Don't let a guy in a pickup drop that oak on your house

Laurey W. Glenn

Whenever Judy and I see Ed's pickup truck headed down our street, we hide in the back yard. If we don't, he gets out, tells us we need some tree work done, and hands us his business card. It reads, "Ed's Tree Service. Licensed and Insured by [the Big Guy Upstairs].

No disrespect to the Big Guy, because he always listens when I complain and has not yet responded with a bolt of lightning, but this endorsement is a red flag. It means Ed doesn't have a license on Earth, no worker's comp if he cuts off his hand, and no insurance to rebuild your house after the tree he's cutting falls the wrong way.

We really did need tree work done. Two trees in our back yard had died due to a terrible drought we'd had a year before. One was leaning towards a neighbor's play set. Another was close to our house. There were also some junk trees – blackjack oaks – in my woodland garden I wanted removed so I could plant something better. This meant hiring someone experienced who wouldn't just drop the trees wherever and crush my good plants below.

I did a bit of research on the web and found a good company called Precision Tree Service. They showed up one morning last week with a crew of four, a bucket truck, and a trailer to haul the debris away. I had already marked the trees to go with blue spray paint and asked the guys to do as little damage to other plants as possible.

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And what do you know? They did. The whole job took about a half-day and the cost was very reasonable. They hauled off every bit of debris. I'd recommend them to anyone in the Birmingham area.

What You Must Ask For

Never hire tree work done on price alone or because the guy who just knocked on your door looks friendly and says he goes to church every Sunday. Look for these qualifications. (The Big Guy approves.)

  • He has a license to do tree work in your town or city. If he doesn't, anything that goes wrong is on you. This is a deal-breaker.
  • He has workman's comp and is bonded and insured by a company on Earth. This protects you against damage to your property and injury to workers and other people. This is a deal-breaker too.
  • His business is in good standing with the BBB and has no complaints lodged against it.
  • His business is certified by a professional organization, such as ISA (International Society of Arboriculture). This ensures proper training.
  • He is willing to provide references of satisfied customers.
  • He offers free estimates.
  • He tells you up front what forms of payment he accepts.
  • He gives you a firm date for the work. Bad weather may delay the work, but other than that, he'll be there when he says.
  • The price for the work includes clean-up and removal of all debris.

Gee, now all that work is done, I wonder if Ed'll stop at our house the next time he drives down the street. Bet you he will. He'll probably point at my crepe myrtle and say, "I could top that for you."

No, thanks.