Tree Removal Cost Factors

July 10, 2024

Trees can be a symbol for some people. Maybe the tree was planted by a relative, or trees could bring memories of playing as a child in the backyard, whatever the reason, trees can be special to us. Sadly, tree removals are necessary in some situations. A tree can outgrow an area or become a hazard to a structure. The tree’s health could be in decline and may need removing due to the tree being unsafe. Whatever the reason, tree removals can be expensive, especially in the DC metropolitan area. This guide will break down the cost factors related to tree removals in the Washington DC area.

Understanding Tree Removal Costs:

Every tree removal comes with its own set of variables and obstacles. A removal for a single massive tree could even go above $5000 for some companies. This doesn’t include major storm damage work which could range anywhere from $4000-$8000 or even more. Storm damage services done at night could also rack up a high bill.
Of course, there are small trees that take a couple minutes to remove. A tree service might charge you a minimum of $250 to $400 to remove that one small tree. The reason for this is due to the cost of running a tree service. Costs like Insurance, Workman’s Compensation, equipment, payroll, and everything you could imagine. For tree care companies to show up with trucks and chippers cost a company money. Below, I will list and explain the cost factors related to tree removal.

Factors Influencing Tree Removal Costs:

Height: Height can be a tricky thing. For a tree service, everything is seen as time spent on the jobsite. It could take a climber a hare longer to make sure he has the right positioning at tall heights. In the DC area, tall tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) could even reach around 140 feet in height. Most tall poplars are around 80-120 feet in height. Climbers at these heights usually double check everything.

Size: The way to measure diameter of a tree is at breast height. DBH or diameter at breast height is a standard way to measure the diameter of the trunk. The size of the tree is a huge factor when determining the price. A small tree could cost a company’s minimum charge or even lower if the tree company is already in the area. The more weight the tree has, the more dumping fees go up at recycling facilities. Also, with bigger wood comes the use of specialized equipment to handle that wood.

Condition: The condition of the tree affects the time spent on the jobsite. If the condition of a tree is poor, it may have poor structural integrity. This is important because when climber is up in the tree, a cut causes a myriad of forces. When cutting a tree, the tree may sway a little, and if the structural integrity is poor this could cause the tree to fail. Even a climber’s weight may break a limb if it’s that weak. Good climbers have the know-how and experience to discern what limbs could break underweight.

Species of Tree: This comes into play when dealing with different wood weights. For instance, Black Oak (Quercus velutina) is one of the heaviest woods in weight in the area. A massive black oak could have tons of pounds in the vertical spar (standing tree trunk) alone. A company may charge you more because they would have to pay more in dump fees. When dumping large amounts of wood, it could cost lots of money at the wood processing facilities, and it’s charged per pound.

Number of Trees: As you add on more trees the cost of the estimate goes up. But as you add more trees there may be wiggle room on the price. This is where the estimator may make a deal. If the crew comes out to your property, there will be a travel expense for the company. But if the crew is already there, an extra tree could bring down the individual tree removal price. Depends on estimating arborist.

Location: If the tree is in front of the property this makes it easy for the crew. This makes the job go faster. If a tree is far away from truck access, this will increase the time spent on the jobsite. The price of the tree removal will increase due to difficult access. Hills can also add time to remove a tree. If a worker must deal with carrying wood up hill, this will take more time as well.

Health: The condition of the tree as earlier explained in a way ties into the health of the tree. A trained arborist knows how to identify health defects that cause a tree to fail. Yet arboriculture isn’t an exact science. A tree may look healthy but has a poor root system. Also mushrooms growing from wood, branches and roots may be a sign of poor wood integrity. This is why it’s important to do business with a reputable tree care company who can identify health defects in trees.

Obstacles: Obstacles under a tree will increase the time to perform a tree removal. Typical obstacles include power lines, utility lines, fences, houses, railings, septic drain fields and more. When a climber is in a tree, obstacles will affect the rigging they use in the tree. Climbing arborists use rigging equipment like pulleys and rings to support large portions of limbs and wood after the cut is made.

Emergency Removal: This is an obvious one. If a company is out on your property after typical work hours, this will add more to the bill. For instance, a tree on a house may require a crane to hoist away large portions of the spar or wood. Some large cranes are worth millions, and the crane companies charge well and rightly so, they have a difficult job.

Extra Services: This may include stump grinding. Tree removals are usually cut to ground level and if you want stump work, it costs extra. If a job requires a crane, this will be an extra cost. Most tree services don’t have a crane but there are a few that do. If the jobsite is in a busy intersection, traffic control may be necessary. Some companies must sub-out the traffic control to third parties. This is because it’s necessary for flaggers to have certifications for flagging on state or city roads.

Time of Year: This affects the price. The best time of year to get tree work is winter to early spring. This is when tree services are the slowest. During this period, an estimator could write you up a great deal. During the busy season expect some wait on a bit for tree work.

Considering the Costs:

All these factors play a role in the price. A way to save on a tree removal is by keeping the wood for firewood. Some wood like cherry wood could be valuable for firewood or milling. Most of the time, trees that are grown in the city are not used in mills due to the imperfections of the wood. Also, metal finds its way into wood (Nails, staples, etc.) and this could wreak havoc to a milling machine that’s worth lots of money. Time is one of the key ingredients for a tree removal estimate. Also, if a tree care company is working close to your house, ask them for an estimate. If it’s something easy to do, they may give you a deal since the truck is already out there. This only works if the crew has time to work on your property. Something that saves time for a tree service could save you dollars on your tree care costs.

Tree removal prices vary from company to company in the DC area. Some tree removals are not a DIY project. When dealing with heights and chainsaw, please hire a professional. Reviews and time spent serving the area are two important factors for a reputable tree care company. Choose a professional, it will save you money in the long run. A trained professional will also do the job safely. Check for workman’s compensation and up to date insurance when dealing with a tree service.


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