Should I expand by getting a wood chipper?

There are plenty of services you can offer in the lawn care and landscaping field. The list of services you can offer is limited only by your imagination. If you ask your customers questions and keep your eyes open for different services they could utilize, you may find certain services could be used more so than others. Some services will also make you more money than others. A member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum was interested in expanding his business when he asked about offering wood chipping.

He wrote “I got a call from the customer who’s yard I finished mowing yesterday. He wants an estimate for wood chipping a bunch of branches that were piled in different areas of his property. I am tossing the idea of offering this service around in my head as I have no clue what to charge. Furthermore, I am not equipped for such a job.

Wood chipper

Wood chipper

Not to long ago a friend of mine mentioned he had a small consumer model wood chipper for sale so I decided to call him and talk about this. He explained he still had it and wanted $100 for it. It’s only about a year old and still looks near new and runs great so of course it was a brainless decision, he will be delivering it today.

Now I will be able to offer this service. I feel like I saved over $700 on the equipment after taxes are included. Now instead of filling my yard waste can with tree and bush clippings from customers every week, I can shred them up and use them in the flower beds here at home or at a customer’s house for yet another service. Do you think this was the way to go or will this equipment not be enough?”

One lawn care business owner, who offers this service, said “have you looked at the branches this customer wants you to chip? How big are they? You also need to know if they are hardwood or softwood. The little chipper you purchased is pretty good at shredding leaves and small branches, maybe chipping up to 1 1/2″. I understand many that size are rated for a maximum branch width of 3″ however it has been my experience with those sized electric motors, it will never be able to perform to such a rating.

If it’s softwood bows, ferns, hedges, your chipper will struggle as it’s self feed. If the branches are dry, it’s desperate hard on the blades so you will need to carry a spare set and the tools to change them. Once they start to dull it will no longer feed.

As for the rates, we run larger auto feed chippers. We normally drop them off on site with a tractor and an operator to run them.

Here are the fees we charge, depending on which machine is needed.

5″ Chipper $65.00 per hour
6″ Chipper $75.00 per hour
8″ Chipper $85.00 per hour

We charge for an extra helper as well, which is required, as it takes two to three people to keep them fed, is $35.00 an hour.

The key to profits with this service is to bid your jobs by the hour if you can. The small chipper you are going to be using is pretty slow. I have two customers that have them and they said what we were doing in an hour takes them at least 6 hours to complete. Keep that in mind as customers may complain if it’s going too slow.

Again, if you decide to go forwards and use this smaller chipper, the critical thing is to have an extra set of blades. If you do not have a user manual, I suggest you get one. Also take it apart and practice changing the blades. When you are being paid hourly, by the client, they will want it done fairly quick. I have one extra set for each unit and made a jig for my slow grinding wheel to sharpen them.”

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