In the days preceding last week's storm we received an incredible amount of calls requesting preventive trimming, limb cutbacks, and tree removal. Property owners were rightly concerned that overgrown trees, sick trees, and dead trees were likely to fail or drop heavy debris during the storm. The problem for tree companies is time and resources. After the storm hits, work is largely based on emergency needs. Before the storm hits, there is already scheduled work for new customers as well as preventive work for maintenance customers. Storm work involves crews working extended hours under extreme conditions which drives labor costs upward. Waiting for a storm, before scheduling tree work is very likely to dramatically increase customer cost. Storm work may continue long after the rain and wind have passed. Trees may fall as a result of soil failure rather than the immediate result of wind. Drought-thirsty soil can't handle excess water and losses the ability to securely hold trees. In other words, this entire season is, in a sense, a giant storm
The answer to storm preparation is to call a licensed tree company with an on-staff certified arborist, now. Problems must be addressed in advance of the next storm to allow time for the work to be done and to prevent additional cost. A free estimate from Bud's Tri-County Tree Services is, well, free. If you think that one of your trees is likely to be a hazard during the next storm, now is the time to get a professional opinion.
Trees react. When crowded, younger trees will often grow at an angle to escape the shade of larger neighbors. Similarly, trees also react to long drought cycles by growing roots nearer the surface in order to capture available moisture. When heavy rains finally arrive, tree without good deep roots are susceptible to falling. These occurrences result in the entire tree simply uprooting and falling intact. Generally speaking, very old established trees have endured enough drought and flood cycles to have developed a reliable root system. While its not always the case, age is a pretty good indicator of a tree's ability to survive. Failures due to soft, rain-drenched ground often occur without much warning. Take a moment and study the trunks of trees around your home. Get a weekly perspective of the trunk against a fixed object like the corner of your house. If you notice a trunk tilting even slightly, call an arborist.
There's not much we can do about ending the drought but we can reduce some of the risks by watering properly throughout the year, using fertilizer injections when appropriate, trimming for weight reduction and access to sunlight, and minimizing water, soil, and nutrient competition for our trees.
Let's pay attention to our trees during these current rains. If you have question, please give me a call: 1(800) CUT-TREE.
A particular type of ornamental tree is very popular with developers in the Sacramento area: the Bradford Pear. The Bradford is inexpensive and grows quickly, giving a "treed" look to new homes but the tree is a disaster for home owners. Bradford Pears are notorious for falling apart. The trees are naturally bad, poorly constructed, and prone to major limb failure. Relatively mild winds can break apart a Bradford Pear. Unlike most trees, Bradfords tend to fail at the crotches of their larger limbs, which means they can't be pruned back to health. A major break allows the importation of disease and denies the tree needed foliage. The Bradford may be immediately good for the developer but it is a homeowner's long term disappointment.
The answer to a Bradford Pear is to replace it with one of several sturdy, reliable, beautiful ornamentals that are well-suited to the Sacramento area. Price differences between the Bradford and other ornamentals are negligible. Certainly, a few dollars per tree matters to developers but that's rarely a problem for a homeowner shopping for a tree or two. The longer you keep a Bradford Pear, the more growth-time you are denying the replacement tree. Don't waste years on a bad tree. If your Bradford is freshly out of the nursery bucket, you can shovel it out yourself and choose a nice tree from your supplier. Of course, any tree big enough to fall on top of a person, building, or fence will require professional removal. The sooner you act, the less money you'll spend and the less disruption to your yard.
I wish all our friends and valued customers a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Naturally, we all want to know how much something will cost before we're willing to commit to a purchase. Our office staff typically gets a couple of calls each day asking for "a ballpark estimate" for tree services. The problem is that no two trees are identical and neither are any two job sites. The pricing for tree work depends on several factors.
Location of the work site: Driving time adds cost to any job. Some sites will require access to waste collection facilities.
Specific work to be performed: Trimming a tree is like a haircut, it really depends on how much needs to be removed.
Type of tree: A nice mature Red Oak may be quite a bit larger and heavier but a Monkey Puzzle can cut the climber and crew into bloody ribbons.
Size of tree: Trees are like people, the tallest ones are not always the largest. The amount of brush, distance the climber must ascend, and the girth of the wood to be handled, all matter in the estimate.
Health of the tree: A dead tree that has been left standing for awhile may be extraordinarily dangerous for a climber. The wood can shatter like glass and without warning. Old dead trees may require some bracing or the use of a bucket truck.
