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Why shouldn't I choose a tree surgeon based on price alone?

Tree Surgery is a specialist trade and it takes several years of training and experience to be fully confident in carrying out tree work. At times, this can be very complex and requires a good level of judgement and expertise. Professional tree surgeons make large financial commitments in training in arboriculture, the use of chainsaws, equipment maintenance, climbing, aerial rescue and much more. It is a dangerous trade if procedures are not followed correctly and the danger to people and property is high if those carrying out the work do not have the appropriate training, experience and equipment.

As a reputable company with over 40 years' experience of working with trees, we feel that the rates that we charge are very fair and certainly not overpriced. They are based on experience, the high standards to which we operate and a veritable passion for trees. It is interesting, therefore, to hear from some people that we have quoted for that they have 'managed to find a much cheaper quote'. The old adage 'you get what you pay for' springs to mind and a good analogy would be the difference between flying First Class with British Airways or flying with a budget airline!

Here are a few questions and answers which may be of interest to you:

Why shouldn't I choose a tree surgeon based on price alone?

Good tree surgeons have very high running costs, public liability, insurance, staff wages, tool and machinery maintenance and replacement, training, appropriate uniform etc.. Some operators have none of these costs and as such can quote very cheaply. If not carried out correctly, bad tree surgery can lead to:

  • Injury to people

  • Damage to property

  • Bad tree surgery can often result in long-term damage to the health and appearance of a tree, resulting in higher maintenance in the future or the ultimate removal of the tree as it may be so badly damaged that it sadly may not be deemed worth keeping.

Who is liable if anything goes wrong?

A good tree surgeon will have public and employers' liability insurance (recommended minimum £5 million) which will cover themselves, any employees and any 3rd parties affected by an accident. Some operators very often keep their prices down by by-passing overheads such as insurance premiums. In the event of an accident, the customer may find themselves liable for any incident caused by employing incompetent tradesman on their property.

What qualifications should I check for?

The governing body for tree surgery qualifications is the NPTC (National Proficiency Tests Council). As a minimum, a good tree surgeon will hold the following certificates:

  • CS30 – Maintenance of the chainsaw, on site preparation and basic cross cutting

  • CS31 – Fell and process small trees

  • CS38 – Climb a tree and perform aerial rescue

  • CS39 – Use of a chainsaw from a rope and harness

  • First Aid at Work

Any additional NPTC qualifications, Royal Forestry Society qualifications or degree level qualifications demonstrate more advanced training. Reputable tree surgeons pay a lot of money for their ongoing training; this is generally why they will be more expensive than other operators.

What questions should I ask an tree surgeon?

1. Are you insured?

If yes, ask them to show evidence of their Employers and Public Liability insurance. If they cannot prove their insurance, think seriously before soliciting their services.

2. Do you work to a British Standard?

If yes, which one? They should tell you they work to BS3998:2010 Tree Work – Recommendations

3. What qualifications do you and your staff hold?

They must have NPTC certificates for chainsaw use, both on the ground and aerially. For other NPTC qualifications, see above. Further training and qualifications are recommended.

4. Will you provide a written quotation?

We provide free quotations, which are always confirmed in writing. Some operators do not and we have heard of some people who were charged more than the initial verbal figure confirmed to them. Always ask for a quotation in writing and ask how long it is valid for.

5. Can you provide a reference?

Professional tree surgeons are happy to show you examples of their work and provide references of people they have worked for.

I hope that this information may help you to avoid the high risks involved in employing unqualified operators. At Richardson Tree Surgery, we are confident in the high levels of service that we provide and we are one of many reputable firms operating in and around Cambridgeshire. We are more than happy to recommend other companies to customers wishing to obtain comparable quotations. Remember, with tree surgery, you really do get what you pay for and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The sad thing is being asked to put right a butchered tree when the damage could have been avoided in the first place. More often than not, the damage is irreversible and the tree will never get back its natural form. I would strongly advise not employing any tradesmen who knock on doors. Professional tree surgeons do not have a need to do this and would never do so. Furthermore, there are recommended times of the year when some species of trees can be worked on in order to maintain optimum health and vitality.

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