How Much will it Cost? – A Guide to Pricing in the Tree Surgery Industry
The Tree Surgery industry is very coy when it comes to publishing information on pricing, and as far as we are aware this is the only guide to pricing on the internet. To find out any examples you will have to search through many blogs or ask friends or neighbours who have had work done in order to gain any insight into what you might expect to pay to have any work carried out on your trees.
To be fair to the tree surgery industry, there are five very good reasons for this:
Regulatory Factors. A company operating in the right way, i.e. within the strict legal framework regulating businesses within such a high risk sector, will have to charge far more than a company who is not. (More on this below)
All trees are unique. Your tree will be very different to your neighbours tree despite a seemingly similar size or appearance, and there are many factors affecting the risk, skill and labour involved that will ultimately affect the price of the job. (More on this below)
There may be many tree surgeons operating in your area. Lucky you. Get three or five quotes and you will find the differences can very wide ranging. We advise you do not always go for the cheapest unless you are certain it is just a good deal from a good company. You should also find that there are a group of quotes around the same price – it is most likely these will be the companies offering a similar professional service with a keen eye on legislation and who are qualified and capable to operate your work
September through to March (dormant deciduous trees and out of nesting season) are the busiest months for the tree surgery industry. You will find in these months prices may be artificially higher due to increased demand and waiting times to get the work done greater. If it is possible to have your tree worked out of this season, you will find companies are more hungry for the work. (Be careful here – arborists should abide by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and stop work if they find nesting birds or bats. It is always worth you monitoring your tree for a few days and see if there is any activity so you are happy that you will not be about to disturb wildlife
Equipment and Staff Factors.
In terms of equipment the tree surgery game is a very expensive one to be in. In order to operate your work safely and to the best quality possible it may be necessary to use specialist equipment to access or process the tree. Qualified and reliable staff are also expensive – more on this and all factors below
Costs involved in Regulatory Factors:
All operatives should hold relevant NPTC (National Proficiency Test Council) certificates of competence, and update them when required by law, but in short each worker is required to hold relevant certification to prove he or she is skilled to do the job prescribed. To reach a level of competence to tackle most tree surgery work, it is easily possible to spend £3000 – £5000 on training for each climber
Public Liability Insurance is a must, and in such a specialist industry there are few providers willing to take on the risk of insuring tree surgeons. The normal costs reflect the company workload and work type, and are often dependant upon the height companies are prepared to work at, and the machinery used. Typically however, Public Liability Insurance can be expected to comprise 10% of an arboriculturalist company turnover. Employers Liability is an extra cost, not necessary to operate the company, but a must for conscientious operators.
Some equipment is required to be checked by law under the ‘Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998’, or LOLER, and must be inspected by an accredited inspector every six months in accordance with the law
Risk Assessments and Health & Safety.
Keeping risk assessment records and a keen eye on health and safety including provision of all appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is both an added administration and direct cost to a business operating within the law, and can easily add £15-£20 on the daily running cost of a professional tree surgery business
Costs involved in Situational Factors:
Tree Species & Past Management.
The species of tree will affect the ability an arborist may have to access and work the tree safely. Hardwood deciduous trees are often easiest to access and work, and are more reliable to climb and therefore safer. Some trees like Poplar and Willow can be snappy and this affects the ability to access over-reaching limbs or the extremities of the tree safely. In some situations therefore, the species itself can dictate the use of specialist access equipment in order to provide the best solution. Also the past management of the tree affects its growth and therefore the ability to access safely. Overstood pollards or poor previous work for example can result in panic water-shoot re-growth that often forms tall straight poles with few substantial lateral limbs that make access by climbing unsafe.
The type of work involved will obviously affect the cost, as it will affect the time taken to work the tree, the skill levels required and the amount of arisings that are produced. Total removal of trees can result in all factors coming together and therefore be an expensive business
Location, Size and Condition of Tree.
It stands to reason that a dying or dead mature tree on a roadside situated over a property with telephone or electricity services running through the branches will take a lot more thinking about than a small tree in the middle of a field with no impedances. A good arborist will note any such risks at the quotation stage and look at fungal infections or disease, services and proximity to buildings or public routes and make an assessment of this and many other factors determining how the job should be approached
Equipment and Staff Factors:
It is likely that even with a small job a reputable tree surgery company will attend the job with between £15,000 and £30,000 of equipment alone. Investment in equipment is necessary in any business, but the cost of tree surgery equipment is particularly high. It is likely an arborist will access your tree with £2000 of equipment attached to them! When undertaking large jobs that require specialist equipment, the costs involved escalate accordingly, and specialist lifting or access equipment can add to the cost considerably
Behind the scenes a tree surgery company will require storage and a yard to process all the arisings from their work. A good yard in Edinburgh may cost a similar amount to a mortgage on a house. Storage of large amounts of wood chip and cord wood must be done safely ensuring leeching tannins and moisture do not affect local water sources and drainage. Maintaining and storing equipment and storing and processing arisings is another large cost to most companies
Staff are a factor in any service industry, but a skilled arborist can charge between £90 and £150 per day dependant upon the job, and ground staff between £60 and £100, add to this insurance, training and provision of protective equipment and staff costs can form a significant part of the price for a days tree work
So How Much will it Cost???
As the far from exhaustive detail and variant factors above indicate, it is impossible to apply a price to a days work without careful consideration of all of the above factors. On a job by job basis, it is vital to see the tree in situ and consider carefully the best approach to the work (another cost!) in order to provide an honest and fair price to both the arborist and the client.
The industry average for a three man work group is required to earn around £550 per day to cover costs and turn a small profit. As a rough ballpark figure, an average day would be between £350 and £600. However if small jobs that will only take an hour or two demand a smaller price, a busy arborist will undertake this work by combining it with other work in the area, so it is always worth asking friends and neighbours as this will undoubtedly help the price of your tree work. In this case anywhere from £15 upwards could cover your work, so don’t be put off by this too much! When considering difficult and dangerous work, the sky really is the limit dependant on the equipment needed and the approach required. Removing mature diseased trees in difficult to access locations could easily run in to thousands, if not tens of thousands.