Disposal method of wood and brush: Getting the wood off the property is time consuming and can involve disposal fees. Chipped brush also requires dumping and may take multiple trips away from the job site, depending on the size of the job.
Stump grinding: Stump removal can be done through chemical application or the use of a stump grinder. Grinder time depends on the type of wood, girth of the stump, and the amount of surface roots. Chemical treatments are similarly calculated but don't involve the removal of grindings.
Drop zone under the tree: Whatever is removed from a tree must be dropped or lowered by rope. Any obstacle that requires special protection or prevents the crew from moving under the tree will increase cost.
Access to equipment from the tree: Cut brush has to be taken to the chipper and wood must be carried to the truck. Distance matters not only for time but for the endurance of the ground crew. In some cases, a small front-end loader can be used if there is sufficient access.
Likelihood of customer property damage: Fragile items under a tree or nearby windows involve risk and must be part of the estimate.
Weather: We work in all weather but extreme heat and heavy rain will delay job completion.
Requirement for specialized equipment: Cranes, loaders, stump grinders, bucket trucks, chemical applicators, and log trailers may increase cost. In some cases, their judicious use may decrease cost by limiting man-hours.
Permits required: Most jurisdictions require owners to get a permit before removing certain trees. In some cases, the permit application must be done by the tree service.
Customer's desired timeline: Odd hours require special scheduling and a lack of notice may require the rescheduling of pending work.
Electrical lines and water mains: Electricity kills climbers every year. Tree companies must consider potential damage to utilities and danger to employees before beginning any work.
Current workload: Work that fits into a company's schedule will be less expensive than work which disrupts other commitments.
Considering the above, no reputable tree service can give an accurate phone quote. The good news is that no reputable tree service will charge a fee for a written estimate.
There are several things a potential customer can do to lower service costs:
Be responsible to clear the work area from around the tree to the street. If a tree company must transplant your bushes, move your mediation garden, carry your furniture, cover your pool, remove your sprinkler heads, pick up your dog manure, roll up your hose, remove your bird houses, lift your statuary, or remove your fence, the job is going to be more expensive.
Keep the wood. Tell the estimator the amount and piece-size you are willing to keep. Check with friends who need firewood or call local churches and charities who may collect the wood for free. The less wood the tree company must handle and transport, the less you will pay.
Keep stump grindings for mulch. Grindings are simply a wood and top soil mix, usually suitable for flowerbeds.
Be flexible in scheduling work. Let the company schedule your job with other work in your area, saving you from bearing the entire travel cost of a truck and crew.
Get your own permit if possible. Estimators want to sell and compete jobs rather than file paperwork for potential jobs.
Be willing to talk candidly with your estimator. If the quoted price is more than you are willing to pay, ask for alternatives. In many cases, customers can reduce the amount of money spent on tree work with a little preparation.
If you have any questions, advice is always free: 1 (800) CUT-TREE.
Many homeowners complain during the warmer months of trees dripping "sap." Unfortunately, its probably not sap. Sap is likely to drip only after the tree has been cut. Typically, evergreens and mulberry trees are the worst offenders for dripping sap after cutting or pruning. The glue-like liquid of which many many Sacramento-area homeowners complain is a sugary water substance produced by insects. The excreta is called honeydew and the insects are aphids. Aphids can weaken trees and make them more susceptible to disease but it is the summer production of honeydew that makes them such a destructive pest. Honeydew can destroy car paint, discolor sidewalks, stain fabric, and attach to shoes and outerwear. Afflicted trees are easily spotted from a distance because they will appear to have wet shiny leaves during the dry summer months.
The cure for aphids is a licensed chemical application injected into the earth around the tree. February and March are the best time of year for application. In the event the homeowner misses the window for routine treatment, a licensed applicator can treat for aphids by using an additional treatment that accelerates the tree's absorption of the preventative. In those case, results can be seen within 7-10 days. The earlier treatment protocol is naturally a bit less expensive.
Consumers should be aware that argi-chemical treatments require a specially licensed applicator. The possession of the necessary aphid chemical treatments are restricted by law. Regrettably, many vendors skirt the law by using either colored water or hardware store insecticides. Verify that your applicator is licensed to dispense treatments.
