Tree Surgeons

In This Article

Here is a hypothetical situation. You have called up a few local tree surgeons (aka tree doctors or arborists) and immediately got discouraged when they told you their rates, especially the minimum call-out fee which on average is £400. So you thought to yourself, “how can something like this be so expensive?”


Well, you are right to ponder whether these prices are extreme and consider if it is right to pay up to £3000 for a hedge trimming or tree-felling project. However, these prices are significant for a reason.


Tree surgeons are skilled professionals. Their job may seem like general gardening services, but it is much more than that. Tree surgeons are specialists who use professional equipment and have a great knowledge to work with specific trees.


tree doctors


That is the key difference from other gardening services and why the rates are high for tree arborists. They are necessary for the job because of their ability to deal with and understand the legalities of working with specific trees.


If you don’t know what I mean by “legalities of tree removal,” a qualified tree surgeon will tell you that it is illegal to cut down a protected tree. Another reason to pay for tree surgery services is that mistakes made while trimming or removing a tree can affect the health of the tree and nearby trees.


Then there is the biggest reason which is safety. You can’t just leave a damaged, diseased, or overgrown tree to keep affecting the appeal of your garden or endanger lives and properties. However, you do not want to handle it yourself because you know it is a dangerous task that requires the right gear and experience.


So taking this all on board will help you clarify why you need a tree surgeon. But some good news for you. It is not as expensive as you first thought. Depending on the type and scale of the job, you may not spend as much as you initially expected. Also, the call-out fee is deductible from the final charges.


And in this article, we will provide estimates for different job types along with everything else you may need to know about dealing with tree surgeons and the process.


How much do tree surgeons charge?

Job Cost (£) Duration
Tree pruning 100-400 ½-1 day
Small tree removal 400-500 1 hour to ½ a day
Large tree removal 700-3000 ½-1 day
Hedge trimming 90-120 per hour 1-2 days depending on size
Hedge removal 100-500 1-3 days depending on size
Garden clearance 40-60 per worker per hour Few hours to 2 days depending on size
Stump removal and grinding 50-200 ½ a day or less, depending on size
Waste disposal 50-150 Depending on size

As you can see from this table, tree surgery costs vary depending on the type and scale of the job. These factors determine the number of people, working hours and the equipment needed to execute the job.


Tree surgery is not a one-person job. It takes a team with each member contributing to different tasks. For example, one person may do the cutting while others help to direct the fall. This team could consist of both tree surgeons and other labourers.


A tree surgeon charges about £40 to £60 per hour. You can expect to pay the rates on the higher end in places like London. Meanwhile, the rates of the labourer will be lower.


Many tree surgeons work in a 3-man team. You may see more or less but at minimum two team members. So at a rate of £40, you will be paying £80 per hour to a 2 man team; £120 per hour to a 3-man team and £200 per hour to a 5 man team.


What are the cost factors that affect what tree surgeons charge?

Here are the factors that affect tree surgeon costs.


The size of the tree

The bigger the tree, the higher professional tree surgeons will charge to trim or remove it. While assessing the trees, the tree surgeon will consider its height and width. Each of these conditions will affect the number of people, effort, hours and types of equipment needed to take care of the tree removal.


For example, while handling a tall tree, they might require climbing tools and for a wide tree, they might need powerful cutting tools. All of these affect costs, especially if they have to hire special equipment.


Tree species

The tree species will affect the size parameters from earlier (tree height and width). It will also affect strength, growth rate and maintenance needs of the particular tree. Take a great oak tree or an apple tree as an example. Each of these trees will require a different level of labour, necessary equipment and working hours to time or fell.


The health and condition of the tree

A sideways leaning tree will require a different type of attention and equipment compared to an upward standing tree. However, by health and condition, this is whether a tree is healthy, damaged, or diseased. Any of these three cases will affect tree surgeon costs in their own way.


For a damaged tree, the surgeons will have to be extra careful to avoid injury to life and property. For a diseased tree, they will have to ensure they do not contaminate other trees. Caring for or removing healthy trees will be easier and cheaper compared to all of those discussed above.


Location and accessibility

Location means two things in this scenario. Firstly, it means your location and as discussed above, people in places like London will have to spend more when hiring a tree surgeon.


The second meaning of location is the location of the tree and how accessible it is. Tree surgeons need to be able to access the tree easily to do their job properly. They will need to be able to position themselves and their tools strategically close to it. That could be difficult if the tree is too close to buildings, pathways or power lines.


They will also have to take extra care to avoid damaging those properties. So for any of these cases, expect tree surgery services to cost more.


