Choosing a Tree Surgeon

With so many companies to choose from it is important to take your time when considering which Tree Surgeon to employ. Tree Surgery is a highly specialised discipline which requires knowledge, skill and experience.

Inadequately qualified or inexperienced Tree Surgeons may not only cause irreversible damage to your trees, greatly increasing the likelihood of hidden future problems and costs but could also cause damage to property or harm to individuals whilst carrying out the work.

According to the International Society of Arboriculture:
“Proper tree care can lead to substantial returns. Well-cared-for trees are attractive and can add considerable value to your property. Poorly maintained trees can be a significant liability. Pruning or removing trees, especially large trees, can be dangerous work. Tree work should be done only by those experienced, trained and equipped to work safely in trees”.

Tree work operations (Arboriculture) require a high degree of technical competence, supported by training and experience. For these reasons tree work should only be undertaken by well trained, competent Arborists who hold adequate insurance.

Genuine or not?

Anyone can call themselves a Tree Surgeon (Arborist) and place a large advert in Yellow Pages or on the internet and offer a service. An advert alone does not guarantee quality of work or that it will be carried out safely.

Competent Arborists will have certificates which show that they have been trained and assessed. They will often have other academic qualifications in arboriculture and will use safety equipment to protect you, your property and themselves.

Reputable tree care companies will be pleased to provide copies of their insurance, qualifications and professional membership certificates and will work to nationally recognised standards.

Questions you should ask an arborist

Stage 1: Asking for a quote (a reputable Arborist will always give a positive response)

1. Are you insured? If yes, please show evidence of insurance - Public Liability and Employer’s Liability.

2. Do you work to a British Standard? If yes, which one? Should be “British Standard 3998: 2010 Tree Work Recommendations” Enquire about their understanding of the document.

3. What qualifications do you and your staff hold? You should ask to see copies of certificates. Compulsory: Must have NPTC certificates for chainsaw use. NPTC is a national organisation that assesses the competence of people using chainsaws and other Arboricultural equipment. Competent Arborists will be able to show you either an A4 sized certificate and a plastic id card and not just a certificate of competence. Recommended: Certificates for other skills and machines like Professional Tree Inspections or stump grinders, respectively. Arboricultural knowledge e.g. National Certificates and Diplomas.

4. Will you provide a written quotation? If no, reject this contractor. You can’t be sure then what you are paying for.

5. Ask them how they will approach the job. Do they convince you that they are working with safe methods?

6. Are you a member of a professional organisation? Membership does not guarantee work standards but does show a degree of commitment and interest in the most up to date information and techniques. It normally involves an annual fee to be a member. The International Society of Arboriculture, Arboricultural Association and Bat Conservation Trust are some examples.

7. Can you provide me with the phone number of a referee who can show me some of your work? If yes, follow up the lead.

Stage 2: Choosing the quote that suits you - When you receive your quotations check they include the following before deciding which one to accept:

  • The name, address and land-line telephone number of the company.
  • Reference to the British Standard for tree work, BS 3998: 2010.
  • Clear and full details of the work to be undertaken
  • What will happen to the debris
  • Whether VAT is included in the price
  • If the trees are protected, who will be responsible for obtaining permission for the work?
  • What steps will be taken to protect you and your property. Have they considered the risks?
  • Terms and Conditions. What will be done if a problem arises?
  • Are all quotes provided “like for like”; do they specify the same specification in other words? You may be provided with a cheaper quote but does it simply deliver instant gratification or does it really represent better value for money in the long term?

Things to avoid

If you find any of these points it is likely that you are not dealing with a reputable tree surgery company:

  • Soliciting work door to door
  • Advertising "topping" as a service - topping is harmful to trees, can lead to future damage to your property and good Arborists will not carry it out
  • Uses only a mobile phone number or cannot be traced to a permanent address


Remember too that Tree Surgery is a highly specialised area. Companies that also offer drive laying, fencing, landscaping or general garden maintenance may be very good at these things, but may not have the necessary expertise to undertake tree work safely and competently or may be sub-contracting the work to genuine Tree Surgery firms and charging you a fee to do this.