When people try to do their own treework

B_Strange

Well-Known Member
Location
Simmonsville
I’ll chime in real quick and ask from the outset for no judgement. My family bought a small piece of land in SW Virginia 6 years ago and it had numerous trees to fall. I’d never touched a chainsaw in my life so I bought a used Farm Boss because the farmer I worked for had two. No chaps, no rated eye pro, no experience, I did wear ear pro. I cut a “notch” and back cut on a 30’ walnut and nearly dropped it on my wife. Only the grace of God saved her. Tips of top branches lanes inches from her feet. My “hinge” failed and the tree went 90 degrees of where i wanted.I had no idea what I was doing. Fast forward 4 years and a reputable company here in town gave me the chance to earn a job and I learned the safe way to do things and how to handle a saw and best of all, how to put a bullet through the head of my ego and wave off when a job is out of my lane.This translates to a bunch of stuff even not life or death. Like window trim. I’d rather pay the carpenter to do it then teach my kids some new fun words as I fumble with it.

I own my own tree service now, fully insured, and through the training I received at Expo and from fellow buzzers (looking at you @Crimsonking) can perform work professionally. I’ll never wreck monsters like @rico but I can make a living in my market doing smaller jobs with excellence. I follow ANSI and try not to be stupid. I’ve waved off jobs even when money was crazy tight.

I reckon my point is, I was that dad a few years ago. I shiver when I think about all stupid stuff I did through sheer ignorance and not deliberate dumbassery. I love this industry and the work and wish I’d found it years earlier. Stay safe brothers and sisters!
 

Boomslang

Well-Known Member
Location
NB
I've changed the brakes on all my vehicles for the past ten years, yet never took a shop or mechanic class in my life.

I ran all the wiring in the house my dad was building, yet never took a single electrical course.

I completely gutted and renovated the bathroom in my first place, yet never received any professional training on plumbing, tiling, or carpentry.

I learned how to drive manual transmission completely by myself.

I splice my own ropes, yet never had any formal instruction or break testing done.

Some of these things could have had severe physical or financial repercussions, yet here I am.
You can teach yourself to do almost anything.

Point is there are probably thousands of homeowners who cut their own trees successfully every year, but we'll only ever see or hear about the screw ups. The one percenters who get maimed or injured. Such a small group is certainly not worth my effort.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Like a lot of the company here my mentors and godfathers include Red Green, Tim Taylor and Angus MacGuyver. I had the good fortune to add Marv Bjork as my first tree teacher.


Over my life I've taken on work outside of my training...welding, electrical wiring in my house and RV, carpentry too.

I look at a tree and often wonder what my limits would be without my lifetime of learning. Since the Internet and youtube type sharing has been around I know that I would be watching lots and learning that ladders and chainsaws don't mix.

Would I somehow know what a collar cut was or would I rip cut or leave stubs?
Would it take a near miss for me to stop and hire a pro and leave the clean-up to me?

The few times that I've stopped to intervene in homeowner work my well-intentioned chat has NEVER been welcome. No matter what approach I use. Even so, I will continue to stop and make an offer of some sort. It would be crushing to find out later that I didn't take the chance to prevent injury or death from an over ambitious homeowner.

A friend of mine walked onto one of these homeowner-killing setups to offer help. The guy wouldn't have any of it. My buddy pulled out his phone and told the guyhe was going to go sit in his car on the curb and watch. But, before walking to his car he showed the guy that he dialed 9...1...on his phone. Ready for the possibility...

Meet drama with more drama.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
I actually saved my backyard neighbor’s house from a local “landscaper” who decided to get into the tree business. Day one, they spent cutting off branches from every tree along his drive - they cut as high as they could reach with a power pruner from the ladder rack on their pickup truck.

Day two was removal day. They were apparently trying to take down a 70’ Silver Maple 20’ from the house. They cut every limb off the side of tree they could reach, but only off the side away from the house. Then they attached a rope to the tree as high up as they could reach from their skidloader bucket (about 12’), backed the little bald tire loader out into another neighbor’s lawn, and started cutting. This is when I got home and started watching.

