A Tree Fell at Our Rental House: Here’s What We Did

Being a landlord isn't all rainbows and puppies. Sometimes, you have to fix things. Here's what we did with the giant tree that fell at our rental house.

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While on our way home from Italy, Greg and I got a message that no landlord ever wants to see. Via text message, one of our renters sent a photo of a huge ash tree that had fallen and crushed the fence and shed at our property. “Tree down,” the message read. “Call us when you get this.”

At first, I was pretty relieved. I mean, I would much rather have a tree crush a shed and a fence than the alternative: a house with people in it. I was very happy to hear that no one was hurt, but immediately went into solving-problem mode. What were we going to do about this huge tree? And when could we do it?

The first thing I did was call our insurance company. The tree fell and damaged my stuff, after all, and I pay a pretty penny for homeowner’s insurance. Amazingly, they cut a check for $1,900 a few days later. In truth, it was probably more than the claim was worth since the fence is old and the shed is basically a tear-down. We were also lucky in the fact that the city came and cleaned up the part of the tree that fell into the adjacent alley. Here’s what the fallen tree and damaged fence looked like by the time we got there:


You Want How Much?

Once we got the ball rolling with our insurance company, we called a tree service to come out and take a look. After waiting a few days, I found out they were happy to complete the job for $300, but wouldn’t be able to get started for three weeks. While that seemed like a fair price to me, I didn’t want my renters to have to look at it for that long. After all, they had already been incredibly understanding and patient about the whole thing. Unfortunately, the second tree company I called wanted a whole lot more to cut up the fallen ash tree – $750!

I have to be honest here: I totally hung up on the guy who wanted $750. I mean, it doesn’t get any lower skill than cutting up a tree with a chainsaw. Even if it took him eight hours, you don’t deserve $100 per hour to cut up a tree and chop wood with an ax. Sorry, but no. 

Still hot after talking to that delusional tree guy, I gave up the idea of hiring someone and decided we would try to do it on our own. If we could find the time and get the job done, we could save several hundred dollars in the process – and get some free firewood. Here’s what we did next.

We borrowed some tools.

Since we knew our small chainsaw wouldn’t cut it, we had to figure out what we needed to get the job done. But instead of heading to Home Depot, we asked around instead. Ultimately, we borrowed a huge chainsaw from a friend and neighbor. We already had a really good ax, and that helped a lot. One thing we did have to buy was a wood-splitter, and we paid around $10 for one at Lowe’s.

We brought in reinforcements.

Since I didn’t want to spend all day on the thing, I called in a family member for help. My cousin Mike was going to be in town anyway, and he’s practically a tree-chopping pro. He and his family live on 15 wooded acres and they use wood to heat their house, so he pretty much knows what he’s doing. We did pay him $140, but his help was worth way more than that. I can’t lift that much and Greg is having shoulder problems. Having an extra hand made a huge difference!

We chopped that M%&(@#$*#(@$R into a zillion pieces.

Our renters were looking at us with skepticism when we first started, but quickly changed their tunes once we started hacking the tree into smaller, more manageable pieces. We even went as far as splitting a bunch of it for firewood, too. It took some extra time, but made sense considering we were there and already had the tools out. Here’s a picture of my man cutting it up. Side note: If this isn’t hot, I don’t know what is.

tree 2

We stacked some firewood for our renters and cleaned up our mess.

Since this particular rental property has a fireplace, we asked our renters if they wanted some firewood. And once they said yes, we stacked a bunch of it up on the side of their home for them to use. Meanwhile, we loaded my dad’s truck with all the little sticks and branches so he could take them to the city burn pile when it opened. Thanks Dad!

We took the rest of the firewood home.

Since the tree was ginormous, there was plenty of firewood to go around. After chopping some up for our renters, we split a bunch more and brought it home in my van. Now, we’ll be ready when the temperatures start plummeting. We don’t have fires often, but I love it when we do.

We saved money.

Being a landlord isn't all rainbows and puppies. Sometimes, you have to fix things. Here's what we did with the giant tree that fell at our rental house.As I mentioned before, our insurance company cut us a check for $1,900 to cover damages. We still have to fix one segment of the fence, but so far we’ve only spent around $150 of that money. That’s pretty sweet. I also feel pretty good about the fact that I didn’t pay a whole bunch of money for something we could easily do ourselves. I mean, with three of us working, the entire thing took a little over three hours. And you wanted $750 for that? Pssshhhtttt….

Have you ever saved money by completing a big job on your own? Do you think $750 is a lot to ask for this type of job?

