Cleaning up and clearing the way

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Updated May 9, 2019

While there are plenty of mini chipper/shredders on the market, when it comes to tree removal, most manufacturers recommend chippers and stump grinders as a landscaper’s primary equipment. Forget the small stuff and look for something mid-sized, says Dan Brandon, marketing manager for Morbark. This will save a lot of time and money in the long run, by cutting costs of running the equipment for hours on end.

Before deciding to offer tree removal as a service, landscapers should focus on whether to buy or rent equipment, the actual size of equipment necessary for removing small, medium or large trees and additional pieces to complete the job. Determine the amount of time you want to invest in this area first. The choice to rent or purchase equipment depends on how often your business gets requests for tree removal and disposal, Brandon says. “Renting is probably your best bet if you are only getting occasional tree removal jobs, such as every two or three months – assuming you have a rental company nearby,” he says.

In contrast, if a tree removal job comes along every week, purchasing is probably the way to go. Brandon says purchasing is a good choice because landscapers can control the machine and its maintenance, without throwing away money on a rental.

Chip, chip, chipping away
Chippers come in varying sizes, and are available through several manufacturers. Kevin Covert, sales and marketing manager for Rayco, says hand-fed chippers, which are typically for trees of 20 inches in diameter or smaller, are best for landscapers because they take less time to dispose of trees.

“Chippers cut material, which in turn, produces a dimensional wood chip,” says Bob Campbell, sales manager for Woodsman. They also use less horsepower than shredders, he says, which makes them more time and cost efficient. “Mini chipper/shredders are so lightweight that they don’t hold up for a big job,” Jerry Morey, president of Bandit Industries, says.

“Chippers are fairly simple machines that take a lot of abuse,” Brandon says. Therefore, it is best to get a heavy-duty model, and make sure your dealer can provide parts and service for the chipper if you decide to purchase. Also, ask the manufacturer if a warranty is included.

Prior to purchase, landscapers should examine the frame, axles, drum, bearings and overall weight of the machine. “This will tell you how much steel makes up the machine and how much daily pounding it can take,” Brandon says.

Extra services for additional income
For tree disposal, the rules for purchasing or renting a stump grinder are about the same as chippers. In other words, don’t buy a stump grinder if customers only request stump removal once in awhile, says Jim Cornelius, president of U.S. Praxis. “Taking out stumps is more of an opportunity business for landscapers.” When considering a stump grinder for your equipment fleet, also think about whether stumps will be in obstructed areas, as well as open areas, Covert says. This helps determine whether a tow-behind stump grinder is best, in terms of mainly unobstructed areas, or a self-propelled stump grinder for obstructed and open areas.

Additional pieces of equipment, such as chainsaws, a knowledgeable crew and a truck to haul waste are also needed if you are thinking of offering this service to customers. Trucks designed to tow chippers and haul material away in the bed are the best bet for landscapers and arborists, Brandon says. Another option is the Dump-Pro system, which bolts onto trailers or pick-up trucks and can dump 4 to 5 cubic yards, says Dick Blumenstein, president and chief executive officer of Dump-Pro.

Landscapers wanting to rid themselves of mulch or tree waste have to be careful, though, says Brandon. While chippers produce small square chips, landscapers often find this material is not necessarily as valuable as shredded material that can be used as compost, so they burn the waste or take it to a landfill.

Most importantly, Brandon says, don’t go out and buy the cheapest machine available, because there is more than likely a reason it is cheaper. “Make sure you are getting equipment that is stout enough to do this job, he adds, not just today, but for 10 to 15 years from now.”

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