At this point, I knew the tree was going to hit the house, I didn’t think I could do anything to stop it, so I just stayed in my house and watched. After 30+ minutes, the chainsaw stopped and I saw them all milling around the tree like they were lost, so I walked over to see if I could help them out and maybe still save the house.

I found the little loader making mud in the lawn, and learned that they had stopped because they needed more wedges, so they sent someone back to “the farm” to find all the wedges he could, because they figured they needed to pound in a few more to help the tree over. I looked at the disastrous cutting and the mess they had and asked if I could offer a couple suggestions, since this is what I do every day. They said sure, what would I do?

Long story short, I hauled over a pile of gear, set a much heavier line about 40’ up in the tree, hooked it to a much bigger loader we have, and started pounding wedges and directed them in finishing the cuts properly. Then we pulled with everything both loaders had, and still just barely had enough to get that tree over, with all the weight on the wrong side. I think the “landscapers” learned a lesson on that one, and my neighbor has since started calling me for his trees. The “neighbor discount” probably helps too - I figure if the neighbors have to put up with all our noise, the least we can do is half-price tree work for them.
 

kmac

New Member
Location
Missouri
Some of these things could have had severe physical or financial repercussions, yet here I am.
You can teach yourself to do almost anything.
Absolutely, and I don't think anybody would necessarily disagree with that statement (except maybe if you were trying to launch a rocket into space or something). In fact, I'm sure a majority of us on this site are very capable self-learners that can figure something out with relative ease. Hell I splice my own ropes too, I do much of my own vehicle and equipment maintenance, and generally try to do all my own repairs; for many of us in this industry, I think that's actually a huge reason why we all love this job so much... it challenges us to be creative, self-sufficient, and to get the job done properly and efficiently.

The issue manifests itself though with the fact that simply not everybody has that innate desire or ability to learn how to do something the right way or not being able to know when something is beyond the scope of their learning ability and to call in a professional. For some it's as simple as thinking they just need to get their hands on a chainsaw to get the job done as if we were all born knowing how to use one... just like the case of the guy in my previous post about spikes, he probably thought in his mind that, "man, if only I had those things on his boots I could do bigger trees!" For others they may see it as either, "What?! You're going to charge me how much?!" or "What?! I can make that much money with just a chainsaw and no training?!" Even within our industry you'll run into this issue with a lack of training and experience, my favorite is when somebody does something unsafe and their excuse is "I've been doing this for years, I know what I'm doing!"... and they then proceed to trip over a log with a running chainsaw with the chain break off and then have a near-miss every other day and say "That's just the nature of the work!"

Regardless, none of us are going to solve this problem with these posts, there absolutely are exceptions to what myself and everybody else is saying in this thread, and there will always be homeowners doing some "DIWhy?!" tree work. Unfortunately, we can all talk about this till we're blue in the face (or fingers I guess?), but at the end of the day we're not the one's this thread is about... those homeowners or those in our industry that need to know this stuff will never find this thread... we come here because we want to learn and better ourselves.

My “hinge” failed and the tree went 90 degrees of where i wanted.
Must've used one of them swingin' dutchman's! haha
 

Benjo75

Well-Known Member
Location
Malvern
We were working a job across from a church a few years ago. A guy walked over from the church and wanted an estimate. Fall one big dead pine and let it lay. I would have to set a line in it and set a block in the woods and pull it with the tractor. $50 since it's a church and I'm just across the street. That was evidently too expensive for this half a million dollar church and they said no thanks. In about 30 minutes here comes an old John Deere farm tractor flying down the road with another guy hanging off the back. Two church members that live nearby and they're farmers. In a few minutes I hear the saw. After a few minutes of sawing I hear them ramming the tree with the tractor repeatedly and I can see the top shaking violently. We walk over so we can see the show. He buzzes on the stump for quiet a while with the tractor constantly spinning and ramming the tree. Then I see it. They are using forks to push with. Straddling the tree. That's right, FORKS! Finally in a few minutes the tree starts falling exactly 90 degrees to the lay. Over the tractor goes. Slower than I would have thought. The saw man runs in the same direction as the falling tree and tractor. Barely gets out of the way. The tractor operator got flung in to the cab and a bolt or something punctured his head. He was hollering and bleeding everywhere. The tractor was trying to die and the wheels were spinning. The saw was running on the ground and the chain was spinning and then here comes the water. The limbs ruptured the water line to the church and a second water line to the parsonage.

