408 867-0143 | Since 1973 | ISA Certified Arborist
Saratoga Tree Service

Choosing a Qualified Tree Service



Selecting the right tree service to meet your budget and tree needs is not always as easy as it might seem. A complex may contract with three of four companies before it finds one that it is happy with. Asking questions about the company and it’s work before you contract will save you some future headaches.

Their qualifications

Are there ISA Certified Arborists and/or ISA Certified Tree Workers on the crews? The ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) gives exams for these qualifications and sets tree industry standards accordingly. These standards include ethics, trimming quality and more. [top]

Proof of insurance


Both liability and workman’s compensation insurance are very important. Think, for a brief moment, of the possible consequences of damage or injury occurring on your property as a direct result of services provided without the insurance coverage of your contractor. Assuming they have coverage, or even taking their word for it, can be risky business. [top]

Ask for references

Contact references given and inquire about their overall satisfaction with the services provided. Ask if you can look at work recently completed by the company. If this is possible, what should you be looking for? Understandably, you are not an Arborist but there are some basics that are easy to see.


These include the following


  • Was the natural shape of the tree maintained even after trimming?
  • Are there any visible tears, rips or stubs left from pruning cuts?
  • Was the work site left clean? (no wood or debris left)
  • Were personal items that were moved during the work period put back in their places?
  • Did any property damage occur and was it reported by the company? [top]

Their practices

  • Do they use climbing gaffs for trimming?
  • Do the climbers understand and implement target pruning to the branch bark ridge?
  • Will the crew respect the individual property owners and their yards?
  • What type of clean-up can be expected?
  • Will blowers be used for the final finishing touch?
  • Do the climbers use hand tools for precision clean cuts or do they make all the cuts with a power chainsaw?
  • How much experience do the actual climbers have that will be doing the job?


These are all valid points that you need to know. It is quite common to end up with long term problems in your trees, because of inept trimmers.


Poor clean-up is also a big complaint. If branches are left in peoples' yards, or excessive leaves and debris are not removed, then you, as the property manager, are going to hear about it.


Improper trimming or stub cutting will cause the tree to "sucker out". When this happens, you will need to trim the tree sooner to keep it safe, and consistently more often from there after. In other words, if the tree company makes these mistakes, you will pay for it through increased maintenance requirements.


If your trees are trimmed correctly, they will not need trimming as often. If the trees are allowed to grow and become what they are meant to be, they will be larger, but healthier. [top]

On-site Concerns Questions concerning the company’s approach to there work habits are also important to ask.


Some examples


  • Do they arrive on site punctually?
  • Are the crew members polite and informative?
  • Is loud or abusive language used that might upset homeowners?
  • Do the workers and their equipment present a professional appearance?


Last but not least, the techniques used for tree work are very important aspects of the contract. These two questions will show the contractor that you have some knowledge of proper pruning techniques.


Do the climbers use climbing spurs for trimming? The answer should be no. Climbing spurs create wounds in the bark of trees and should only be used in removals. An experienced climber does not need the aid of spurs to get up a tree.


Do the climbers know how to make the proper pruning cuts? That is, do not cut flush to the trunk or leave a stub, but rather use the branch bark ridge as a guide.


Taking the time to research the different aspects of tree work will not only improve your chances of finding a good contractor, but it will also protect your trees from damaging pruning techniques. [top]

Industry Standards

There are standards set forth by the International Society of Arboriculture, for proper pruning techniques. Refer to these standards in your requirements for bidding and chances are, you will get a better job. But do not just leave it up to the contractor to tell you the job is being done correctly. Learn for yourself what the proper job entails, and check the work early. [top]

What is ISA?

The I.S.A. stands for International Society of Arboriculture. This is an organization that has helped this industry in many ways. Information, teaching, seminars, magazines and general public education are just a few. [top]

Certified Arborist?

A certified Arborist is someone who has a minimum of three years experience that has been documented by another Certified Arborist. There is also an examination that proves competency and the Certified Arborist must maintain continuing education credits every year. Certified Arborists are not always climbers or work in the trees. [top]

Certified Tree Worker?

A certified Tree Worker is someone who has worked for a Certified Arborist for at least eighteen months and has passed an oral test for competency. A climbing examination of skills are also required as well as safety skills such as rescue techniques is needed. Continued education credits are also required to maintain this certification. [top]



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