Arborist: Selection & Services

Trees for Energy Conservation April 22, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

 Arborist in TreeA professional arborist is a person with experience and training in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees. There are two primary types of professional arborists: Certified Arborists and Consulting Arborists. The tree care needs of most home owners are best met with a Certified Arborist, who either performs the work or directs a crew of technicians to do the work. Not every tree worker is a Certified Arborist.

Consulting Arborists work with lawyers, developers, municipalities, and insurance and utility companies to help them address challenges related to trees. These arborists provide advice and expertise for planning and problem solving.

A Certified Arborist has achieved a level of knowledge in tree care through experience and by passing a comprehensive exam. Certification is administered by the International Society of Arboriculture  (ISA). To maintain certification, a Certified Arborist must continue to gain knowledge about tree care through approved courses.

What are some of the services that arborists can provide?

  • Tree health and hazard assessment: Many certified arborists can evaluate a tree's current health, as well as the tree's structure and potential for failure, in relation to the risks failure might pose.
  • Pruning: A certified arborist will be knowledgeable in determining the type of pruning necessary to maintain or improve the health, appearance, and safety of your trees.
  • Tree removal: Removal Is hopefully a last resort, but is sometimes necessary for safety or other reasons. A qualified arborist can help decide whether a tree needs to be removed and how to do so safely.
  • Planting new trees: Arborists can recommend species appropriate for a particular location and the desired function and guide proper tree planting.
  • Tree protection: Some arborists have training and experience in protecting trees during construction work. In addition to designing specific protection criteria for a given tree, they can work with engineers and architects on designing methods to minimize tree loss due to construction damage. This damage often doesn't show up until several years have passed.

Choosing the right arborist for you.

  • Verify ISA certification. Each Certified Arborist has a unique certification number, allowing you to verify current certification status.
  • Ask for proof of insurance and phone the insurance company to verify. A reputable arborist carries personal and property damage insurance as well as workers compensation insurance.
  • Check for all appropriate permits and licenses.
  • Ask for references and follow up with one or more references.
  • It may be advisable to get more than one estimate. Check with other Certified Arborists who are qualified to do the work.
  • Be wary of individuals who go door-to-door and offer bargains for performing tree work.
  • Good arborists will perform their work only to industry-accepted standards and follow prescribed practices for safety and tree care.
  • Discuss the work you would like to have done and have your arborist put it in writing.
  • Don’t hesitate to place all items discussed in the contract, including clean up and any accidental damage to additional trees, landscape, driveways and sidewalks.

Be an informed consumer.

One of your best methods to use in choosing an arborist is to educate yourself about some of the basic principles of tree care. When selecting an arborist, take time to do your homework. A good place to start looking for a Certified Arborist for hire in your area is through the Trees Are Good website.


By: Jay Banks, Four Oaks Consulting, Winchester, VA

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.