The scale of the work

When it comes to the scale of the work, this could mean how many trees you want to hire a surgeon to take care of. It could also mean how much work you want done on an individual tree. For example, it will be more expensive to care for an overgrown tree. Likewise, felling a tree and leaving the stump in place will be cheaper than removing tree roots.


In fact, scale (i.e amount of work needed) will also vary depending on the job type. So, when hiring a tree surgeon, the cost will vary depending on these factors.


Types of tree surgery jobs and costs

Now, that you know the cost factors, to get the best rates, you should let the tree surgeon inspect the tree(s) first before discussing the price. In fact, a professional tree surgeon will want to do this before providing you with a quote. Until he completes his inspections which include a tree survey, they will not know the best way to handle the tree or to charge you.


tree arborists


While doing this inspection, they will collect information about the following: the tree species in the area, the age, health, measurements, leanings, potential hazards, root protection area, canopy spread and obstacles of each tree. Only after gathering his details will he decide the best line of action, the equipment needed and then your fee. Apart from tree surgery tasks, the surgeon will also give you tips for caring for your garden space and trees.


Tree trimming costs (£100-£400)

Trimming is the process of cutting off parts of a tree or hedge such as the branches, leaves and crowns. The main reason for this is to encourage growth. By removing those parts that are damaged, necessary or diseased, new and healthy branches and leaves will sprout to replace them.


However, there are subtle differences in the reasons for trimming. These differences result in the various types of caring techniques, most of which most people see as different from trimming, for good reason.


There is tree pruning which is more selective, designed to remove parts that are deemed unnecessary to a certain desired growth rate or shape. There is also tree pollarding which attempts to ensure a tree grows wider and denser instead of taller by removing the largest branches. Another option is tree looping which is mainly about shape.


Small tree removal costs (£400-£500)

The biggest factor affecting tree felling costs is the size of the actual tree. The larger the tree is, the more time, money and equipment are needed to remove it. As we discussed earlier, for a small tree, removal cost will be lower and the entire project could be completed in an hour or less. You may even be tempted to take on the task yourself. However, it is still better and safer to hire a professional tree surgeon, especially when dealing with diseased trees.


Large tree felling cost (£700-£3000)

Compared to their smaller counterparts, tree removal costs for larger trees are much higher as It will take a bigger team, more equipment, skills and working hours. Let’s use large ash trees as an example with the assumption the tree is sideways leaning.


In this situation, the tree surgeons may decide to fell the tree branch by branch instead of using a great cut to the trunk. For higher branches, they may need climbing tools like cranes, cables, harnesses, cherry pickers and ladders. They may also need other power tools that need to be rented. At the end of the day, there will also be a lot more fallen debris to dispose of. All these factors will affect the cost of tree removal.


Hedge trimming cost (£90-£120)

Hedge trimming serves the same purpose as tree trimming. However, for hedges, the intent is mainly towards encouraging density by curing off the upper branches. Just like tree trimming,  hedge trimming costs will also vary. They will also require trimming frequency. Once a year may be enough in the beginning but matured hedges will need more frequent trimming. 


Hedge removal cost (£100-£500)

The same rules for the cost of tree removal also apply here. Like trees, hedges also have different root systems and growth rates depending on the type of hedge. Root removal for hedges can be even more complicated and might require specialist tools like excavators.


Garden clearance cost (£40-£60)

The average tree surgeon will offer all kinds of garden clearance services. With their knowledge and tools, they are the perfect person to call when you need major work done on your garden. These include regular hedge and tree trimming, tree surveys, weeding, and removal of dead and diseased branches or dead and dying trees.


As always, the cost will vary. However, you should go into the project with a regular hourly rate of the tree surgeons.


Tree Stump removal and grinding cost (£50-£200)

After feeling a tree, you may decide to leave the stump in place. This will save you some money because removing tree roots and stumps can be expensive and it’s also exhausting. Remember that rooting systems may differ with each type of root. Also, you may not want other trees and plants disrupted in the process of uprooting another.


The stump could also serve a purpose (maybe as a seat) until it finally rots. In such cases, stump grinding is a cost-effective alternative, at about £3 per inch for the diameter of the stump. It removes the root plate, which ends the chance that the tree may resprout.


If the diameter of the stump is less than 5 inches, you may be able to grind it yourself. However, it costs £75 to hire a stump grinder. So it may not be the most cost-effective option.


How to find a professional tree surgeon

The best way to find any service is through recommendations and this applies to tree services. You can ask loved ones, colleagues, and local nurseries. They can also help you with the question of “how much do tree surgeons charge?”