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  1. We had to trees come down one during hurricane Irene and one during Sandy. The tree services in the Northeast were busy and charging some incredible amounts for their services. $750 would have been a steal., we go quotes closer to $2k. I ended up doing a lot of the work myself to save money.

  2. We just paid lots of money to have several huge trees pruned and a problem one cut down. If it had fallen, it would have taken the roof. I don’t think we could have felled the tree ourselves. I’m amazed how much tree trimmers cost. The guy we chose doesn’t want to be paid until January because he’s made too much money this year! He also said he can’t get reliable people to work for him! There’s a job that pays well and requires no student loans!

    1. Yeah, bringing a tree down is entirely different. We wouldn’t have done that ourselves. This one was already down!

      We paid around $800 to have a huge tree taken down and removed at our old house. That’s part of the reason the $750 the guy wanted this time was so absurd. I know how much this type of stuff should cost. This tree was half the size and already down.

  3. We once paid $375 to have a big chunk of tree chopped up, but they came out the day after a big ice storm to do it. If we had been patient and waited longer it probably would have been less. I have to admit, we listened to my father in law when we probably should not have. He told us that chain saws were really difficult to handle, and he seemed completely convinced that neither my hubby or I were capable of using one without losing a limb. But it sounds like you guys managed without a problem! I’m going to have to remember this for next time…

    1. I definitely wouldn’t use one, but the guys did fine. I think a chainsaw would be too heavy for me. I assisted by moving and stacking wood.

  4. We live in an area with a lot of trees and they, or their enormous branches, often fall down. It’s an ample supply of firewood though it’s mostly poplar (light, burns fast, not as good as oak). It’s a lot of fun though and feels good to do outdoorsy stuff. 🙂

  5. After Hurricaine Ike, we had a massive tree fall in the yard as did our neighbors to the left. The wife couldn’t stand looking at them and paid 950 per tree like 2 days after thinking their insurance company would reimburse. Turned out their deductible was more. We chose to look at the tree for like 3 weeks till the prices went down, and paid 250 !!! Way to DYI!!!

  6. I love that you guys did the work yourself! That is something we would do…and by we I mean my husband and his friends!

  7. My husband and I are always trying to do things first our own before paying for anyone else. Great job, that is definitely way to go! 🙂 PS: We have always used it as firewood as well as long as I remember!

  8. Our rental had some roof problems over the deck, and the management company wanted to pay someone $3500 to replace the entire roof. Jon went and has fixed it for 3 days labor and drive time (about an hour and half drive each way) and $150 in materials. It’s great when you can do work yourself.

    1. I understood when my dad had roof damage from a storm that his insurance company would only cut a check for both him and a contractor, so thought it had been repaired, only to find out after he passed away that they would not renew his insurance for me because of the roof, finding out that, apparently because he’d been such a good customer for so many years with no claim, they waived that requirement for him and just cut him a check for $3000 to replace the roof, though actually I thought that was for just one side because I thought I’d understood they wouldn’t replace all of it since just one side was damaged but I may be wrong about that; maybe it was supposed to be for all of it, but doesn’t matter since he didn’t have any of it repaired, evidently, by what they’re saying now.

  9. Nice work taking care of it yourselves and am sure your tenants loved the fact y’all took care of it as oppose to making them wait on it. We’re not very handy ourselves, but it’s amazing how much you can do with a little bit of effort and ingenuity. As for the $750, that’s definitely too high. We were quoted $350 for something similar about a year ago.

  10. Good work! A neighbors tree came down this weekend and went straight across the road. Luckily, the town came and removed the section blocking the roadway pretty quickly. But it’s amazing what damage a tree can do!

  11. I appreciate your bluntness when you say, chopping wood requires the least amount of skill and some people want ridiculous prices. I often feel the same way when I get quotes from people to do repairs around the house. I often compare, in my head, what some people are charging and I think about how much I make per hour with a doctorate degree and it is pitiful. I’m glad you guys decided to do it yourself!

  12. Just a thought… You might want to have a tree company come out and inspect the other trees in your area (especially if they are Ash trees). The Ash Borer is terrible around here. We had to have a tree removed from our old house because of this. The gentleman was very nice and said we could spend $1000s to try and save the tree, which he was more than happy to try, but in his professional opinion it was better to just have the tree removed.

    1. We are having one more taken down next spring. It appears to be fine now, but I don’t want to just “see what happens!”

      As a side note, we’ve had hundreds of ash trees taken down in our neighborhood. Some of our neighbors had to spend thousands! We’re lucky we don’t have any here.

  13. A word of caution….don’t stack the firewood too close to the house. Invites termites.

    1. Yeah, we wouldn’t do that. At the rental, it’s stacked against a metal shed and a metal fence. At my house, it’s stacked on my paver patio.

