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Arborists are specialists in the care of trees. They plant, prune, fertilize, manage pests and diseases, and remove trees. There are times when home owners realize that their trees are in trouble and that professional help is required. If your tree leaves are yellow, small, withered or have blotches on them, or if they have many insects and chewed leaves, or if limbs are dying or dead, you probably need an arborist. Also, you may need help if there has been significant storm damage, or if you are planning construction at your home.

Hiring an arborist deserves the same consideration as choosing a contractor to remodel your home. So, you want to secure a professional. Reputable tree professionals usually belong to a professional association. There are several, including the Illinois Arborist Association, the International Society of Arboriculture, the National Arborist Association, and the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

I.S.A. Arborist Certification is a nongovernmental, voluntary process by which individuals can document their base of knowledge. It operates without mandate of law and is an internal, self-regulating device administered by the International Society of Arboriculture. Certification provides a measurable assessment of an individual’s knowledge and competence required to provide proper tree care. There is a list of certified arborists in the Tree Body Resource File at the Palos Park Public Library. That list of forty four certified firms which provide arborist services in this area is a place to begin your search.

Twelve Tips For Selecting An Arborist *
1. Check in the phone directory, usually under Trees, Tree Service or Tree Care Service. Although anyone can list themselves in the yellow pages, a listing at least indicates some degree of permanence.

2. Beware of door knockers. Most reputable companies have all the work they can handle without going door to door. Door-knockers are especially common after storms when non-professionals see a chance to earn some quick money. Often, storm damage creates high risk situations for both workers and homeowners, and there is opportunity for even more damage to trees and shrubs if work is not done correctly.

3. Find out if the arborist is certified through a local certification program or the International Society of Arboriculture. ISA’s program is available to arborists nationwide and requires appropriate training, experience, and knowledge as evidenced by successfully completing a standardized application and testing process.

4. Ask for certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage (such as your house and your neighbor’s), and workman’s compensation. Then phone the insurance company to make certain the policy is current.

5. Ask for local references-- other jobs the company or individual has done. Take a look at some, and if possible, talk with the former client.

6. Determine if the arborist is a member of any of the professional organizations. Membership does not guarantee quality; but, lack of membership casts doubt on the person’s professionalism.

7. Never let yourself be rushed by bargains (“If you sign an agreement today, I can take ten percent off the price...”). And, never pay in advance.

8. Have more than one arborist look at your job and give you estimates. Don’t expect one to lower a bid to match an other one. Be willing to pay for the estimate if necessary; but, two or more opinions and cost estimates are worth your extra effort.

9. A good arborist will offer a wide range of services (pruning, fertilizing, cabling/bracing, pest control, etc.).

10. A good arborist will recommend topping a tree only under rare circumstances (such as to save the tree after severe damage to the crown, or for the decorative effect of pollarding in a formal setting or restricted space).

11. A conscientious arborist will not use climbing spikes if the tree is to remain in the landscape.

12. Beware of an arborist who is eager to remove a living tree. Removal clearly should be a last resort.

* TREE CITY USA BULLETIN No. 6 National Arbor Day Foundation Quoted with permission.