Frequently Asked Questions
For managing your trees, the first basic questions are probably ‘Who do we get?‘, ‘Are they qualified?’ and ‘What will it cost?’. We tackle these queries below. More FAQ’s will be added in future. If you have a question regarding trees or tree management, please email or call us.
1. Consultants, Contractors & Costs?
When trees are important and need inspecting before deciding on their management, it is often advisable to employ a consultant to report on your trees. Why? Because a contractor (tree surgeon) quickly looking at trees for free on an ‘estimate’ will tend to recommend tree work. A (qualified) consultant will charge an hourly rate to inspect the trees in the detail appropriate, and report on them. That report will include a specification of any priority works genuinely needed – typically that’s just to a small percentage of the trees. Tree work is expensive. As consultants, we work with and/or know many of the best contractors throughout the country. The contractor (armed with our report recommendations) can quickly price the work. We can trust their quality of work; just as they can trust our judgement as to the inspection and works specified.
A contractors (tree surgeons) job, and their passion, is tree work. Not having the time to inspect trees in detail or independently of tree work, they are naturally inclined to recommend work to most trees. As consultants, we can focus on the tree, its site, and tree management – not just on tree work. We believe the key to good tree management is consultants and contractors working together, but each within their own areas of expertise.
Doesn’t it cost more employing both a consultant and a contractor? Often not! Pruning or felling a large mature tree can typically cost 500 to 2500+ Euros. Based on a typical scenario, work to two rather than eight trees is a big saving! Crucially, this approach saves trees, as well as money; and the client is happy and confident that they’ve got the best professional independent advice, and then the best professional tree work they really need. The result: good, informed and cost-effective tree management. The key is a good qualified consultant inspecting the trees, and then (if any tree work is really needed and beneficial) a good contractor undertaking the tree work.
If A = The consultant assessing your trees and advising on tree work (if needed), and B = The contractor who does the tree work.
The cost-benefit ‘Rules’ may be as follows:
1) Don’t let B do A (or A do B!) unless you’ve a small number of trees, you’re clear what you need, and B is qualified and insured to provide professional advice.
2) Pay for the best consultant (A) you can, because they tend to recommend far less tree work, which means B costs less. An unqualified ‘consultant’ or a contractor (tree surgeon) may survey trees cheaply; but tree work is the real cost (in every sense). So, the less you pay for A, the more you will tend to pay for B. And the cost of B (tree work) is usually many times the cost of A.
3) A is a necessary cost (to discharge your duty of care, e.g. to road users). B may or may not be.
Please see the Guide to Qualifications & Careers in Arboriculture published by the Arboricultural Association – available from their website: https://www.trees.org.uk/Help-Advice/Public/A-guide-to-careers-and-qualifications.
Consultants: should hold a degree level qualification in arboriculture together with ample experience; just as an engineer or an architect must at least have a degree in engineering or architecture. In Ireland there are unfortunately still a number of tree companies offering ‘consultancy’ who simply do not have the knowledge, professional approach and expert experience appropriate for consultancy. Qualifications aren’t everything; nor is experience; a high level of both in arboriculture is the only, and best indicator of a competent expert.
Contractors: These men and women do the real work. For their, minimum, qualifications, please see question 4 below.
3. What do I need to do fulfil my legal obligations as a tree owner?
Site owners or managers have a legal duty to regularly monitor their trees to ensure they are not a danger to public safety. It is often unnecessary for every tree on a site to be inspected individually or in detail. A brief site appraisal can quickly identify those areas where trees are of critical importance and/or significant potential hazard to public safety and need assessment. Large trees beside public or frequently occupied areas – especially if presenting symptoms of concern – are advisable to be inspected by a qualified arboriculturist: That’s where we come in. If (and only if) any tree work is really needed, the consultant will specify that priority work; and that’s then where the professional contractors (‘tree surgeons’) come in.
Roadside trees are a particular case. Please don’t fell all your roadside trees out of fear or because you have received a warning letter from the local council. Don’t ignore them either. Roadside trees can be assessed relatively quickly, and generally very few will actually need pruning or felling. The government’s soon to be published ‘Roadside Trees: A landowners Responsibilities’ sets out the simple steps needed to mange your trees responsibly. This was written for the Department by an expert panel convened by the Tree Council consisting of Eileen Woodbyrne, Cormac Downey, and Roy Goodwin.
4. How do I know who is a good tree surgeon and who’s not?
Professional contractors (‘tree surgeons’) are experts in the practical, physical work of pruning, felling and other remedial works to trees. Tree surgery is demanding work, and requires great skill. At minimum, they must have the basic competency certificates (NPTC’s) in the machinery and work operations they perform, and hold public liability and employers insurance. The basic standard for tree work is BS 3998 (2010) and there is now a European Tree Pruning Standard (2021). Good contractors work to these standards, and provide a high quality of technical work and customer care.
Unfortunately, you cannot judge the quality of work of a contractor by how well they advertise or their website, or even how well equipped they are. The best people to ask are probably those in the industry who know the work of contractors but are independent of them, i.e. consultants or local council parks superintendents. The Arboricultural Association do have an Approved Contractor Scheme, but this is at present still in its infancy in Ireland.
Membership of professional trade organisations – i.e. the Arboricultural Association or the ISA – is often some indication of reputability. The Arboricultural Association produce a useful information leaflet on ‘Choosing an Arborist’, available on the their website at www.trees.org.uk. If nothing else, make sure the contractor is insured for the work; and, obviously, never have anything to do with people who offer ‘lopping’ or ‘topping’ or knock on doors looking for work!