We cannot recommend which tree surgeon (arborist) you should use when having tree works done on your property. However, there are signs to look out for which indicate a good quality contractor.

Why choose a professional arborist?

Tree work is a dangerous and highly skilled operation. Choosing an arborist must be done with great care. Picking the wrong arborist could lead to:

  • Injury to people
  • Damage to property
  • Irrevocable damage to your trees

Tree work operations (arboriculture) require a high degree of technical competence which is supported by training and experience. Tree work should only be undertaken by well trained, competent arborists who hold adequate insurance.

Genuine or not?

Anyone can call themselves a tree surgeon (arborist), place an advert online and offer a service. This does not guarantee that the work will be of high quality or done safely.

Reputable contractors will be happy to show you copies of their insurance, qualifications and professional memberships. They will also work to nationally recognised standards.

Questions you should ask an arborist

Stage 1: Asking for a quote

1. Are you insured?

If yes, ask for evidence of insurance - Employers Liability and Public Liability (recommended minimum of £5 million).

2. Do you work to a British Standard?

If yes, ask which one. Should be BS3998.

3. What qualifications do you and your staff hold?

You should ask to see copies of certificates.

Compulsory: Must have NPTC certificates for chainsaw use. NPTC is a national organisation that assesses competence of people using chainsaws and other arboricultural equipment. Competent arborists will be able to show you either an A4 sized certificate or a plastic ID card.

Recommended: Certificates for other skills and machines. Arboricultural knowledge e.g. National Certificates and Diplomas.

4. Will you provide a written quotation?

If no, reject this contractor.

5. Are you a member of a professional organisation?

Membership does not guarantee work standards but does show a degree of commitment.

6. Can you provide me with the phone number of a referee who can show me some of your work?

If yes, follow up the lead.

Stage 2: Choosing the quote that suits you

When you receive your quotes, check they include the following before deciding which one to accept:

  • The name, address and land-line telephone number of the company
  • Reference to BS3998
  • Clear and full details of the work to be undertaken
  • What will happen to the debris
  • Whether VAT is included
  • Who will be responsible for obtaining permission for the work if the trees are protected
  • What steps will be taken to protect you and your property

Professional organisations

In the UK, there are two voluntary schemes certifying the competence of arborists. 

The Arboricultural Association maintains a directory of quality assured arboricultural contractors. Members will display the AA collective mark logo.  Check the arborist’s membership through the Arboricultural Association's website.

Individual arborists may be certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Members will display the ISA Certified Arborist logo.  Check the arborist’s certification through the ISA website.

Other arborists may be equally competent but have chosen not to take part in these schemes.

Warning signs

You should consider carefully whether you are dealing with a reputable tree surgery company if:

  • They are soliciting work door-to-door
  • They offer 'topping' as a service. Topping is harmful to trees and good arborists will not carry it out
  • They only use a mobile phone number or can not be traced to a permanent address