Tips for saving money on tree services

May 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Hiring someone to cut down and remove a tree can cost a homeowner thousands of dollars. We asked three owners of local, long-established tree service companies for tips on reducing or eliminating that expenditure.

Their first recommendation: Consider letting the tree stay.

“A lot of times, I try to talk people out of cutting a nice tree down,” said Harold Ebert of Ebert Tree Service. “Sometimes they want it gone just because they don’t want to rake leaves.”

It seems like bad strategy, to talk people out of cutting down trees when your business makes money from cutting down trees. But Richard Drake, owner of Drake’s Tree Service, also lectures homeowners on the benefits of saving a healthy tree.

“Trees enhance property value,” Drake said. “Trees are nature’s air conditioner. A large healthy tree makes it 20 to 25 degrees cooler in summer, so you save energy. If it’s in the southwest corner of your property, you’ll save (heating) energy in the winter because it’s blocking the wind.”

Drake said most requests to take down healthy trees are for “litter bug” trees, such as oaks dropping acorns, and sugar gum dropping “little landmines.”

Recommendation 2: Get free estimates for tree removal, but don’t expect to get them over the phone.

Mark Haymaker, owner of Haymaker Tree Lawn, said location and access affect the price.

“We have to go out and look at (the tree), see if we can get equipment to it, what’s in the yard, if there’s a sprinkler system,” Haymaker said. “Is there a septic tank, a gate? Can we drive on the ground? Can we just drop it or do we have to rope every piece down?”

Surprisingly, the size of the tree — which consumers may think is the most important factor in determining price — is of negligible importance.

Estimates from different companies can vary wildly, and Haymaker warns consumers to be sure they are comparing apples to apples.

“You can get goofy prices. I’ll give an estimate for $1,800 and (the homeowners) say they got a price from someone else for $600. Usually that $600 price is from a company not following the rules. They’re not certified, they’re not insured, they’re not paying workmen’s comp.”

Haymaker said homeowners could be sued if an uninsured worker is hurt on the job.

“Homeowners should be adamant about asking a tree service before they do the work to show the proof of insurance and workmen’s comp,” Haymaker said.

Recommendation 3: Be careful who you hire, check credentials, and don’t pay in advance.

“Never, ever pay up front. If you pay someone and they take down one limb and leave, you can’t get your money back,” Drake warned. “You should have a written contract on what’s going to be done. Pay when it’s done.”

Recommendation 4: Ask about discounts.

Haymaker offers a small off-season discount.

“We’re busy year round,” Haymaker said. “But we’re busier now than the dead of winter, so I give a discount in winter to keep my crews going.”

Drake said it’s cheaper to have two trees taken down at the same time, than to have the tree service come out twice.

“There’s so much cost in the initial startup, getting crew and equipment out, especially with the cost of oil and gas today,” Drake said.

Some companies, including Drake’s, offer a DIY discount if homeowners want to do the log chopping and stump grinding themselves.

“It saves us a lot of time and labor if we just put it on the ground and leave,” Drake said. “But what a mess it makes for the homeowners.”

Recommendation 5:  Keep trees healthy and whole to prevent the need for removal.

Ebert said the key is proper pruning.

“If a branch gets too long, it may put too much stress back where the branch comes off the trunk,” Ebert said. “You get a lot of ice or heavy snow on it, and it splits off.”

Ebert recommends thinning trees and removing dead limbs to prevent wind damage.

“If it’s thinned, in a high wind the air goes right through,” Ebert said. “Maple trees especially have lots of leaves on  them, and a good hard rain and a thunderstorm — when the wind hits that tree it’s like hitting a wall. It can split and part comes down and the tree is just about ruined.”

Comments are closed.