Stump grinding and how to charge for the service.

Going from offering lawn care to tree pruning is a relatively small step to take and can be done by most lawn care professionals without too much hassle. But what about when you start getting into removal of tree stumps? What types of issues do you need to be aware of and be concerned about? That is what one business owner was interested in knowing when he asked how to improve his stump grinding estimates on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have been working on clearing trees lately and just finished one with a 20″ diameter base. That got me thinking, if I had a grinder I know I could get the job removing that stump. So I went to a local rental shops to see if they have stump grinders for rent. I found I could rent a unit locally for $100/day.

Next I had a lady asking me to not only clear some trees from her property but to grind at least 3 red cedar stumps two have been cut down for a few years but I am dropping the third one.

I finally decided to rent the stump grinder and it cost with taxes $116.00 for a 24 hour rental. I ran it for approximately 6 hours grinding 4 red cedar stumps it worked great but WOW talk about work all the stumps had far more roots that I had to deal with than I thought. I charged the lady 7 hours labor $40.00/hr (I normally charge $50/hr but I gave her a break) + grinder rental + fuel $14.00 + taxes (12%) = appr $450.00 for the job.

Any thoughts on how I could improve my stump grinding prices and service?”

A second lawn care business owner wrote “first things first. Unless you specifically tell your insurance agent to cover you for stump grinding, you will not be covered. This service is not throw in for insurers.

Secondly, stump grinding charges by the inch not the hour and $3.50 is the minimum for ideal conditions. Depending on what type of teeth a machine has they can be anywhere from $4.00 to $13.00 per tooth and contact with one big rock will wipe out the whole set of them. Whether you rent it or own it you are responsible for the teeth.

My stump grinder holds 34 teeth at $9.00 a pop and if I am doing a $100.00 stump and I am not careful, there goes $300.00 worth of teeth.

Lastly, don’t let the little stump grinding machines fool you, always think safety, safety, safety. Always wear a hardhat with face and hearing protection and don’t face the machine towards anything of value.
I have had rocks the size of softballs hit me in the shins at a 100 mph and leave lumps bigger than the rock that hit me. I have gotten hit in the face countless times while wearing protection because you are dealing with rocks going at a high velocity and I have had my hardhat with face shield and hearing protection slapped off my head.

Stump grinding for me, when it arises, is something I have to do more than I want to do.
It is very deceptive to the untrained eye and may lead you to believe it is highly profitable but really is not. If you own the machine, the maintenance is 100 times more than anything you use to cut grass. Teeth are expensive and you go through a ton of them. Those little machines are not cheap for what you get and for the average stump it is just a toy. Sure it will do the job but if you use it all the time you will see what I see.

I have self propelled and a tow behind unit. One will chew through a 36 inch hardwood stump in a hour or less depending on the roots and rocks and the larger unit will do it in 10 minutes.

My point is that it is hard to price them hourly because more often than not, you will be overcharging the customer if you are using a little rental.

I do everything I can with the big machine and if I have a stump in the back yard with a gate or tough to reach location i use the smaller self propelled unit and I charge a little more for it because it takes longer.

For example: we have a 36 inch wide stump with easy access in the front yard that needs to be removed, I charge $4.00 per inch plus tax and I am out of there in 20 minutes for a total of $154.08.
compare that to a guy renting the little machine that is charging lets say $40.00 per hour.
It is gonna take him a few hours to grind it all a solid 10 inches below grade and when it is all said and done he will charge $214.00 for the same stump.

The customer pays more and you make less after the rental and if you own the machine you will put a couple bucks more in your pocket but the customer will pay more for the guy renting than the one who owns the right equipment.

Basically it boils down to that those little stump grinders are designed to be used only when you can not get a bigger machine on the stump and are really not meant to be a stand alone machine. They are great for little shrub stumps but when you get into the big wood their weaknesses are exposed.

I am saying this as a way to fore warn anyone about some of the issues associated with stumps and trees. I am not trying to talk anyone out of it or say it’s not worth doing, all I am saying is that anything related to trees has a very fickle hand of fate that comes with it and it is very easy to get into trouble doing it or get a reputation of being high priced.

So if stump grinding is what you want to do, good luck and for god’s sake be careful.”

A third shared “in regards to your stump grinding job, $2.00 an inch seems quite low. In my area the going rate is $6.00 an inch usually with a minimum of $150. Also it is very important to have a minimum charge for this because it costs a lot of money to haul, operate, and get around to the job site. If you have to go around the house down a steep hill to the back yard then you should charge more compared to having the trees in a flat surface on the front yard. Stump grinding is a very specialized service and you definitely do not want to charge by the hour because you wont be making enough money. Charge by the inch (diameter).

$450 seems low when your already paying $115 to rent a stump grinder plus all of the overhead it costs to operate and get to and from the rental site.”

Read more about Lawn Care Business Bidding Tips, Upsells, And Disasters To Avoid. Learn how to improve your bidding process with this lawn care business book and be prepared before hand by knowing what you should be looking out for before a problem occurs.ā€¯

If you need help estimating lawn care or snow plowing jobs, get these lawn care and snow plowing estimation calculators.

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