Fix Your Bark Without a Bite

Got tree troubles? Here are 22 of the best tree care services in the Chicago area

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Seven Steps to Better Service

Unsure about bids and contracts? Before you sign on the dotted line, here’s what you need to know:

1. Get initial bids in writing. Then get a firm, fixed-price contract from the business you choose. 

2. If the following are not in a written bid (and then in the contract that follows) for tree removal or pruning, they probably aren’t included in the price: cleaning up the area, hauling away the debris, cutting wood to desirable firewood lengths, splitting wood, stacking wood, and removing the stump. Be prepared to pay for this separately or do it yourself.

3. Other points to have clarified in a tree removal or pruning bid (and in the contract): dates when work will begin and end; whether branches will be lowered or dropped; who is responsible for any damages; and, in general, exactly what will be done (for example, “removal of all dead, dying, or weak branches of at least one inch in diameter").  

4. Points to be covered in bids (and contracts) for spraying include: type of spray and equipment to be used, pest or disease to be treated, and what you must do to prepare (for example, cover lawn furniture). 

5. For fertilizing jobs, get specifics on the type and amount of fertilizer to be used and how it will be applied (for example, by drilling holes in the ground or by injection into the tree). 

6. Before agreeing to any work, make sure a business has current certificates for both liability and workers’ compensation insurance. If not, you might be liable in the event of accident or injury—even to the company’s own employees. 

7. Finally, before signing a contract, ask about a company’s payment policy to see how much of the total cost is payable upon completion of the job or later. Paying after the work is completed gives you the leverage to ensure that work—including cleanup—is carried out properly and on time.

Seven Signs of Sickness

Got funky foliage? Deciduous disasters? The list goes on and on. Here are some signals that your trees might need work:

1. Discolored leaves or leaves that are smaller than normal or thinning in the tree’s crown 

2. Roots pulled loose from the ground or fungal growths on roots or on the main trunk 

3. Dead or fallen branches that are more than two inches in diameter 

4. Deep vertical cracks on opposite sides of the main trunk 

5. Sawdust on the trunk from wood-boring insects 

6. A trunk that noticeably leans in one direction or a branch canopy that is not roughly balanced  

7. Other unusual deformations or deposits on leaves, limbs, or bark 

If you have questions, a good place to turn is to the University of Illinois Extension. Find the office for your county through web.extension.uiuc.edu. 

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