How To Hire An Arborist

by Edward F. Gilman, University of Florida

Arborists make a career of  caring for trees in urban and suburban landscapes. They work for companies commonly referred to as tree experts, tree services, tree care, arborists, tree specialists and others. Here are a few tips for selecting a company to work with your trees.

  • Avoid arborists who advertise they top trees. Ask the arborists if they will top your trees. If they say yes, do not use them. See Why Topping Hurts Trees (pdf)
  • Have one or more arborist look at the job, and get a written proposal specifying the work to be done. Consider paying an arborist to write specifications so you can give them to the prospective companies.
  • Ask for and check local references.
  • Be sure the company has the appropriate licenses, insurance and certifications. Some communities require special permits, insurance or certifications for all arborists to practice in the community.
  • Ask them what the ANSI A300 pruning standard and the ANSI Z133.1 safety standards are. Ask if their practices will be in compliance with these two standards. (Ask the same questions about the Nova Scotia or New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Acts and Regulations)
  • Ask them what tree book they have read most recently.
  • Ask them what seminar they attended most recently and when it was held.
  • Beware of an arborist who suggests removal of living trees. Removal of living trees is sometimes necessary, but should usually be considered the last resort after all other options have been considered.
  • Determine if the arborist is certified with the International Society of Arboriculture in Champaign, Illinois. Certified arborists must pass a written test and maintain certification by regularly attending classes. Except for registered consulting arborists with the American Society of Consulting Arborists, membership in other organizations is useful, but no tests or training are required for membership. Members simply pay dues to belong.
  • Ask for verification of personal and property liability insurance and worker’s compensation (or a waiver of worker’s compensation).
  • Low price is a poor gauge of a quality arborist. Often the better ones are more expensive because of more specialized equipment, more professional training, and insurance costs.
  • Know if your state, (province) or municipality requires a specific license or certification for providing these services.