in the tree that never help the trees health in any way. Other methods are available to all climbers.

·         Cutting the top off of a tree (topping) is another poor practice. If someone recommends that this be performed on a healthy tree to make it “smaller” or “safe,” it is a red flag that tells you to look elsewhere. This may be appropriate to deal with a dying tree or help reshape an ornamental, but not for large, healthy hardwood trees.

·         Ask for references. Any quality company will be happy to put you in contact with a list of satisfied customers.

·         Check their Web site. Though a Web site can be manipulated to give a look that may be a façade, it still may provide clues as to the level of professionalism you might expect.

·         Ask questions as to how the job will be approached and what equipment they feel is necessary for your job. This step could avoid an awkward moment when you see a large aerial lift driving over your newly planted annuals to get into the backyard. With the aid of today’s search engines, you can also verify the practices that are being recommended are truly appropriate.

·         Get at least three estimates. I say this not only to be able to compare price, but also to help you gain insight into your specific needs. One company may explain that the tree will take three days and need to be climbed, while two others will smile and explain that it is more routine than that and will only take a few hours with the use of special equipment.

·         Ask if the crew will be using hardhats and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to help protect them while on your property. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that PPE be used for any tree care operation. PPE is also recommended by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Use of PPE will also give you insight into how professional the company is.

Resources for Learning More

Many jobs around the yard can be handled with a little bit of knowledge and the proper tools. Use the Internet to help you gain that knowledge and follow the manufacturers recommendations found in the instruction manual before operating any power tools. In order to reduce the risk of injury, you need to recognize your personal limitations and enlist the services of a pro when the job is beyond your capabilities. There are many great ways to save money, however, endangering your life and those around you is definitely not one of them.

For more information, including resources to help you find a tree care service, visit www.treesaregood.org or www.treecaretips.org.

About Mark Chisholm

One part acrobat, one part expert rope climber, one part tree physiologist, and several parts competitor and thrill seeker, Mark Chisholm is a third-generation arborist with his family-owned Aspen Tree Expert Company in New Jersey. His expertise in tree care has made him a sought after consultant and industry spokesperson for the world of arboriculture, and he regularly travels the globe to consult with international arborist associations.

Sponsored by STIHL, Chisholm has won every International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) New Jersey Chapter Tree Climbing Championship for the last 18 years and has conquered the wider tree-climbing world on two occasions, most recently in 2001, when he won his second ISA International Tree Climbing Championship. He will compete for the 2010 International Tree Climbing Champion title in July 2010. Chisholm currently holds the world record in the 50-foot secured footlock climbing event, with a time of 13.8 seconds.

About STIHL Inc.
STIHL Inc. manufactures the world’s largest selling brand of chainsaws and produces a full line of powerful, lightweight, and versatile handheld outdoor power equipment for homeowners and professional users. STIHL products are sold through servicing power equipment retailers from coast to coast— not mass merchants. STIHL products sold through U.S. STIHL dealers are for distribution in the U.S only. For more information or for the name of the closest STIHL retailer call toll free 1-800-GO STIHL (1-800-467-8445) or visit the STIHL Web site at
www.stihlusa.com .

STIHL is also pleased to support the work of International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund) , National FFA , the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) , the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).


  • Seasonal Landscaping Tips
  • Special Offers from Your Local STIHL Dealer
  • Guides & How-To Videos
  • Maintenance Tips