Mile High Tree Care, Inc. Chooses Kiln-direct Lumber Kiln to Launch New Venture

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An urban tree care company adds kiln-dried, heat-treated lumber to product line.


ARVADA, Colorado – One-hundred percent…that’s the recycling target achieved by Mile High Tree Care, Inc., a company that specializes in providing TLC to urban trees.

“Preservation of the urban forest” is what it’s all about at Mile High Tree Care, said Steve Elder, the president and founder of the company. He sets and achieves a “zero waste” goal for his company because he wants “to make certain trees will be there for future generations.”

On the service side, Mile High Tree Care does all things that contribute to healthy urban trees. The company prunes, removes and grinds stumps, plants, fertilizes, carries out plant health care, including disease and insect control, and does deep root watering.

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The fiber Mile High Tree Care recovers from urban trees provides the raw material for both mulch and firewood. Soon, kiln-dried (KD) and heat-treated (HT) lumber will be on the product roster.

When we spoke with Steve in early June, he was working out the logistics of using his new 9000 bf kiln from Kiln-direct in Burgaw, N.C. Logs that otherwise would have gone directly to one of his two firewood processors or his grinder will now be milled and sent to the kiln.

The idea for the new venture came to Steve when he was remodeling a house. “I was paying enormous sums for wood,” he explained. He began to wonder why he was doing that when so much valuable wood was going to mulch and firewood.

Steve began doing research on kilns and portable saw mills. “In researching all this, Kiln-direct gave me help from the start,” he said, adding that he has been working closely with Patrick Dean.

Lowering the moisture content of wood and heat treating it to kill insects is all doable, but sequencing and timing are critical elements. “Pat – he let me know the parameters,” said Steve. “He helped me build confidence.”

The first charge was in the kiln when Steve talked with us in early June. It was slated to be removed on June 29. At that, Steve emphasized that he is still working out all the dimensions of the combination KD-HT effort for lumber.

Most wood will be dried to six to eight percent moisture content; and the schedule will ensure that the wood will not be vulnerable to any twists or turns when craftsmen or builders use it. The heat treating will ensure that the wood does not vector insect pests.

As for installation of the kiln, that was a smooth process. “Kiln-direct came out and helped us put it in,” said Steve.

Mile High Tree Care is using natural gas from the grid as the heat source for its Kiln-direct kiln. Steve said he chose gas “for the consistency of the heat, the constant flow.” Moreover, not using wood as fuel fits his commitment to extending the life, or giving second life, to all fiber.

The experience working with the team at Kiln-direct, and especially Pat, has been good. “I can’t say enough about Pat, his knowledge,” said Steve. “We’ve been really blessed to know him.”

Everyone at Kiln-direct has been “super nice” and “super helpful,” said Steve. Team members from Kiln-direct made certain that he understood the standard kiln he bought, kiln theory, and kiln controls and software.

An Oscar 52 portable sawmill from Hud-Son is used to produce the lumber destined for the Kiln-direct kiln. “I needed 48-inch,” said Steve. “In the size-range, the Hud-Son was practical.” The Hud-Son has a 52-inch log capacity and easily produces 48-inch. Hud-Son is located in Barneveld, N.Y.

Before buying the Hud-Son sawmill, Steve was able to try out the mill. The results persuaded him that the machine would be a good match for his needs.

Steve is confident the lumber product line will be a good addition. He already has customers waiting for slabs. “We do a few home shows,” he said. At the shows, he meets crafts and trades people who make specialty products, such as coffee tables and tables.

Builders often come to Steve’s wood yard to make requests for certain logs. They are looking for grain and species. “People come in and say, ‘I want that log’,” he explained. The requesters are wood lovers who want a unique combination of features for a mantel or exposed interior wood.

For now, it’s word of mouth that is bringing customers for the first KD-HT wood. “We’re going to launch a marketing campaign in August,” said Steve.