The guy running the saw drug the tractor operator out of the tractor about the time the dust settled and we decided it might be safe to walk over. All this happened in about 20 seconds and we were about 100 yards away watching. We got the tractor operator in the truck and his buddy took him to the hospital.

I got the water meter tool and shut the water off. Cut the log out of in between the forks on the tractor. Moved the log. Took our tractor and pulled the loader of their tractor down. Pulled their tractor upright. By then the pastor showed up. The tractor driver was going to live. I still have pics somewhere of the entire mess. I told the preacher that I would have cut it for free if I'd known they were going to try it theirselves. I have about got to the point that I just walk away now. Makes me wonder what all I do that's out of my skillset just to save a few bucks.
 

Boomslang

Well-Known Member
Location
NB
On a side tangent homeowner yesterday tried to help and had to give him the old "I charge more, not less if you try to help."

Those ones get to you during storm clean up.
The other week we had multiple trees to remove/prune at a house. The homeowner sat in his lawn chair watching us and when we moved on to the next tree he would jump up and start raking. He was well out of the way of any drop zone or brush hauling route so we let him continue. At the end of the job, after he raked the entire lawn for us, we said he was the perfect customer...ready to help, but knew enough when to stay out of the way.
 
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B_Strange

Well-Known Member
Location
Simmonsville
I've changed the brakes on all my vehicles for the past ten years, yet never took a shop or mechanic class in my life.

I ran all the wiring in the house my dad was building, yet never took a single electrical course.

I completely gutted and renovated the bathroom in my first place, yet never received any professional training on plumbing, tiling, or carpentry.

I learned how to drive manual transmission completely by myself.

I splice my own ropes, yet never had any formal instruction or break testing done.

Some of these things could have had severe physical or financial repercussions, yet here I am.
You can teach yourself to do almost anything.

Point is there are probably thousands of homeowners who cut their own trees successfully every year, but we'll only ever see or hear about the screw ups. The one percenters who get maimed or injured. Such a small group is certainly not worth my effort.
Hey man I agree with you. I’m largely self taught on most of what I do and have benefited greatly from good libraries and patient neighbors. I think the most important thing is to know limits and know when to get help. To get to @Mark Chisholm point I wish someone had stopped me when I was doing things wrong. But I live in the back of beyond so no one can see me. I’ve not been in the trade long enough to see unsafe practices like most of ya’ll but when I do I hope I can help with humility.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
On a side tangent homeowner yesterday tried to help and had to give him the old "I charge more, not less if you try to help."

Those ones get to you during storm clean up.
Here is a quote from an email that arrived this morning. Its my day off so I will reply tomorrow, but in part it says: “ I have access to helpers including myself who could help with the ground work dragging limbs from what is fallen to the chipper. Would that be helpful to you???”

No, it would not be helpful. Please, stay far away! What’s even better is that it’s a no-cleanup quote, so I’m not sure whose chipper he is referring to?
 

Treezybreez

Well-Known Member
Location
Lancaster, SC
I have a friend who does HVAC work. She recently had a job for an elderly couple. While she was there, the topic of tree work came up and my friend gave the couple my contact info. It turns out that they never called me and the elderly man decided to do the work himself. I believe, (if I remember correctly) he was working on a ladder pruning branches over his roof. He fell to his death.
 
Great thoughts Mark and I feel like it is pure good sense to know what's within your ability and what's not. Unfortunately, the untrained are equally as untrained to assess potential hazards in tricky situations so therein lies the problem. But your point is dead on.

