Down Trees: DIY or Call a Tree Guy? How to Decide

By Alexandra Nathan

Winter precipitation can make for some lovely snow scenes, but heavy wet stuff and over-icing can weigh down sickly trunks and have them swaying and saying "timber" before you can get Jack Frost on the phone line. So what’s a conscientious backyard warrior to do when faced with the fallen?

Something to keep in mind: According to Jimmy Everett, owner of Raleigh, NC, Everett Tree Service, tree removal companies’ insurance ranking is behind only steel erection in terms of hazardousness—and more dangerous removal jobs can cost more. In other words, this is an unlikely, and often perilous, candidate for DIY.

How can we decode the pros, then? Professional removal estimates include a lot of factors, adds Everett. Accessibility is a biggee. Does the tree have to be craned out over the top of your house or do you have a driveway that gives direct access, for example? If you have a situation with a medium-sized tree with open access, it might take a team of professional cutters 30 minutes to an hour to finish the job. An estimate will include the removal company’s minimum charge--$350 dollars at Everett Tree Service, for example--then you’ll pay an additional hourly rate depending on the kind of extra tools required (cranes, etc), and relative danger, of work. "There isn’t anything standard. Fallen trees are like snowflakes, every one is different," says Jimmy Everett.

Below are some questions to ask yourself to determine if removal by your own two hands is possible, and red flags that you need to call in the professional removers.

1. Is the carnage anywhere near electricity or phone lines? If so, NEVER attempt it yourself. In fact, make sure you and your family stays well clear of the area and call the pros—and the electric company—immediately to avoid extremely dangerous electric shocks and surges.

2. Is your house affected? When your home is involved, always make sure to get your insurance company on-site ASAP to assess the damage, and double check your homeowner’s info booklet—most, if not all, of a professional service can be covered with many insurance plans. Attempting self-removal can create more damage to your home, so this is definitely a time to call in the pros.

3. Is it my tree? If not originating within your property lines, consult your neighbor’s insurance policy, as well as your own, and your state’s laws before making removal plans to make sure you’re covered.

4. Is the tree partly or wholly on a road? If transportation veins are involved, it is essential to call the city to set up removal, since the township is responsible for all road maintenance.

5. Have the experience with a saw and the truck to haul off the carnage already in hand, plus the tree in a clearing, and clearly on your property? This might be the time to take advantage of the free firewood! Mechanical engineer George Finn takes you through a 10-video online instructional on how to safely de-limb and add to your fireplace stockpile.

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