Trees need an inordinate amount of water. A good-sized tree may draw a few hundred gallons of water on a hot day. As you look across any Sacramento lawn, you'll notice the absence of standing water; the fight for water is below the surface. Grass, shrubbery, and trees are fighting for every drop of common ground water. Grass will grow back, shrubs tend to be durable and are, at least, easily replaceable. Trees are not. Your fifty year old oak can be fully replaced but not in your lifetime. In terms of illness, disease, and life-cycle, trees are more like mammals than they are like grass. Past a certain point of decline, a tree cannot be restored. The answer is prioritizing water.
Clear grass and other plants from the base of your tree. The more cleared earth you can afford the tree, the better the tree's chances for an adequate water supply. Obviously, you can't reasonably remove all the grass from under the canopy but clear a 24" ring around the base of the tree. Large trees will benefit from greater cleared space. Position sprinklers to water the earth around the tree (within the tree's drip-line) instead of the lawn. Water needs to be under the tree but not on trunk. Even twenty minutes of light watering every other day can make a difference for most trees. Freshly planted trees require a bit more water.
Fortunately, trees are tough and tend to be long-lived, which means they have excellent survivability. We're going to continue to lose trees during this drought but we're losing more than we must. Prioritizing your outdoor water-use may be the extra bit of help your favorite tree needs to get through dry times.
If you have any questions give us call; advice is always free and we're happy to help.
Many home owners debate the necessity of using a tree care company, much less one under the supervision of a certified arborist. It's a reasonable concern. In some cases, tree care may be expensive and many homeowners are comfortable doing their own outdoor work. However, tree work is not gardening. Every year, skilled and experienced tree climbers die in the performance of routine tree work. Insurance companies consider tree care (even ground work) to be very high-risk. More than that, trees are complex organisms, the largest living things on earth. Unschooled cuts on a tree invites infestation, disease, dropped limbs, and ultimately may destabilize a tree to point of failure. Rose bush failure means the bush blows over and petals scatter across your yard. Tree failure, on the other hand, may mean the physical destruction of your house.
What about an unlicensed "tree guy?" Well, there's plenty of them in the Sacramento area. They don't pay for worker's comp, decent wages, licensing fees, employee training, or industry regulations on equipment. It's tough for a legitimate tree company to undersell the "unmarked" guys. However, the customer's benefit of a cut-rate price are offset by severe risks:
1. Unlicensed contractor's are not under the governance of the California Contractor's Board. Licensed contractors must provide certain consumer protections.
2. When workers compensation insurance is not provided by the employer, the employee may pursue a claim against the customer's home owner policy. Hiring an unlicensed/uninsured company may cost you your insurance.
3. Cutting a tree is not like cutting grass. The amount of foliage, number of limbs, diameter of limbs, and roots that can be removed vary from tree to tree. Appearance is certainly part of a professional arboriculture regiment but so is tree health, longevity, and safety.
4. Proper cleaning of a tree-removal site requires a large box truck and a commercial chipper. A decent used chipper costs about 40,000 dollars. Otherwise, the crew will not be able to remove all the debris. Making a dozen runs to the local dump is simply too expensive. Which is why one of the most frequent complaints against unlicensed companies is filthy job sites. They may want to clean-up after themselves but simply can't afford the repeated dump runs.
The International Society of Arboriculture standardizes best-practices provided by its licensed, insured, bonded, trained, and tested members. Having a certified arborist available to crew and customers saves trees, time, and money. A large amount of tree work performed in the Sacramento area is unnecessary. A lack of understanding as it relates to infestation and disease often results in a tree company suggesting removal when a less expensive treatment option could save the tree.
So, what does all this mean to the homeowner who needs tree care? First, be certain to contact a company with an ISA certified arborist on staff. Verify with the California Contractor's Board (via their web site) that the company is a legal, licensed contractor. Secondly, verify that the company is currently insured--don't settle for a copy of an old insurance certificate. Finally, all estimates for tree work should be free. If a company asks for money to provide a written estimate--run away. Ask if there are less expensive alternatives available; such as licensed chemical treatments, fertilization, and weight reduction. Let the estimator know what you want to accomplish and have him give you a written estimate. Compare estimates and ask to speak directly to a company's arborist if you have any questions concerning the health of your tree or the adequacy of the work to be performed. A little effort, a little research, and you may find that a licensed contractor and certified arborist can save you money, give you some liability protection, and even save your favorite tree.
Stacy W. Barker
Stacy is the owner of Bud's