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Not all tree companies are created equal.

In fact, many tree companies are little more than one guy with a chainsaw, and provide little assurance that the job will be completed safely and thoroughly. While there are plenty of ethical one-man gigs out there, it can be difficult to tell the difference between someone who operates by industry best practices versus someone who is simply good at selling.

In any case, reliable, self-respecting tree companies will not be afraid to answer your questions.

To that end, we wanted to give you a list of questions that can help you identify whether a given company has their ducks in a row.

1) Ask for their certificate of insurance.

Ideally, if you hire a well-trained team, insurance companies won’t even need to get involved. But accidents do happen, even to the best of tree companies, and you deserve to know up front whether the team on your property is fully covered.

2) Ask what credentials their team holds.

Do they have ISA Certified Arborists on staff? Not everyone who claims to be an arborist has actually received the proper training, so asking to see this credential is one sure way to sift through companies that blow smoke. Is their company TCIA Accredited or at least a TCIA member? TCIA accreditation and membership are two different things, but both are indicative of a company’s dedication to safety and industry best practices.

3) Ask them for references.

This could mean asking for references by other homeowners or asking if they have completed any large-scale projects. Checking the business’s Google reviews is also a good way to get an overall sense of their reliability and track record in the community.

If you want to go into greater depth, industry expert Mark Chisholm has a much more extensive list of questions—although these three sum up what you absolutely must know before hiring a tree company.

Something else to bear in mind, however, is that gathering a certain number of estimates is not the best way to compare value between tree companies. Three small businesses might charge the same amount, but one of them might be run by a certified arborist. Or you might get a couple of very cheap quotes from one-man gigs and a not-so cheap quote from a third, fully insured company. Price is not always the value differentiator, so remember to evaluate each company as a whole—from the time you call to the time the sales representative delivers your estimate. Any lack of follow-through or hesitance to answer your questions can be a warning sign that this is not someone you want to do business with, no matter how enticingly low the price is.

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