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Tree Removal Costs in Denver

DLC Arbor Services often receives phone calls asking “what is the cost to remove a tree”. There are so many factors that go into the cost of removing a tree that it is impossible to determine the price, sight unseen, over the phone. We ask them how much do you think it would cost to paint my house and they say they “I have no idea without knowing what your house looks like and how big it is”. The same is true for tree and stump removal but there are some guidelines if you are curious about the typical removal cost.

Factors That Contribute to the Cost of Removal

DLC’s Certified Arborist considers many factors to estimate the cost of removing a tree and there is no one dependable method. These are some of the factors:

  • The location of the tree – both in the yard and the drive time to the property.
  • Is the tree accessible by a lift truck or must it be climbed?
  • Tree height and the diameter of the trunk (measured by Diameter at Breast Height, DBH, at 4.5’ above ground).
  • The total amount of chips and logs that must be hauled away and disposed of, for a fee, at a wood recycling yard.
  • Hazards or obstructions located in or near the tree.
  • Whether the removal requires technical rigging to safely lower the branches and logs.
  • Electric lines that the power company must disconnect from the house at an additional cost billed by the utility company.

The removal costs can be determined by time-and-materials, price per diameter inch, the arborists experience or by a combination of all three.

How to Determine a Ball-Park Figure

Most tree companies have a minimum amount they won’t charge less than even if it is 1 very small tree. You should expect at least $300 for a removal and $150 for a stump. For mature trees the minimum is not a factor since the price will exceed $300. One way to come up with a ballpark figure is the ‘cost per diameter inch’. A good average for large trees is $75 per diameter inch (measured at 4.5’ above ground). So a 24” diameter shade tree might cost:

24” DBH x $75 per inch = $1800.  $55 per diameter inch is another average for shade trees that have a smaller crown or is easily accessible. The average cost per inch can vary widely from $25 per inch for a small Aspen or $100-$125+ an inch for enormous tree in a challenging location. Estimating removal cost by tree height is unreliable since there are tall-skinny trees and short-fat trees. There are no two identical trees and each removal scenario is unique and is priced accordingly.

Cost of Removing a Stump

Stump removal is completely different than removal of the above ground tree parts and DLC quotes it separately. The stump is the solid, woody mass directly below the trunk and may include the visible surface roots close to the stump but does not include the removal of the root system. Stump removal is completed with a stump cutter that is a heavy, self-propelled machine. Stump grinding is typically to 6 inches 10 inches below grade, enough to replant grass or cover with rocks or mulch. Actual cost can vary with many factors and stump removal may not even be possible if there is not level access and gates wide enough (at least 36” wide). Cost is about $10 per diameter inch with the stump width measured from the point where it emerges from the soil, including any large root flares. So, a 24” wide stump, ground 6-10 inches below grade is: 24” wide x $10 per inch = $240.

Stump grinding typically includes refilling the hole with the excavated soil and stump cuttings then hauling away the excess. Grinding stumps deeper and other factors may increase the price.  Addition costs include filling the hole with clean topsoil or regrading a berm that may have developed around the tree; these activities are considered re-landscaping. Digging out stumps by hand is rare, labor intensive and may cost more than mechanical stump grinding.

It’s a Dangerous Job Best Left to Licensed, Insured Professionals

Removing landscape trees is the 3rd most likely to be injured on-the-job profession in the U.S., logging (which is still removing trees) is the 2nd and the injury rate for homeowners is 6 times that of professionals. Chainsaws result in more emergency room visits that all other power tools combined. All tree work is extremely dangerous and should always be done by an experienced, licensed and insured professional. To find out if a tree company is licensed go to your city’s website or call to verify that the company is authorized to work in the city and request the company’s insurer email you a copy of their certificate of insurance. If your town does not require licensing, see if the company is licensed in a near-by town that does requires it. Licensing does not guarantee honesty, quality or a fair price, it just means they have met the city’s minimum licensing requirements. There are too many horror stories of people who have lost their home because uninsured, unqualified individual where severely injured on their property. If there is an accident and the company does not have liability and workman’s compensation insurance then, by law, you are considered their employer and may have to cover any medical expenses.  There is a tongue-in-cheek theory that a tree increases in size 4 times larger when it hits the ground and what that means is the clean-up and disposal is considerably more difficult than a first-timer may have considered when the tree was standing, so that’s another good reason to hire a professional.

Why Do Prices Vary So Widely Between Tree Companies?

Tree companies bad at tree care are usually bad at estimating too. You should get quotes from 3 to 5 companies to get an idea of the going rate and the range of professionalism and customer service. A price that is very low may be a red flag that they probably don’t possess the necessary insurance, equipment and experienced personnel, or the salesman under bid the job and they may cut corners to make up for it or try to change the price half way through. Several times a year DLC gets calls from someone who paid an unlicensed company cash in advance, the crew left for lunch with half the tree on the ground and they never came back. The price to hire someone else to finish the job may be twice what they’ve already paid.  On the other hand, an unusually high quote isn’t like wine where the more you spend, the better it must be.

Dependable companies, like DLC Arbor Services, know the fair market rate for their services. Some companies bid high knowing they’ll get less work but make up for it with naive customers, but the quality of the work isn’t higher.  Getting a tree removed is like getting a haircut, if finding the absolute lowest price is all that matters than you’re probably not concerned about a negative outcome. Unfortunately, the money your loose and the damage to your property won’t grow back like hair; you might even loose a little hair. Avoid the trauma, do your homework then hire a dependable company like DLC Arbor Services. Call 303-378-8000 or go to our website to request a free estimate from our ISA Certified Arborist.

By Bob Anderson, Board Certified Master Arborist ISA #RM-0896B
Sales Arborist for DLC Arbor Services