However, you still have to do some cross-examination of tree surgeons, no matter how you found them. The following tips may help:

  • Ask for their licenses and certifications: most will have RFS, ISA, City and Guilds Phase II, AA Tech, NC(Arb) /ND(Arb) or HNC/ HND/ FDSc. certifications.
  • Ask if they belong to official bodies like The International Society of Arboriculture or Arboricultural Association (AA)
  • Ask about their insurance policies; remember that this is a dangerous task so it is important that all parties are covered.
  • Ask about past projects: pictures and videos will help.
  • Ask for references
  • Get written quotes from 3 t0 5 different tree surgeons: compare the rates, qualification, experience and professionalism.

The legalities

Here are some rules and regulations of tree surgery that you need to know about:

  • Property rights: If the tree is on your property, you are responsible for it. But if the tree is not on your property yet the branches are encroaching, you have to remove the encroaching parts without the consent of the other party. However, in either case, you are liable for anything that happens during cutting down the tree.
  • Felling licenses: You need a licence from the forestry commission to remove a tree that is not in your garden space.
  • Tree Preservation Order (TPO): This is an order that protects trees. You cannot remove these protected trees unless they are dead, dying, diseased or hazardous.
  • Planning rules and conditions: These rules protect trees around recently completed properties and building sites from being cut down. You can find out about it from your local council in charge of the planning commission.
  • Conservation: You need permits before you can cut down a tree in a conservation area, especially in the case of a large tree.
  • Restrictive covenant: This is an agreement that restricts what you can do on a property, including tree removal. It stands even if the original signatories have sold the property.

FAQ

How do I know that a tree is diseased?

Here are indicators that a tree is diseased. If you notice any of the following, the affected branches or in some cases the entire tree will have to be removed to protect others.

  • If the leaves look dehydrated and discoloured that is unrelated to changes caused by the season
  • If the branches, leaves and trunk is decaying. The situation is probably worse than you can see in this case because tree decay always starts from within and takes a while for the signs to reach the surface.
  • If there are holes, cavities and cracks in the bark
  • If the branches are dead or dying. You will find they break easily in this case.
  • If tree roots are detached
  • If the tree looks structurally compromised and asymmetrical 

What is a tree survey?

A tree survey is an inspection undertaken by a qualified tree surgeon to identify the tree species and the details of each tree in a location including how you can treat them by law. It provides the age, health, measurements, leanings, potential hazards, root protection area, canopy spread and obstacles of each tree. It also includes a map showing the location of each tree.


Using this information, you (the property manager or landowner) and the tree surgeon can review tree protections laws like tree preservation orders (TPO) to determine the legality of your project. The local planning authority can also use it to review and approve planning applications.


A tree survey usually costs from about £250 to £350. If you want to know more about it, check out the “BS5837:2012 British Standard for Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations.”


When should I contact a Tree Surgeon?

You should contact a tree surgeon when you think a tree needs professional attention to prevent it from endangering life or property. It’s best to get in touch if you need someone to care for your trees and garden.


This could be because the tree is diseased, dead, infested by pests, damaged by storm or impact. However, it is not only compromised trees that need attention. You can also call a tree surgeon for tree pruning and other trimming services for a healthy tree.


What about waste removal costs?

Some tree surgery quotes do not cover waste removal. In fact, you can remove the waste removal option as this will make the service cheaper. However, after the job is complete, all the tree debris needs to go somewhere and it may cost around £50 to £150  to get rid of them.


There is another option, which is to repurpose the waste as mulch. To do this, you will need a wood chipper and smaller branches and foliage work better. Wood chipper hire could set you back by about £100 per day.


You can also chop larger branches for use as firewood or to make them easier to transport and dispose of. As always, the size of the tree and job will determine the amount of waste you will be dealing with. Just ensure you check whether your contract with the tree surgeon covers waste disposal.


How often should I have trees trimmed?

Once every three to five years.

The frequency depends on the type and growth rate of the particular tree. It’s always best to ask the tree surgeon for advice on that specific tree species.


Should I cut dead branches off a tree?

Yes as this will allow room for new and healthy branches to grow in their place.

Remember that this is one of the reasons why tree trimming exists. Plus, if you don’t get rid of dead branches, they will affect the health of the entire tree and other nearby trees. 


How long will a dead tree stand?

A dead tree will stand for as long as it can. In some cases, it could be days, weeks, months or even years.


The problem is you may not even know when the problem started, so there is no way to know how long the dead tree will stand. However, that also means you don’t know when it will fall naturally. So, it is better to take matters into your hands instead of waiting for a potential disaster to happen.


How can I save money on tree removal?

There are four major ways to save money:

  • Get multiple quotes and go with the best deal
  • Handle the preparation and waste disposal part of the project yourself. This way, you will only have to pay to have the tree cut down.
  • Choose stump grinding over removal.
  • You can put leftover wood chippings into other use

 

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