Tree surgeons or to give them their proper title, ‘Arborists’, deal with the cultivation and management of individual trees and shrubs. This contrasts with the work of a forester or logger.
Why would you hire one? Many properties have ornamental gardens surrounding the buildings. Sometimes the trees or shrubs grow out of control and present a threat to the structure and stability of underground utilities, building foundations, or above–ground buildings.
Whatever the reason, you need to call in a tree surgeon to deal with the problem.
But, how much do they cost? And, what qualifications do they need? Let’s hope we can cover these questions in the remainder of this article.
For now, let’s just say that an arborist needs specialist qualifications, training and equipment so don’t expect a cheap job. Furthermore, the cost of tree removal from your garden will cost anything from £400 to at least £3000 including VAT. Let’s face it, this is a large range and initially, probably not very helpful. But, the cost of cutting down and removing a tree depends on many factors which we’ll go into later. You’ll then be able to compare the prices of standard solutions with your specific problem.
Tree roots can be very invasive and damage property foundations. Moreover, they can also find their way into underground sewage pipes looking for water. Or, can break underground gas pipes or electricity cables. Consider this, if you plant a sapling a reasonable distance from your house, then after 20 or 30 years you might find a tree encroaching on your walls. Or, it’s grown so high, it’s interfering with overhead electricity lines. The tree might even be nearing the end of its life and in danger of falling onto your neighbour’s property.
How much do tree surgeons charge?
Okay, if you phone an arborist, he or she needs to come and look at the job before giving a price. Many factors affect how a professional carries out tree surgery. It would, therefore, be impossible to give anything but a general price without looking at the tree.
What needs to be in a quote?
To calculate the costs and put together a comprehensive quote, the arborist must consider the following factors.
- How many trees need work? It will be cheaper to manage many trees at one go rather than individually.
- How big and what type of trees? If the trees are mature, the arborist may need a climbing harness, cherry picker or other access equipment. Some trees are stronger than others and will be able to support more weight.
- Will you have to remove the roots? Some tree species have problematic roots systems. Some are easier to remove than others.
- Their location. Are the trees near to buildings or in the way of utility supplies?
- Are the trees accessible for a vehicle? Sometimes a vehicle has to carry equipment to the tree. Sometimes they use the vehicle to help remove stubborn stumps.
- How much waste to remove? Trees produce a lot of waste. A shredder chops up foliage and small branches to produce mulch, while the larger branches produce logs. Either the customer uses the mulch on their garden and keeps the logs for personal use or they must be removed from the site.
- How healthy is the tree? The tree may have many pests or diseases which either need to be remedied or disposed of. It’s harder to reuse diseased wood as the problem might spread to other trees.
- Distance to the trees. How far does the arborist travel to the site and how far to the nearest waste centre?
What about a call-out fee?
Some tree surgeons charge a minimum call–out fee. This can be about £400. But, if the visit leads to more work, the arborist will often deduct the call out fee from the final invoice.
A typical tree surgeon’s day rate charge will vary depending on the type of work. Most arborists work as a team of three, each doing different yet complementary tasks. So, to hire the team will cost between £400 and £1000 per day. Having said that the average hourly rate in the UK is about £40 per hour per person. If you’re in London or the area you’ll pay at least 20% more.
We’ll look at the tree surgeon’s costs for each specific job in the following sections. In these scenarios, we’ll assume there’s no waste to remove, plus there will be a team of three persons. Also, unless stated, the team needs to hire no additional equipment to do their job.
Tree felling cost
If you have a large tree to remove, expect the team of three to take between 2 and 3 days to complete. They must take care because the tree might be unsafe and in danger of falling across a neighbour’s property. Exact timing will depend on how close the vehicles can get to the location. Expect to pay about £3000 plus VAT for this job.
Tree removal cost
Removing a smaller tree, say a multi-stemmed birch, will be much easier and will probably take one or two guys about half a day to complete. The usual cost for this will be between £400 and £500.
Stump removal and grinding
You’ve had a large tree felled and it’s left a stump which you must remove. To grind a stump costs between £50 to £100. You can hire a stump grinder for about £80 per day and have a go yourself. However, if the stump is larger than 125mm in diameter you should let a professional do it. They know the best way to finish the job and it might work out more expensive if you do it yourself.
Hire a professional arborist if you have a tree that needs pruning, pollarding or trimming. Trimming and other general tree work will cost about £120 per hour for the team of three to do all work including removing debris. Remember that you might have to pay a minimum charge so expect a bill for about £400.
Tree surgeons don’t just fell trees, they trim or remove hedges, remove conifers, thin out clumps and copses, and often cover general garden maintenance too. The hourly rates depend on the type of work you’ve asked them to do.
What is a tree survey?
Property managers and homeowners need to make informed decisions on what changes they can make to trees on their property. The law protects many trees from felling unless they are seriously diseased or nearing the end of their life. A qualified arborist carries out the survey and provides useful data for the landowner, landscape designer and the local authority. A survey is especially useful and indeed is often compulsory when a developer submits planning permission to the local authority. You’re not allowed to touch certain trees as they increase the value of the land. But, you may remove other, diseased trees before they fall naturally. Qualified arborists work to British Standard BS5837 which relates to trees during the design, demolition and construction phases of any construction project.