  14. I’ll be interested to hear how insurance renewal goes on the rental property. Oftentimes actually filing a claim ends up having some pretty bad repercussions down the road (moreso with rental apparently). Well done on the DIY though, and free firewood too. Love it!

    1. I haven’t filed a claim in 10 years. If filing a $1,900 claim over a ten-year period raises my rates, I will happily switch companies. What’s the point of having insurance if you’re too afraid to use it? I try not to let life’s “what ifs” bother me too much.

  15. I probably would’ve listed “free wood (bring a chainsaw)” on Craigslist to see if I could get anyone to do the work for me. But failing that, we’d have to call someone. I hate how not-handy we are these days. I’ve tried to deal with things on my own a couple of times, and it always ended up being something we had to call in the professionals for. Like the pipes under the sink that even the plumber had to fight with to get undone. Which at least made me feel a little vindicated.

    1. No way- I don’t want to get sued when some random craigslist stranger cuts their hand off! That’s very risky =/

  16. I think we would have paid the $750 or waited three weeks to pay the $300. The answer would probably be different if we had DH’s relatives around since they’re professionals and handy. In the past when we had less money, DH did do things like this himself, but now our time and not having to deal with hassle is more valuable to us. (Though DH did still end up fixing our deck himself even though we would have gladly paid someone to come out and do it for us! But we couldn’t get anybody in time. We did have professional painters paint the house even though that’s something we totally could have done ourselves. So… I guess circumstances are important in determining what ends up happening.)

    1. Definitely. We actually couldn’t have done this in October – we were too busy. The only reason we were able to take care of it was because we actually had the time this month. If the tree would have fallen at my house, I probably would have waited three weeks and paid $300.

  17. I rent so I very naive about how much things like that would cost. I wouldn’t have wanted to pay $750 but not knowing any better, I would have assumed that was the average price too. Oops. I could never handle a chainsaw by myself (at least not without a visit to the ER) so I would have likely had to rely on professionals, but it’s a good reminder to do some comparison shopping!

  18. As someone who lives in a heavily wooded area, I know that tree removal is expensive and it’s quite frankly ridiculous. I love that you guys did this yourself. When we were renting a home in this neighborhood, our landlord wanted us to pay the gardeners fee of $200 a month through the winter for snow and leaf removal. We informed her that she could put them on hold and we would do the removal ourselves. It saved us close to $1,000 and we got some exercise along the way. 🙂

  19. It’s interesting how much of difference there was in those two estimates. I can see why the first guy wasn’t available for 3 weeks – I’m guessing he gets a lot of business! We haven’t had to deal with any fallen trees, although we paid for some landscaping work at our new home. It wasn’t cheap but between moving and remodeling, we were willing to pay because we have enough projects to keep us busy. Glad you were able to DIY it and save a bundle though!

  20. I would have no idea what it would cost but glad you found a way to do it on your own, and glad it wasn’t a much worse situation! That could be scary!

  21. That stinks but it sounds like you turned this bad situation around! Great job!

  22. yes sometimes opt to try work by yourself is best deal!!!

  23. It’s great that you had help so you could more or less do the job yourselves. About 7 yrs. ago, I paid $800. to have a dead maple tree cut down, several large branches of a very tall spruce tree cut back off the roof in the back of the house and several branches of a very large sycamore tree trimmed back that were hanging over my roof in the front of the house. The man that did it had a big bucket truck to get high up in the air. I think it only took him 2-3 hrs. to complete all of that work. He did have his 2 sons assisting him but he did all of the cutting. They took everything away. I don’t have a fireplace. I thought the price was pretty reasonable. I didn’t get any other estimates for the job. The man had done work for my neighbor and she had been pleased with the price she was charged and the work he had done. If you hadn’t been able to do the job yourselves, I think that I would have explained to my renters that you had someone to do the job but that they couldn’t come for 3 weeks. It’s not like you were telling them that it couldn’t be done for 3 months.

  24. catherine says:

    In this situation I 100% would have done it myself too (**myself means husband and his dad haha). I wouldn’t have even gone as far as calling a tree company! For future referance a friend of mine had a massive tree fall on her place, basically same situation and she didn’t/couldn’t do it herself so she put an ad online asking for someone to do it for free with payment being the wood they cut up! It was huge hardwood tree and probably kept someone very warm for at least a whole winter. She has TONS of interest.

  25. Good thing you know how much it costs because I would have no idea. People can easily take advantage of me. Plus, I have no DIY bone in my body which doesn’t help.

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