reasonable price for tree removal?
July 5, 2011 2:31 AM   Subscribe

Is this a reasonable price for tree removal?

Dear Metafilter,

I've done a decent amount of googling and still can't find a solid answer so maybe you can help! Recently a fairly large (over 20 ft) oak tree fell on the roof of my home. The tree more or less straddled the width of the roof. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The company enlisted to remove the tree presented me with a large fee. They've already done the work - going door to door in my neighborhood after the storm. It could be a fair fee, but I am trying to research its validity for the sake of my pocketbook.

In sum, they have charged around 10,000 dollars including labor. I am sure that the job did not require more than a day of work. We asked for proper accounting after receiving our bill and were provided with an invoice from a crane rental company (a different company) in the amount of about 7,500 dollars. The crane capacity was 75 tons.

Are these reasonable figures? In addition to the removal, the company put a tarp on our roof. Also, after removing the tree they chopped it but did not remove the the debris from the property. We asked them to leave the debris and removed the pieces of the trunk ourselves.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you know where I can find similar rates posted online that would be really helpful.

posted by jne1813 to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We paid about 800 dollars to remove two trees from our property. One tree was a small (6" diameter) dead tree that the tree removal guys seemed to throw in for $50. The other tree was a 30" diameter, 80-100' tall, dead pine tree that was still standing. The guys spent all day climbing and cutting; it was an amazing process to watch. The earth shook everytime they dropped a piece of the tree to the ground (moving from the top down). They also removed the wood and ground both stumps.

$10,000 seems awfully high, but your location will definitely affect this (we're in coastal South Carolina). Did you get an estimate before the work was done? It seems like it would be easier to remove a tree that had already fallen down; that's the kind of work my husband has done himself. We only paid to remove these two because the pine tree was way too big to tackle from the ground. I can't even imagine why a crane would be needed; it's easy to cut a fallen tree into smaller, maneuverable pieces!
posted by Kronur at 2:56 AM on July 5, 2011

You may have to wait for other replies to get some real expertise on tree removal specifically, but I do know about moving things in general.

I know that, commercially, in Melbourne, Australia, I can get a 3.5(metric)T crawler crane, driver and rigger for around $3k for a full day of work. A larger 20T truck mounted unit with very large reach is actually not too dissimilar, from (a little hazy) memory. Access counts for a lot, that's why a smaller crawler is worth as much as a bigger truck. I don't think a 20 foot oak tree weighs anything remotely like 75T, but I could be wrong and you may have to take into account derating if the horizontal distance from the crane to the tree was significant. As the last sentence implies, you may have needed the reach of a larger crane, not the lifting capacity.

You are unlikely to find this stuff online, often prices are kept confidential, certainly I am not allowed tell you where I work or who gave me the prices above.

ALWAYS get a quote before work starts.
posted by deadwax at 3:06 AM on July 5, 2011

A minor internet celebrity @willsmith (no, not that Will Smith) just went through this with an 80-foot Cyprus. It cost him around ten grand just outside of San Francisco.

Also, he mentioned that finding an arborist online was impossible.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:07 AM on July 5, 2011

I worked for a tree removal company a few years back and that sounds high. The company I worked for was located in a wealthy suburb of Boston. I'd guess we would have charged 2000-4000 for such a job. The owner has his own crane, but could rent a 75 tonish crane for a couple grand a day so that $7500 for the crane rental sounds pretty high also.
posted by meta87 at 3:07 AM on July 5, 2011

I'll try and write more later if I can, or you can memail me- but 7500 for a 75-ton crane sounds exorbitantly high to me. You can call crane companies in your area and ask for a rate for an equivalent crane. Around here a 70-ton goes for about 200 an hour plus 250 flat fee for a support truck, with a 4-hour minimum. They charge for travel each way, and those things are slow, but still. Way, way less. 2500 for a day of tree work is pretty high as well, but do you know how many people were in the crew? How much other equipment did they have?
Getting trees off of houses can be difficult, but it sounds like you're being gouged. Did you file with your insurance?
posted by Red Loop at 3:28 AM on July 5, 2011

A friend here in Savannah just had two very tall (90 ft) trees removed. They couldn't use a crane because of the location. It took them all day and they removed everything except the stumps. I think it was around $3,000.

Obviously, prices are going to be higher in San Francisco than in Smalltown, USA. Let us know where you are.

Have you talked to neighbors? Is there some local hotline or website for questions about the reliability of contractors? Shady contractors, along with totally reputable ones, descend on areas hit by storms.
posted by mareli at 3:54 AM on July 5, 2011

They're charging you for the whole crane rental? Didn't they use the crane on anyone else's house in the neighborhood?
posted by notsnot at 3:59 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

The fact that they were going door to door immediately after the storm makes me suspicious. I think they are taking advantage of you. Some states have laws on the books that specifically forbid price gouging in the wake of accidents or natural disasters. So you might want to talk to a lawyer to see if you have any recourse there.

