Day in and day out, I fight with other tree companies about what tree practices are right and wrong. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on how to do tree work correctly. I understand that my profession is very opinion based, but there are many instances where there is a right and a wrong. Cable installation is one of those instances. The guidelines for cable installation come from the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) A300 Standards for Tree Care Operations. They give specific instructions on how to install cables properly. When cables are installed incorrectly, there is no excuse for it.
The other day, I reported to a job to prune out some storm damage. Upon inspection of the trees I found cables that were installed incorrectly. This is what I saw:

What’s so wrong with that cable installation? To be frank, everything is wrong with that cable installation.

Lets make a list:

  1. The cable is too low.
    The ANSI A300 Standards state that a cable needs to be installed about 2/3rds above the defect. This cable is about 20 feet off the ground, and only 5 ft. above the defect. This short distance is offering very little support for a weak crotch.
  2. The lags are screwed in wrong
    J-Lags are supposed to sit strait inline with the cable. To install them correctly an arborist would pre-drill a hole, 1/4-1/2 size smaller then the J-Lag thread size so the threads can grab a hold of wood. Then each side would have to be turned in simultaneously so the cable doesn’t fray.
  3. The cable requires a thimble and should terminate by either a dead end grip, or an eye splice.

    A thimble reduces cable wear and increases a cables bend radius. The terminations by either a eye splice or a dead end grip insure that the cable will not pull out of it’s attachment.
  4. The cable should be tight.
    Trees move quite a bit under windy conditions. Cables can snap under the stress, or pull out or off of the tree attachment.
I push consumer education for exactly this purpose. A homeowner paid to have this service done. If the homeowner would have known before having cables installed, he would have known that this was incorrect. As of right now there still is no licensing or way for holding tree companies accountable for their practices. The best advice I can give is the same that I always give. Look for certified companies. Certified companies can be held accountable for their actions. New Jersey Certified Tree Experts, and ISA Certified Arborists are the two qualifications that you should look for.
I’ll end with this. If the cable installation wasn’t bad enough, the same tree company decided to “prune” a tree. The pictures below are what they did to it. To keep it short, this tree was over pruned. The effects of over pruning will be seen in a few years. Ultimately, this tree’s life will be dramatically shorter.
An Example of an Unprofessional Tree Service: An Incorrect Cable Installation