The lumber will be a specialty product line at Mile High Tree Care. With its Morbark 1300 tub grinder and Amerimulch coloring system, Steve’s company produces approximately 85,000 yards of mulch annually. Using a Timberwolf TW-6 firewood processor and a TM Manufacturing 30-inch skid splitter, it produces roughly 500 cords of firewood each year.

Most mulch is colored red, brown or mocha with the system from Amerimulch, headquartered in Twinsburg, Ohio. But special requests are also met.

Mulch is sold bulk to yards and wholesale to retail outlets, one of which bags it. Firewood is sold by the cord.

Timberwolf is headquartered in Rutland, Ver. Its TW-6 log splitter comes standard with a four-way wedge (six-way optional). It has the speed and power to handle difficult chunks of wood.

The TM-30 skid splitter from TM Manufacturing in Cokato, Minn. rides on an excavator, which provides significant control to the operator. “It’s an awesome machine,” said Steve.

Not all the raw material for products comes from the service calls that Mile High Tree Care completes. “We run a recycling yard where other companies can dump their material,” said Steve. Mile High Tree Care is based in Arvada, Colorado, a home-rule municipality with a reach extending to Jefferson County and Adams County. Arvada has some 112,000 residents. It is part of the Denver metropolitan area.

Working within a 100-mile radius of Denver, Mile High Tree Care focuses exclusively on urban trees. “We live and work in the concrete jungle,” said Steve.

A certified arborist, Steve has been intrigued by trees ever since he began climbing them as a child. Before starting his company 15 years ago, Steve worked for a landscaping company and a tree service company.

At the tree service company, Steve refined his skills. He also deepened his appreciation of trees. After five years, he decided it was the right time to start a business of his own.

The slogan for Mile High Tree Care is ‘God makes ‘em. We shape ‘em.’ It reflects the emphasis that the company puts on working with customers to keep trees strong and healthy, so that their inherent beauty is on full display.

Steve’s company has 26 employees and runs seven to 10 crews each day. At job sites crews use Morbark chippers, model 15 all, for immediate cleanup of brush and limbs. And they depend on a variety of chip trucks, boom trucks, medium duty trucks and semi’s,” said Steve.

All cutting, including felling, is done with Stihl chain saws. Stihl has always been Steve’s choice in chain saw, he said. The slabs that will be sawn with the Hud-Son and sent to the Kiln-direct kiln will come from a wide variety of species. “We will use anything we can salvage in the metro area – ash, maple, locust, elm, birch, catalpa, mulberry, walnut and more,” said Steve.

From tree climbing as a child, Steve moved into sport rock climbing. He is a native of Colorado. And he is very happy to be able to provide services and products that contribute to the splendor of the state.

“We do what we say when we say we’re going to do,” said Steve. That’s the philosophy that guides him and his team each day.

Mile High Tree Care operates 12 months a year. It occupies an eight-acre site.

Steve is enthusiastic about the new product line of KD-HT wood. “It’s such a big market – 8/4, 10/4 slab wood,” he said. Of course, it’s about more than the market. It’s also about knowing the wood fiber claimed from urban trees will be long-lived in crafted furniture or features of homes.

The standard kiln from Kiln-direct that will make the new lumber line a reality has many standard components, such as full computerized control and wireless communication, to simplify the effort. Kiln-direct offers lumber and pallet drying and heat-treating systems in many sizes and with components tailored to specific needs of each customer.

Just as the lumber is a good fit for Mile High Tree Care, the professional path Steve chose is a good fit for him. “I enjoy being outside,” he said. “I enjoy the relationship with my fellow workers, my vendors, and my customers.”

Mile High Tree Care has been a success because of the team that carries out its efforts each day. “My appreciation to all my former and present employees” cannot be overstated, said Steve.

Away from work, it’s family to which Steve is devoted. “I spend all my time with my family – my wife and two children,” he said. “We go boating, camping. I also do quite a bit of hunting.”