Also, did they do the work without your express consent? Because if so, I don't think you owe them a penny. I'd definitely call a attorney. I think you are being scammed.
posted by COD at 5:01 AM on July 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

An oak tree, probably 30 feet tall, fell on my house. Tree removal cost was $600. This was in Ohio and was done by a small reputable tree trimming company.
posted by boatsforshoes at 5:55 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

We had a 40 foot oak tree cut down several years ago. For about $500 the tree was cut down, in small pieces, stacked for firewood/removal, and the debris cleared. $10,000 seems preposterous.
posted by catatethebird at 6:27 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could you clarify on the size of the tree? When you say "over 20 ft"...I'm thinking a 20 ft tall oak wouldn't be more than 6" in diameter. That's a little tree. What diameter was the trunk?

Regardless, you're being gouged.
posted by notsnot at 7:00 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even if the crane rental did cost $7500, how many different houses did he do with one rental? Is it fair to charge every single person the entire cost of the rental? (Hint: No).

This sounds extremely fishy to me - why wasn't a price presented before work was agreed-upon, or was the tree removed without your consent?
posted by muddgirl at 7:53 AM on July 5, 2011

We had a large maple tree removed and it cost around $2500.
posted by Ostara at 8:13 AM on July 5, 2011

Here is GA I have had 40 and 60 foot hickory trees fall in my yard; the larger one hit my house and cost something like 2000 dollars to remove plus 3000 for crane rental; the smaller one cost something like 1200; in both cases they cut the tree into logs and left it. You don't say where you are but it sounds expensive to me.

Have you had an insurance adjuster look at it? They would have a good idea what rates are in your area.

One reason that you can't find prices online is that every job is different in terms of things like needing a crane, avoiding power lines, other trees, and buildings, how the debris is disposed of, and so on. I have gone with recommendations from friends and gotten estimates ahead of time whenever doing this sort of thing.
posted by TedW at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2011

The labor (no crane) to remove a large (30 foot tall) eucalyptus from our backyard was about $1000 and took most of day for 3 guys. This did not include grinding out the stump and it was all manual labor since they couldn't get any machinery into the backyard.

I don't quite understand - they did the work for you first without getting your permission or giving you a quote upfront?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:11 AM on July 5, 2011

There are a ton of elements that come into play with tree removals, and that's why the prices can vary wildly. Just how large is the tree? I think it's impossible that a 20-foot-tall tree could land on your roof as opposed to tipping into the gutter, but most people are not very good at estimating height or diameters. Is the tree broken and precarious? Will there have to be a great deal of technical rigging involved? Is it over delicate things? How heavy is the wood, and how much space is there to work in? What equipment will be needed and what kind of access is there for the equipment?
But ultimately, it's a matter of how much time is needed for how many people, and how much equipment. If they really were there no more than one (even long) day, I find it hard to believe it could possibly get that high. Unless you're in another country that uses a different "dollar".
If you want to find rates for cranes in your area, like I said you can call the companies in your phone book and ask for rates, or search for "crane rental" in your area. They call it rental, but you're renting the crane and operator, really. It's more like hiring, but whatever.
posted by Red Loop at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2011

Sorry I haven't gotten to you all sooner, I've been busy at work. Here's some more information:

I am located in Raleigh, North Carolina. A tornado ripped through this area recently. The tree was maybe between 2 to 3 feet in diameter. I may have misjudged the height of the tree. It's best to think of it as 25 feet minimum. I am not sure if the company used the crane for different jobs - they sent us an invoice listing only our address for $7,500. Also, there were power lines around the house, but the power had been shut off posing no danger. I estimate there was a crew of three people maximum for a job like this (the number is not listed). I've been told that the company is approved by my insurance company.

Here is a photo of the house with the tree - please ignore the time stamp:

Click Here for Photo

Thanks for your help.
posted by jne1813 at 10:08 AM on July 5, 2011

That's an insane amount of money for a tree they didn't even need to climb.

What price did you agree to before the work? what did you sign? If you didn't sign anything, there's nothing they can do if you tell them they can take 1500 dollars or nothing.

I work in the gardening industry in the Bay Area. Prices can be costly here due to access, terrain, and permits. You don't have those issues.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2011

It's usually safe to assume that anyone selling anything door-to-door is a scammer in some way. With several thousand dollars at stake it's definitely worth running this past a lawyer before you pay anything. Look for someone who specialises in contracts and consumer disputes.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2011

I had a diseased dutch elm removed from my backyard four or five years ago. Cost me about $2k to remove.

i'm guessing they're expecting you to pass this on to your homeowner's insurance. i'd recommend doing just that. shouldn't be too hard to get these yahoos straightened out unless you signed something.
posted by lester at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2011

I checked back in to see if you had posted more details.

That's a pine tree, very soft wood. And Raleigh is about 3 hours away from me, but the costs should be pretty similar. $1,000 max for that removal. I would dispute that invoice. Did you actually see them use a crane? Two to three workers could remove that tree without a crane pretty easily.

I would guess that you are being taken advantage of here.
posted by Kronur at 1:08 PM on July 5, 2011

That's absolutely not a 10000 dollar tree removal, and after the crane was set up could not have taken more than 3 hours (of crane use, a little more for raking and cleanup). Unless it's a terrible billing mistake, or there's something crazy I can't tell from the photo or your story, you were seriously gouged.
posted by Red Loop at 1:49 PM on July 5, 2011

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