A typical tree survey contains the following information on the trees already there.
- Species of the tree.
- Physical measurement, diameter and height.
- An estimate of age.
- Overall health.
- Life expectancy.
The cost of a full tree survey depends on the size of the site being surveyed. If the site has less than 100 trees, prices start at about £350.
How can you tell if a tree is diseased?
A qualified tree surgeon has special training to allow him to recognise a diseased and dying tree. However, there are certain signs you can look out for that will guide you to call in a professional.
- Abnormalities in the bark texture. Tree bark shouldn’t have cracks or holes but should be continuous.
- Dead branches. These appear dry, often don’t have any bark covering and they break easily.
- Decay. Trees always decay from the inside out. So you will only see this if there are holes or splits in the tree.
- Discoloured leaves. When leaves are in season, they should appear healthy with good colour.
- Poor architecture. Every tree has a general shape unique to its species. If the shape looks wrong, call in a professional for advice.
Tree Surgeon Qualifications, Regulations & Planning Permissions
If you’re going to spend out on having your trees looked after and maintained properly, make sure the arborists you use have recognised qualifications and accreditations. There are two accreditation schemes you should look out for.
Both these schemes provide ongoing technical competence assessment and oversee the business competence of tree surgery companies.
There are a few recognised qualifications that your arborist should have, in addition to the practical experience necessary to do the job properly. They probably won’t have all these, but one or two will be good.
- RFS Cert Arb. This is the Royal Forestry Society Certificate in Arboriculture. It shows a high level of practical competence and technical understanding of tree care.
- ISA Certified Arborist. This is the International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. They must have a high practical and theoretical knowledge of tree care. This qualification differs from the others in that it requires ongoing education to keep the arborist’s knowledge and skillset relevant.
- City and Guilds Phase II. The C&G Certificate in arboriculture provides an exam and ongoing assessments in practical and technical skills.
- AA Tech Cert. The Arboricultural Association Technician’s Certificate targets supervisors, tree inspectors and technicians. It shows significant technical knowledge and understanding of the subject.
- NC(Arb) /ND(Arb). National Certificate or National Diploma are two and three year full–time courses. They provide both practical and theoretical knowledge.
- HNC/ HND/ FDSc. Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma are two to three year full–time courses and provide practical and theoretical knowledge at a higher standard to the NC and ND qualifications. The Foundation Degree has now largely taken over from this.
- PD Arb (RFS). The Royal Forestry Society Professional Diploma is a very high–level technical qualification showing considerable technical and theoretical knowledge.
All tree surgeons must carry out their work to British Standard BS3998 ‘Recommendations for Tree work’. Also, they must be aware of the Local Authorities’ and Government’s regulations on tree preservation orders. Basically, you’ll need the council’s consent before doing any work on them. Similarly, although trees and hedgerows don’t come under Building Regulations, they can affect foundations and utility services. Some species can even affect foundations up to 20m away.
The Woodland Trust provides information about trees in the UK and what regulations cover them. Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) protect specific trees or woodlands from deliberate damage. If you have to fell a tree, (with permission from the local council) you must plant three trees in its place.
The Forestry Commission provides information on all aspects of tree felling and issues licences for felling.
The Local Authority issues TPOs, and a tree surgeon must have a licence to work on a protected tree.
Tree Surgery FAQs
How much do tree surgeons charge per hour?
Tree surgeons charge about £120 per hour for a team of three (£40 per hour each). They will also probably apply a minimum charge, which may be anything up to £400.
Will homeowners insurance pay for tree removal?
Your insurance will cover you for any damage to your home from falling trees or branches. However, insurance won’t normally pay for tree surgery and removal or payout for damage caused during maintenance by a tree surgeon. Having said that, the Arborist’s insurance cover should be enough to cover any damage caused by his workmanship or even by an accident.
What is the difference between tree trimming and pruning?
Tree trimming shapes the tree and ensures the tree or hedge has perfect growth, whereas, pruning removes dead and diseased branches so that the tree can flourish properly.
How often should trees be trimmed?
This depends on the species of tree. Every tree grows at a different rate and what is good for one may not be good for another. Generally, you should trim trees every 3 to 5 years. However, always ask a qualified tree surgeon to trim your trees as they need cutting properly according to the species at the correct season.
Should I cut dead branches off a tree?
This is known as pruning and is one of the reasons to prune a tree or shrub. The tree must have dead branches removed to remain healthy. But, removal must be done skillfully so that disease and rot don’t find their way into the healthy wood. Although you might be able to cope with an ordinary rose bush, always ask a qualified tree surgeon to prune trees.
Get tree surgeon quotes
It’s a skilful job to maintain trees and shrubs and requires qualifications, experience and a deep understanding of how a tree grows. Therefore, always use a qualified tree surgeon or arborist when maintaining your trees. So, complete the form at the top of the page and you’ll receive 3 to 4 tree removal price quotes from specialists in your area.