Crape murderThere are several very important practices that, when followed, tell you that you are working with a tree service you can trust with your trees — and your wallet.

Certified Arborist. A tree service that deserves your business has a Certified Arborist on staff to ensure that the proper work is done, and that the work is done properly.

Safety. Tree work is very dangerous for the climber, the workers on the ground, and even for pedestrians nearby. A good tree service ensures a safe environment for everyone who is in or around the tree. At a minimum, every worker on the job follows these three safety rules:

• Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a helmet (in the tree and on the ground), ear protection, and other gear when appropriate. If the workers aren't wearing helmets on your job, ask them to stop the work until they put helmets on.

• If there are power lines near the tree which pose a danger, the tree service will have the power company drop the lines before their work is started.

• Make sure that cones or tape block off the area from pedestrians.

Insurance. A reputable tree service carries two kinds of insurance: liability and workers' compensation, and is happy to show you their certificate of insurance upon request. When you look at the certificate, check the expiration date to make sure it is current.

Ordinances and Permits. A good tree service obeys local laws and ordinances, such as those that require a permit for removing a tree. In some cities (including Atlanta, Decatur, and Brookhaven), you and the tree service can be slapped with a hefty fine if a tree is removed without a permit.

Protecting Your Trees. You can always tell if a tree service cares about trees by the way they get up into them. If they are wearing leg spikes during a pruning operation, they obviously don't care about the tree. Leg spikes are bad for trees.

Protecting Your Yard. A good tree service puts down plywood or uses another method to protect your driveway, lawn, and landscaping from damage by equipment or falling branches or logs. Ask ahead of time what kind of damage is expected. You may get different answers from different companies.

Property damage. A reputable tree service will take responsibility and fix or pay for damages that happened while they were working on your property.

Clean-up. A good tree service cleans up thoroughly when the job is done. You should not have to clean up behind them.

Payment. No reputable tree service would ask you for a deposit or to pay for a job ahead of time. Don’t pay for tree work until you are satisfied that the job is complete!