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tree removal: why is it expensive?

An arborist must factor in numerous challenges which will be reflected in the tree removal costs that you'll see on a proposal.

Large tree with decay creates ALOT of debris to remove

First Consider the Tree Itself

Size of tree: Obviously if it is a tiny tree, it will not cost much, however you can expect to pay a minimum charge for the tree company to come to your property. The bigger the tree is, the more expensive the price. If removal requires any equipment in addition to the standard chipper and trucks, such as a crane, this cost will be passed on to the customer as well.

Stability of the tree is the main determinant of safety, which will also affect the cost. As a tree declines, becomes weaker and weaker, and therefor less stable, any added pressure or weight during the removal process could unexpectedly endanger life and property . 

A tree professional will factor this risk into the price. Have your trees evaluated as soon as you notice there is die-back, deadwood in the tree, many limbs on the ground, or decay on the trunk.

If you are looking to buy a property, have just moved in, or even if you’ve lived under your trees for years now, having a certified arborist visit and give you a professional opinion on the health of individual trees will give you a strategy for future tree care and costs. Doing so will help eliminate surprises. You may have trees that need to be removed right away, those that require monitoring, and some that would benefit from pruning.

Bottom line: Get it done sooner rather than later! If it is evident to an arborist that a tree in decline needs to be removed, the cost will likely increase over time as the tree becomes more unstable. Subsequent weather events will continue to degrade the tree and it's natural decay will progress. For this reason the estimate you receive will have an expiration date.

Tree between two close houses

Location of the tree--all these factors and more contribute to tree removal costs

  • It is close to other trees
  • Close to the house or other structures
  • Close to power lines, or even have utility lines running through the tree
  • It is up a hill, or down a hill from access points
  • It is in-between houses or buildings
  • Has a road underneath, with potential traffic issues

The degree of clean-up should be reflected in tree removal costs: There are generally four kinds of clean up:

  1. Leave all debris—a big mess, and I don’t recommend it.
  2. Rough clean up—remove all wood and debris, but no final rake up (forest & field situations)
  3. Leave all big wood—great option if you burn wood or have friends who can use it and you are willing to split it.
  4. Remove all debris—Your best option for no hassle. The only thing left will be the stump. Tree professionals are also great at cleaning up since they do it every day.

This job required a Crane to lift the tree over the building

Tree Removal Costs Will Vary with the Expertise and Level of Professionalism

Experience of the tree professional will translate into a higher estimate. An arborist who has been in the business for many years has amassed a huge variety of tree removal experiences—every tree take-down is different and requires a different approach. You will pay for a more experienced arborist, but you will also have more assurance that the job will be done well.

Overhead—Tree companies use expensive machinery, and of course well qualified tree companies carry liability insurance to protect themselves, you, and your property from the financial disaster of a unexpected event.


—Just as with the insurance industry, the tree professional assesses the risks involved and will price the job accordingly. A healthy tree with little or no defects situated away from buildings or permanent landscaping will cost less than an older decaying tree poised above your roof. 

Dead Pine Tree--less safe than when alive

• Akin to a home inspection, prospective home buyers are advised to get their trees inspected to get a sense of the dangers that may be hovering above the home in consideration. Tree care costs could come into play when negotiating the price of the property.

• If you or a friend are very handy with chain saw, wood splitter, or splitting maul, you can ask for the wood to be left for you to clean up. It may save you a few hundred dollars and you'll be saving money on the purchase of wood in the winter.

• Don't wait until the tree is less stable, it will usually cost more!

• Get several tree removal estimates especially for large trees. Use your best judgement regarding choosing a tree service. You don't want to be left with a messy work area or damaged property that costs you extra time and money. Usually we find that our company is very competitive with other qualified tree services (those with certified arborists and many years of experience). This can help you decipher if your the tree care costs in your estimate are reasonable.

• Plan ahead to have trees pruned as a preventative measure to guard against failure of branches or the entire tree.

• Budget money for tree work just like for roofing, painting, and upgrades.

Post script:

Recently I listened to NPR and heard they were collecting stories regarding the hidden side of jobs--what nobody knows regarding, I believe, food production. I immediately felt solidarity with this thought regarding my own work. Tree removal is challenging mentally & physically and very few people have the skills and knowledge to do it. Tree removal costs are high for larger trees because it's a huge amount of physical work for workers, a great deal of debris to handle, and dangerous work. 

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Make sure you hire an ISA Certified Arborist® for your tree care! Here's what to look for...

Charlottesville VA Tree Service

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