How to Hire a Tree Service

If you need to hire an arborist or tree surgeon to care for, remove or prune your tree(s), there are a few things you should check before you select one.

What is an arborist or a tree surgeon? A Certified Arborist [not just a member but one who is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)] is someone who has demonstrated a basic knowledge of tree care through the completion of a comprehensive exam on tree trimming, care and removal. A tree surgeon is a title that requires no training. A certified arborist must earn continuing education. This helps them keep up to date with the latest techniques for safely removing or caring for your tree(s). Also check to see if the company is a member of professional organizations such as The International Society of Arboriculture, American Society of Consulting Arborists, Tree Care Industry Association or the Florida Arborists Association.

The Yellow Pages list tree-cutting companies (including arborists) under "tree."  Legally no licensing is required for these companies other than a regular Occupational License.  The Yellow Pages does not check to see if the information provided is current, nor do they verify if the company is licensed or insured.  You can find currently ISA certified arborists on an ISA web page. The address is:

Personal and Property Damage Liability Insurance and Worker’s Compensation Insurance are very important. A good company will have certificates of insurance issued directly to you from their insurance carrier. Copies of policies shown to you may be out of date. To determine if a business has workers compensation, contact the insurance carrier listed on the policy you have been shown or the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security. Below is their address and phone number and web page address.  At the Florida Department of Financial Services web page check the proof of coverage database (compliance) section in the Division of Workers Compensation   Bureau of Compliance page.

Florida Department of Financial Services

200 East Gaines Street

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0300

CONSUMER HELPLINE: 1-800-324-2762



A business may have been issued an exemption from workers compensation. A wallet size card will bear the seal of the State of Florida, have an authorization signature and will list the business name, address, the exempted individual and an effective date. Note, having this exemption means that the homeowner may not be protected from claims if a worker is injured on your property.  

Get two or more free estimates of the work you want done. If you need professional advice on what should be done, a consultation fee may be appropriate. Remember, quality of work may be more important than price. Ask them to prioritize what tasks are most important to accomplish your goals (such as which trees are most hazardous or which trees are most expensive) so that you can conform your plan to your budget.
Ask for a complete written estimate of all services they recommend before you sign a contract. This should be on a formal estimate sheet with complete details of all work intended to be performed. This should include tasks such as disposal of debris, cleaning work area, removal of wood or if they will cut and stack firewood.  Finally, you should have a clear understanding in writing as to how your property, driveways and lawns, will be protected from potential damage which may be the result of felling trees and use of heavy equipment.

A special note about stump grinding.  This process generally leaves the client with a large quantity of wood chips which may need to be removed.  Also, if you plan to resod this area, you must remove the woodchips from the hole and backfill with soil prior to resodding.  The party that is to be responsible for this should be decided in advance.

Always have a signed contract with the total dollar amount and completion date of work to be performed. Read the contract carefully before signing, as any document. You should receive a legible copy. This will help protect against possible future disagreements over what services were suggested and agreed to.

Forestry Fact Sheet Number 1 Prepared by
Stanton Rosenthal
Extension Agent/Forestry
UF/Leon County Cooperative Extension Service
Phone 1-850-606-5202
Revised 7/7/10