Navigating the troubles of tree removal

Paul McKenzie, N.C. Cooperative Extension
Sep. 07, 2013 @ 10:08 PM


My parents recently lost a huge poplar to a lightening strike. In some ways they were glad to see it go. “It drops things on the lawn all year long” complained my mother, who loves spending time in the yard tending her flowers. And it’s true, poplars drop large flower petals in the spring, copious amounts of leaves in the fall, and various seeds, twigs and flower parts at other times.

Removing the monstrous tree was an expensive hassle. Mom and Dad live on a small urban lot, and the tree was in the back corner. I don’t have the full report, but I imagine the removal involved multiple cranes and possibly a large helicopter. Having an army of workers tromp through the yard dropping large limbs onto the newly planted viburnums is nerve-wracking.

I doubt it will surprise you to learn that my father is a wise and thoughtful man. Like me, he graduated from the great State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, although he chose the engineering route. He approached this tree removal enterprise with the care you expect from a retired engineer.

He started by asking friends and neighbors for tree service recommendations. With three or four names in the hat, he invited each to provide an estimate (reputable companies will do so at no charge).

Cheaper is not always better, of course, and I’m certain dear old dad asked tons of questions, and also critically observed the dress and demeanor of each. Knowing my father, I’m sure he also noted the condition of their service trucks. Clean? Orderly? In good repair?

With a final candidate in mind, a bit more research was called for. Tree work can be risky, with potential for property damage (including to your neighbors!) or injury to workers or bystanders. A reputable company will have insurance to cover those risks, and will happily provide proof.

Dad no doubt asked lots of questions during the initial “interview.” What equipment will you use and how will you access the site? Is the equipment likely to damage my yard or driveway, and if so who will pay for repairs? Does the price include clean up and stump removal? Before signing the contract, he confirmed that all agreed upon stipulations were duly documented.

I suspect many tree workers would just as soon do their work without spectators, but you are within your rights to observe (from a safe distance, of course!). It may allow you to suggest slight changes in procedure that could prevent problems or damage.

Payment, in my opinion, should not be required until all the agreed upon work is completed. In my dad’s case, the largest section of trunk could not be removed until a day or two later, so he waited for that work to be done before signing the check.

Finally, while perhaps not essential for a removal job, any significant tree pruning should be supervised by a certified arborist. I’m certain my wise and handsome father would agree.