How to Hire a Tree Care Professional

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We are a couple of weeks into October and our extension office has received a few phone calls regarding tree care. I want to take this opportunity to share a great resource for folks who are needing tree care and may not know how or where to start.

Lucy Bradley, NC State Horticultural Extension Specialist, and Karen Neill, a retired Extension Agent, have written an informative publication called, “How to Hire a Tree Care Professional ” and I will be sharing excerpts from that publication throughout this article.

Trees are one of the first things you notice in a yard because of their size and beauty. Trees can become even more noticeable when they aren’t looking their best. What happens when tree care becomes more than a typical homeowner can handle? This is when you hire a Tree Care professional.

Tree care professionals provide a myriad of services with the goal of protecting your trees. Whether it is disease management, pest management, a fertilizer schedule, or limb removal.


Selecting a Tree Care Professional

From Lucy’s and Karen’s publication, they recommend contacting the following associations below to obtain a list of certified professionals practicing in your area.

arborist in a tree

Mark Chisholm, Aspen Tree Care Company,

International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)

ISA promotes the professional practice of arboriculture and fosters a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees.

ISA offers two certifications including:

  • Certified Arborist: One written exam demonstrating a broad basic knowledge of tree biology, species identification and selection, soils and tree nutrition, planting, pruning, and problem diagnosis and management. It also requires 30 hours of continuing education every three years.
  • Certified Tree Worker: Two exams: an oral test on all aspects of tree care, and a practical exam covering climbing skills and aerial rescue procedures. It also requires 15 hours of continuing education every three years.

Tree Care Industry Association

TCIA provides accreditation and certification services. The organization has developed sets of standards for pruning and other techniques widely used in the industry today.

The American Society of Consulting Arborists

This society is for practicing arborists who specialize in advising, diagnosing, recommending treatments, making an appraisal, and offering legal testimony in court. This requires an academic foundation and extensive work experience.

North Carolina Board of Registration for Foresters

Registered foresters focus on the management of forests and wild lands for wood, water, forage, recreational opportunities, and wildlife. Certification requires a B.S. in Forestry or six years in the field and passing an exam. You also have to get ten hours of continuing education credits each year.

Notice the associations listed above all require experience, education, certifications, and professionalism.

From the Tree Care Professional publication, Lucy and Karen state that certifications, insurance, and references are things that you should ask the professional to provide. None of these things require money to provide, so do not be afraid/intimidated to ask!



Another good point from the publication talks about developing a contract. This is what prevents misunderstandings and assures that the work performed will meet the homeowner’s standards. Things a contract should include:

  1. Beginning and end date.
  2. A clear statement of work being done. For example, “Prune all dead, diseased, and damaged branches in the 3 oaks located in the front yard”.
  3. Specify the work that will be done according to the ISA’s standards.
  4. If a tree is to be sprayed, get a written statement of what is being sprayed and how much.
  5. If fertilizer is applied, specify the amount, method, and where it is being applied.
  6. Specify what clean-up work will be provided.
  7. Clarify what happens to the waste material.
  8. Clarify if tree removal includes stump grinding, backfilling the hole, and planting grass.
  9. Clarify what is the absolute total dollar amount to be charged. Leave no room for misunderstanding or confusion.


According to the Tree Care Professional publication, homeowners should be cautious of people soliciting work door-to-door without identification on their vehicle, uniform, or ID card. “Door Knockers” tend to come out after a storm when there’s an opportunity for quick money. After a storm, it is even more crucial to do your homework on a tree care professional if you have storm damage to your tree. This is because your tree has already been compromised by the damage and can create a high-risk situation for both the worker and the homeowner.

I also encourage you to be wary of tree care services that offer “topping” to your trees. Topping is never a recommended pruning practice and there are much better pruning options available. Tree Care professionals that have an arborist certification, or other certifications previously mentioned, know the correct pruning and thinning techniques appropriate for trees and none of those include topping!

You can find local arborists by going to the Trees Are Good website, which asks you for your state and zip code to find the closest arborist to your location.

Do not trust just anybody with your trees, do your research and ask the right questions to ensure your trees are properly cared for.

Hiring a Tree Professional guide

General Pruning Tips