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Looking at starting clearing business

Discussion in 'Forestry Operations' started by Dirtroadcowboy, Aug 2, 2019.

  1. Dirtroadcowboy

    Dirtroadcowboy New Member

    Aug 2, 2019
    De Soto
    Hello all, new to the forum, like the title says I’m interested in starting a side gig for brush clearing. I’ve been running skid steers since I could walk so I’ve got that locked down. What I’m curious about is how to charge rates (by acre or hour), and mainly how to start out equipment wise. I have found a few track machines and munchers for decent prices too, any input is appreciated! Thanks in advance
  2. mowingman

    mowingman Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2010
    north Texas
    I have about 12 years experience in land clearing. My advice is "Do not do It". The costs are unpredictable and can be very high with regard to equipment. If you are just determined to do it, then start out with rented equipment, so the dealer has to do the repairs. In addition to a dedicated forestry mulcher, you will need a mechanics tool truck, fully stocked with every part you can think of. you will also need to make arraingements for an onsite fuel tank, or at least have a 400 gal tank in your truck or on a trailer. and, if you are doing this on a fulltime basis, forget about a mulcher on a skidsteer. Those are just toys, and might work, if you only run it 1 or 2 days/week.
    Unless you are sure you can get a bunch of ongoing contracts, I would not get into the business. If you want to do it part time, maybe get a skidsteer with a forestry package, and rent a mulcher head when you need it. Oh, you will most likely need a dozer, about the size of a D6 to handle the bigger stuff, and a few chainsaws, and a couple of good helpers.
  3. Junkyard

    Junkyard Senior Member

    Jun 5, 2016
    Field Mechanic
    Claremore, OK
    Agreed on the machine info. I have a good friend doing it and the skid steer mounted mulchers just don’t hold up. Even purpose built machines similar in size always have an issue or two, usually hydraulic. They all gulp fuel and are working their guts out most of the time.

    Teeth will be an expense and constant point of maintenance regardless of what type you run. I also agree on needing what will amount to a service/lube truck to keep it maintained properly.

    Even with several really good contacts with large projects my buddy sometimes struggles with it.....I’ve gone in and done quite a bit of felling for him so he’s just got stumps to grind vs dropping the entire tree and mulching it all. Knowing his financial situation I’ve always done it for the wood.

    He does some hourly, some by the acre and some contract. I can tell you his purpose built Fecon will outwork the skid steer unit by almost 50% and they’re similar sized machines. If memory serves he’s figured cost at something around $1,000 an acre. I cannot tell you how he got there so it could be way off.
  4. CM1995

    CM1995 Super Moderator

    Jan 21, 2007
    Running what I brung and taking what I win
    Welcome to the Forums dirtroadcowboy.

    What part of the country do live in? Location plays a huge role in what it costs to get anything done.
  5. treemuncher

    treemuncher Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2006
    eatin' trees, poopin' chips
    West TN
    I work jobs hourly, contract sum, by the acre (gps) or by the linear foot if ditch work. In full honesty to my customers, it's cheaper for them and fair to both of us to work hourly by the hourmeter to the 1/10th of the hour at my rates. I try to select the machine that is the most cost efficient for their job. Each machine has a different rate and different minimum call out costs. Distance also factors into job cost.

    Size, species, density, terrain and finish quality are the 5 factors to price any job. After 22 years of mulching experience, there is NO magic formula that is 75%+ accurate to price a job - there is too much variance. I would rather bid a job too high and lose the job than to bid a job too low and take a beating. I can always charge a customer less once the job is done rather than charging more after the fact.

    UNLESS YOU ARE a mechanic, welder, hydraulics technician, tool fabricator, machinist, engineer, balancing technician and skilled operator with a workaholic tendency, you should run away from this type of business. If you plan to hire out repairs, you will go broke, quickly. While my machines are more efficient, robust and better built than ever, lots of things still go wrong. Every one of my machines has needed repairs due to factory engineering mistakes. Some of these were pretty major. Ever see a machine start to split in half? How do you fix that? Can you safely weld fuel and hydraulic tanks to make these repairs? How do you stop that axle from twisting off the frame? This crap is endless.

    And then there is the daily gamble of operating: This past weekend it was a 10" diameter x 6" thick solid steel flywheel pulley that got into a cutterhead. Still waiting on parts and ready for a day's welding to put it back together. Can you stomach a $5k-$30k+ hit at any time with your bank account? If not, this business can break you, fast. The amount of tooling and parts to stay productive could boggle your mind. Do you own a large lathe? Do you have a vertical mill? What about torches, plasma cutters, welders and other fab equipment? Do you know how to thoroughly flush a hydraulic system after trashing a motor or pump? Do you understand why it is so imperative to do this, correctly, or risk an immediate re-occurrence of the failure?

    If you really want to get into the business, best of luck to you. When the day goes right, for me, it's worth all of the aggravation. Every location is different as is every market. You will always be competing against Slash&Burn techniques and other mulching businesses. The market will dictate what you need to charge to stay in business.

    During a recent visit to Maine, I realized how much different that the tree density is up there. Yes, most of the wood is soft but the number of hidden boulders would make for a very difficult work environment. The trees are thicker than the hair on a dog's back. And how much work is available in a year due to weather? You might be able to make a good living or you might go bankrupt, quickly. Lots of things to factor into this kind of work if you are a start-up business.

    I plan to get out of my business sometime in the next 5 years. I will sell my assets with full training of my knowledge and all of my inventory. I would like to continue working in some way as long as I can, especially to get a new owner trained for all of the crap that happens in this business. I enjoy what I do and I'm hard headed enough not to quit. The money is good but I'm sure I could make more doing other things if the money was my priority in life. Time stops for no man and it will force me to retire at some future date. Someone will have an opportunity to continue a well established business.
    thick cedar 1.JPG
    Wytruckwrench likes this.
  6. ianjoub

    ianjoub Senior Member

    Jun 22, 2018
    Homosassa, FL USA
    Good luck finding the @ss for that seat. The only thing people shop for anymore is CHEAP.
  7. Randy88

    Randy88 Senior Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Been there, done that, and to a certain extent, still doing it.

    Now this advice is free and also honest and its pretty short to read as well.

    Go buy a new pair of running shoes and put them on, go for a run and never look back on your way to find something both profitable and what most would consider a good long term investment.