Questions to Ask Your Tree-Service Pro

Q: What credentials does a good tree guy have?
A: Some states have licensing programs for arborists, and the International Society of Arboriculture offers certification and training. But when you're hiring, don't rely on credentials alone. Get referrals, of course, and ask for before-and-after pictures of their work. "Call their former clients and ask if you can visit," says Herbert. And make sure your pro is bonded and licensed in your state.

Q: How do I know if I need to remove a tree?
A: "Look for rot or decaying spots on the trunk, like where a branch used to be," says Wiggers. Other bad signs include bare, droopy branches and leaves that crinkle at the edges. Deciduous trees that drop leaves in the fall earlier than similar trees could be suffering stress or infection.

Q: Should I ever take down a healthy tree?
A: "In some cases, a sun-blocking tree with lots of surface roots should be removed," says Wiggers. Certain species, such as sweetgum and silver maple, tend to have surface roots, but most trees can develop them, especially if they're grown in shallow soil or near water. "Such trees topple more easily when there are strong winds, and they'll choke out other vegetation over time."

Q: If I take down a tree, won't I get standing water in my yard?
A: It's highly unlikely. "As a general rule, vegetation and grass absorb more water than a tree," says Wiggers. So removing a dead tree can actually speed water absorption. Of course, the sinkhole where the stump was removed should be filled in and graded so it won't collect water.

Q: Can felled wood be cut up for firewood, furniture, or mulch?
A: In many cases, yes—but it depends on the tree's type and condition. Ask your tree pro for advice, and he'll give you suggestions about what to do with the wood.
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