Learn to plant and maintain strong, healthy trees that will thrive for generations.

How to Hire a Reliable Tree Care Company

If you cannot prune your tree with both feet on the ground, stay safe by hiring an expert and avoiding the ladder! 

Improper tree work can cause serious damage and may end up costing you significant time and money, so hire a tree care company as if your tree's life depends on it.

When a tree is maintained with proper pruning and care, it will extend the life of the tree, which increases the many benefits it provides to our community like cleaner air, cooler temperatures, higher property values, and healthier neighborhoods.  

Ensuring the Best Care for your Mature Tree

What is a Certified Arborist?

Certified Arborists are specially trained in tree care and carry an active certification number from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

A Certified Arborist can help you understand your tree's needs and perform the work required to keep it healthy.

Find a Certified Arborist in your area and be sure to ask for their certification number to verify their credential

What is a Consulting Arborist?

Consulting Arborists are authorities in matters related to trees and can provide objective appraisals, evaluations, and diagnostics.

Many Consulting Arborists do not perform tree work themselves. Instead, a they can give a valuable second opinion if you have a complex tree issue or potential costly treatment. This additional opinion can help you decide on a course of action before hiring a tree service to do the work.

Consulting Arborists can also provide expert recommendations for protecting trees in construction zones or legal advice and testimony in court.

Search for a Consulting Arborist in your area on the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) website. 

When hiring a tree care company: 

  • Remember, a business license alone does not guarantee quality work or proper insurance.
  • Check their references. Speak with previous clients and ask for the location of trees they have worked on recently to give you a visual of their work.
  • Get more than one bid and examine the bid specifications to make sure you are comfortable with the details.

Before hiring a professional

Check with your city or county to see if a tree permit is needed for pruning or removal.

City of Sacramento Urban Forestry

County of Sacramento Tree Coordinator

Questions to ask before hiring

Are you certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA)?

  • Verify the ISA or ASCA credential number they provide

Can you provide proof of liability insurance?

  • The insurance policy should cover personal and property damage as well as worker's compensation protection for their employees

Will you top my trees?

  • If yes, hire someone else! Topping is a dangerous and damaging practice and should not be performed on your tree. 

Will I be charged for the estimate visit or consultation?

  • Before you make an appointment, learn if there will be a consulting fee for advice about the trees on your property.

What and when was the last continuing education class or seminar you attended?

  • Certified Arborists must attend continuing education classes to stay current on the best tree care practices.

What type of volunteer work do you do?

  • The best arborists use their credentials to give back to the community

Request a proposal

You can provide specifications for the work you want or ask what they recommend. Either way, request a written proposal giving details on how the work will be done.

Always request a proposal from more than one company. 

Be sure to clarify:

  • Absolutely no topping of live branches or lion-tailing
  • Absolutely no climbing spikes will be used unless the tree is being removed
  • Pruning cuts will follow ANSI A300 Standards
  • No more than 25% of live tree canopy will be removed at one time. Removing too much foliage can stress your tree and result in unwanted and unattractive growth. 

Important information to know before work begins

A well-pruned tree, like a good haircut, may appear as if no work was done at all. It's not about how much foliage is removed, it's about removing only the right foliage from the tree.

Be sure to clearly define the objective before work begins.

  • Examples: reduce risk of tree or branch breakage, provide clearance, maintain tree health, improve appearance, etc. 

Terms to know

The first priorities of pruning mature trees are: reduce risk by removing weaknesses; ensure strong structure by guiding future growth; create clearance. Below are some terms you should know before any work begins on your tree.

Structural pruning

Structural pruning removes branches that are poorly attached to the tree to reduce the risk of branch breakage. This can also protect trees from storm damage by removing dead, weak, or broken branches. Pruning cuts should be as small as possible to allow them to close and heal faster.

This practice is appropriate for trees of all ages.


This practice can lead to dangerous conditions and should be avoided.

Lion-tailing occurs when too much foliage is removed from the inner two-thirds of a branch and not from the tips of the branch. It leaves the branch mostly bare with foliage only at the end - looking like a lion's tail.

Lion-tailing transfers weight to the ends of the branches and may result in damage like sunburned bark, water sprouts, cracks in the branches, and weak branch structure.

Over thinning

Removing too many branches within the crown of the tree often results in them growing right back where they were, but with weaker structure.

Proper pruning keeps the appropriate crown shape and should give an even distribution of foliage throughout the crown. 

Reduction cuts

Reduction cuts are done through the selective shortening of branches to create clearance and direct branch growth away from buildings or signs. Removing weight from the ends of branches usually causes the branch ends to raise up. Reduction cuts can provide clearance without removing the entire branch.

Not all tree species can be reduced. Old, stressed, or mature trees could become stressed if too much foliage is removed.

Per organizational policy, the Sacramento Tree Foundation does not endorse private arborists, tree care companies, or consultants.

If you have questions about hiring a Certified Arborist  or reliable tree care company, contact us at (916) 924-8733 or TreeTips@sactree.com.