As a homeowner who wants to learn more what are my options to get more training about climbing basics for removals? I want to learn more but recognize that I cannot quit my day job to pursue the broader knowledge full time professionals have and will leave the more technical jobs to them.

Thanks!
 

Bob Bob

Well-Known Member
Location
somewhere
I think a lot of homeowners attempt tree work out of necessity due to limited financial resources / income. They have $100 in their checking account, their credit is maxxed out, they don't get paid again for another 2 weeks and.....Wham! A tree gets blown down in their yard or across their driveway and they're SOL. Not many options when you're poor other than attempt to do it yourself or have uncle Bob do it for the firewood. Hiring a professional is ideal but that's a luxury that's only feasible if your bank account says so.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
Great thoughts Mark and I feel like it is pure good sense to know what's within your ability and what's not. Unfortunately, the untrained are equally as untrained to assess potential hazards in tricky situations so therein lies the problem. But your point is dead on.

As a homeowner who wants to learn more what are my options to get more training about climbing basics for removals? I want to learn more but recognize that I cannot quit my day job to pursue the broader knowledge full time professionals have and will leave the more technical jobs to them.

Thanks!
A great place to start to learn to climb is the PennDel Extension Tree Climbing School. You’ll have to take a couple days off work one week to do the classes, but it’s well worth it. That’s how I started climbing 11 years ago, and I highly recommend it. By the way, you’re not too far from us, and the Gap Arborist Supply too, if you need a good place to get your gear. They’ll help you figure out what you need, and get it all set up and fitted to you there in the shop.
 

dspacio

New Member
Location
South County
A pal and I bid a blown out maple top, urban area, between two houses (~25 foot drop zone), nowhere to tie in above, limb caught up in the branch below. Another limb on this same tree had crushed another tenants car before.

We gave a price, and heard the landlord is cheap, wouldn't pay it. My friends son lives there. He has done tree work before. I can't believe he let his friend go up a ladder with a chainsaw to go after this. It sounds like their plan was to cut the limb that the snapped limb was resting on, from underneath. I got a call they were doing this. Luckily they ran out of daylight after making some cuts or something.

I felt a bit sick about it for days. I was sitting with 3 other guys, all woodsmen, we were milling some tamarack. I shared the story, and they affirmed how wild the situation was. It fired me up and I managed to talk the son out of doing the work, and he acknowledged I should help him, but never kept in touch.

Then about 10 days later this little hurricane blew the limb down, it tore out a bunch of that tree, and another one, destroyed neighbors fence. At least nobody was hurt.

I'm sure we've all heard similar stories.

The thing it got me thinking of, is that a tree like this in a tight space, is part of the landscape of at least 4 different houses. I began speaking with one neighbor about pitching in to take care of it, and he agreed. Another neighbor had their fence destroyed, we could have prevented this with a bit of gathering funds.

The neighborly tree is something that comes up often and I've dealt with sharing costs before. It just gets me thinking about being proactive in some of these cases where the homeowner wants to do the work right, but can't afford it.

Another job we bid, he is saving up to do the work, meanwhile, one of the big branches just fell on his daughters trampoline :(
I first told him about it 3 years ago, so I did my part.

Wild times from the storm damage here.
 

oldoakman

Well-Known Member
Location
Alorgia
I have a friend who does HVAC work. She recently had a job for an elderly couple. While she was there, the topic of tree work came up and my friend gave the couple my contact info. It turns out that they never called me and the elderly man decided to do the work himself. I believe, (if I remember correctly) he was working on a ladder pruning branches over his roof. He fell to his death.
Kinda kicks you in the gut. Even though they never contacted you.
 
A great place to start to learn to climb is the PennDel Extension Tree Climbing School. You’ll have to take a couple days off work one week to do the classes, but it’s well worth it. That’s how I started climbing 11 years ago, and I highly recommend it. By the way, you’re not too far from us, and the Gap Arborist Supply too, if you need a good place to get your gear. They’ll help you figure out what you need, and get it all set up and fitted to you there in the shop.
Thanks! I will definitely look into that!!! I would love to learn more, and I'd rather start the right way... Thx!
 

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