Chicago is home to about 3.5 million trees which cover about 17% of the city. The city also has a very capricious weather system which earned it the nickname of "Windy City". Usually, when you combine trees with harsh weather, you get a lot of issues that only increase the need for tree trimming or removal.
There are three different Chicago tree service scenarios, based on the location of the tree that needs to be trimmed or removed.
Removing a tree that is in a Chicago parkway
Because the tree is public property, you can call 311 or file an application online to request for a parkway tree to be removed. Dead or damaged trees and emergency tree removal requests are processed faster. According to the Chicago Bureau of Forestry, "Trees that conflict with utilities are removed at the bureau's discretion."
If you want your tree trimming or removal request processed faster or for work that the Bureau of Forestry does not cover, you can also use your own tree contractor. You will need to apply for a tree work permit and submit it along with pictures of the trees that you want to plant, trim, remove, etc. The application may take up to 7 days to be processed. If the tree contractor is a first time applicant, they will need to submit more information to prove their ability to safely perform the work.
Removing or trimming a tree on your Chicago property
If you are removing or pruning a tree that is on your private Chicago property, you do not need a permit.
However, you need to ask a few questions to get the safest and best results:
- if your tree contractor is licensed, certified and trained. A certified arborist can tell if the tree has damage that is not visible. Based on that assessment, he can determine how to trim a tree, where to cut and how to keep everybody safe, including your property.
- if your tree company is bonded and insured. No matter how small the accident, you do not want to find out that they are not insured after the accident.
- search for tree service near you. How far is the company located? Is in the city or outside Chicago? You might pay a higher price because of the commuting costs.
- do they use specialized tree service equipment. Using the proper tools in an experienced way will make the project faster and safer.
- will they make the best recommendation? Some Chicago tree contractors recommend the service that brings them most profit. In many cases, a diseased tree can be saved through trimming or other specialized treatments. However, they might recommend removing the tree just because it is more profitable.
- if removing the tree, will they remove the stump as well.
- do they clean up after the work is completed. We have seen many lawns that looked like they've been hit by a tornado after the tree work was done.
We can deliver all the above plus a free, competitive Chicago tree service quote.
Tree Is On Neighbor's Property
Can you make your Chicago neighbor trim his tree?
If the whole tree trunk is located on your neighbor's property, then the tree belongs to your neighbor. Your neighbor is responsible to maintain it and address any portion of the tree that might become a hazard to you or your property. However, if the tree is healthy, you cannot force your neighbor to trim the tree.
You can trim any branches that extend on or over your property, only up to the property line. You cannot force the neighbor to pay for it and you still need to be careful. If you destroy the tree (even by trimming the tree branches on your property), without your neighbor's consent, you might be liable for paying up to 3 times the tree's replacement value.
The best course of action is, of course, to consult your neighbor before doing any work on his tree and try to get his written consent. You can also ask to see if he is willing to support at least part of the tree care expenses.
Can I Cut A Tree That Is On The Property Line?
If the tree trunk sits on a boundary line, it becomes the property of both neighbors. Even if it extends a tiny 3 inches on your neighbor's property, it gives him legal rights over that tree.
Trimming tree roots from your neighbor's tree is more complicated. Some legal experts say that you can trim the tree roots up to the property line, but if the removal of the roots causes the tree to die, you could be held responsible.
It is always best to consult a Chicago attorney if you are not 100% sure about the governing laws. Local laws and regulation may change without notice.
Removing your neighbor's fallen tree from your property
This is always a very unpleasant situation.
You can only force your neighbor to pay if you can prove that he or she did not take reasonable care to maintain the tree. This is hard to prove, unless the pre-existing damage to the tree was obvious to a reasonable person and they did nothing to mitigate the risk.
Otherwise, if a tree falls on your Chicago property, it is your duty to remove it. It is considered an Act of God and you are solely responsible for removing the fallen tree and paying for the damage.
Here is what you should do in such a case:
- take plenty of pictures
- call your homeowner's insurance. See if they cover the accident . Some policies only pay if there is damage to your house, patio, garage or fence. You should definitely read that policy, if you have it handy
- call an emergency tree removal service
- after the tree is removed, deal with the rest of the damage
It is usually not a good idea to cut up the tree yourself. Here is why:
- Chicago weather is unpredictable. Trees usually fall during storms, high winds or extreme conditions. If that is the case, you want to have a professional dealing with those adverse conditions
- tree professionals are required by federal law to use leg chaps. Leg injuries are the most common type for people handling a chainsaw. You want whoever is performing the work to have the proper equipment and experience in order to complete it safely
- there is a myriad of safety hazards in such conditions. From branches or the whole tree springing up after a section is removed to hidden power lines, there are a lot of hazards when performing emergency tree removal
Now that we are done with the permits and legal requirements, we can take a look at some other Chicago tree trimming and removal tips.
When is the best time to prune a tree in Chicago
It depends on the tree species, how urgent is the tree pruning and the season. Some recent tree wounds attract insects and may make the tree vulnerable to various diseases. For those species, dormant tree pruning might be your best option. To preserve the flower crop for the current year, some flowering tree species can trimmed immediately after they flower. Some evergreens need to be pruned during spring and summer.
Dead branches can be removed at any time.
Tree dormancy is triggered by freezing temperatures and shorter days. It helps the tree deal with the winter temperature by stopping above-ground growth. The dormant season ends for the tree usually when temperatures are in the chilling range 32-50 degrees F for a number of hours (500-1500). For more information, you can use this Morton Arboretum garden and tree care calendar.
There might be other reasons for you to trim your trees outside the dormant season:
- tree trimming is also a good method for disease control
- to preserve the tree's structural integrity
- if a branch poses a risk, such as hanging over power lines or it is cracked and might fall, it has to be removed immediately. Tree trimming near power lines should be done by a professional
- to control the tree's shape
- to encourage growth for some species