PDA

View Full Version : Entire subdivision with a reel mower?


E&MLandscapeServices
04-24-2006, 11:18 PM
I've been asked to submit a bid for a 'commercial' residential account. Basically, its a small subdivision (25 homes) and each homeowner pays an annual fee to the Homeowner's Assn for maintenance of their front yard. They hire a company to mow (nothing more) the front lawns and keep up the entrance to the subdivision (mulched shrubbery). I know they each paid $700 last year for this service - I dont know if they would be willing to increase their payments or not ($17,500/year total).

They currently have someone doing the work but his contract is up at the end of May. Several homeowner's have complained and want their lawns mowed with a reel mower because they have Bermuda grass. They also dont want 'heavy' ridden mowers on their lawns. A friend of mine suggested they contact me for a bid at their Homeowners Assn meeting last Thursday.

Even though it will be more work with a reel mower, I am certain that I can gain additional business from some of the homeowners for their back lawns as well. If I play my cards right - about what percentage of the homeowners do you think will sign contacts for their backyards as well? Has anyone been in a situation similar to this?

Suggestions for a reel mower? Brand/cost/etc...

treemeat
04-24-2006, 11:21 PM
I've seen a lot of used reel mowers on EBAY . . . seem to go pretty cheap compared to rotary mowers.

The Kiwi Lawn Ranger
04-24-2006, 11:35 PM
I have two clients I mow for that I use a reel (cylinder) mower on , Mine is a Jacobsen 32" I got second hand form my local golfclub.

The Lawn Ranger
Taupo New Zealand

E&MLandscapeServices
04-24-2006, 11:40 PM
I could get a gang reel mower and pull it but they dont want 'heavy' equipment on their lawns... This one is $2635 - has an 8 foot mowing width....
http://www.reelmowersetc.com/images/promowPremium1.jpg

I could get a couple of these... but thats a lot of pushing
http://www.reelmowersetc.com/images/705-16.jpg

Has anyone dealt with a Homeowners Assn on maintaining a subdivision - I realize it depends on who is in 'power' in the Assn while you have the contract but I wonder how difficult they will be to work with. It will probably be easier than working with each individual homeowner, right?

mike lane lawn care
04-24-2006, 11:44 PM
what about a self propelled reel mower?

mike lane lawn care
04-24-2006, 11:46 PM
or, if it's toom much to push, then say, "hey, it's not possible for me or any other LCO to do this, i have to use my mowers".

dcgreenspro
04-24-2006, 11:49 PM
if you are going to get a reel mower, check local golf courses for old ones. My old boss is giving two 36 in. away. Secondly, talk to a golf course mech. to do pm maint on the mower. reel to steel, blade sharp, oil change, grease. it will def. pay off. gl

E&MLandscapeServices
04-24-2006, 11:52 PM
Well, I cant say that to them - I've been in business about a week and only have 15 other residential contacts (and 1 commercial contract starting in June). These 25 homes will be a big part of business for me right now until I grow some...

I've looked at the gas reel mowers - they dont seem to be too much. Has anyone had any experience using them?

I need to determine how many man-hours this will take each week to determine if I can do it without additional help. The lawns are pretty much cookie-cutter - all are approximately 125' x 75' with a few trees, hedges, etc. All have double driveways and a sidewalk so that eliminates some green space. Basically, we have 2 days per week to mow these lawns - Wednesday and Thursday.

Az Gardener
04-25-2006, 12:07 AM
The reason they are so cheap is because they are so much smaller 17"-27" is about all you will get without going into golf course territory. They also take a good even lawn to work well, and they are more expensive to maintain. Most people wont spend the money up front to get a good one, they buy the belt driven McClains, Don't cut the grass for 2 weeks and then burn up the belts trying to get a mower set at 1" through a lawn that is 2"-3" tall.

I use mostly reel mowers. Costs about 60-80 to get one sharpened. They don't pick up debris well. You hit one rock and they will not cut right until sharpened or at least adjusted. Blades and bed knife must match exactly. The blades are exposed so they can be dangerous for employees. 1800-$$ for a new 25" tru cut. With all the pain, they give the best cut,(reel mowers in general) and if you take care they will long outlast a rotary. I have 2 that are over 20 years old, great cut.

Then there is the lawn, it must be flat or at least transition evenly, they scalp very easily.

I would be surprised if they are willing to pay for the extra expense or time, but you also will have little competition. I figure at least 10% more time to mow with the reels after you have cleaned the area. We clean the turf first, check for rocks and twigs, pick up leaves etc. I sharpen mine once a month.

I love the reel cut nothing better.

Az Gardener
04-25-2006, 12:29 AM
I would stay away from a commercial golf course mower unless the lawns are very flat, they propel themselves with a drum or roller. The better homeowner models are driven by large wide wheels so if you get a little high in the center the cut is still ok. They are a little more forgiving is the best way to put it. Tru-Cut, Trimmer are about the only ones I would reccomend. Trimmer is the best.

Also it is a lot more to sharpen the golf couse mowers. Around here only one place besides the courses will do it and they are far away and I'm at the bottom of the list so its 10 days to two weeks to get them back if they are not busy. Do you really want a mower that had been used commercially? Golf courses have the most resources to keep those things productive if they can't keep them productive how could we?

With obstacles they are a pain, the catcher sticks out in front, if the trees have surface roots you will be bouncing over, topdressing or scalping tree roots. You cant get into corners unless their is room for a catcher to hang over. If the drives/sidewalks are level with the turf it is great, if not a pain. Too high scalp, too low weed eating for 6". I will try to post some pictures later in the week.

Still, they do give a beautiful cut but its not a poor mans game.

SWD
04-25-2006, 08:22 AM
You have a multitude of options regarding reel mowers - by brand name
entry level are the tru-cuts/mcclanes and locke (now ariens) to name just a few walk behind homeowner machines.
Additionally, Toro and Jacobsen have, a one time, made homeowner grade reel equipment.
Mowing an area the dimensions you described can best be accomplished by a riding greens type mower, commonly referred to as a tri-plex.
Mechanically, the easiest to maintain is a Toro GM3/300/3000 or 3200 series machine.
I would recommend staying away from early John Deere tri-plex machines only due to a somewhat odd reel mechanism that unless you know how to maintain, I wouldn't acquire.
Just remember, for a reel mower to operate, there is a certain relationship that absolutely has to be maintained regarding ground speed, reel rpm, type of reel, type of bedknife, mowing height, and the overall condition of the property being maintained.
If I were you, and you were really intent upon acquiring a reel mower, I would talk to a local golf course superintendent about operating one of his/her machines for a bit of time in order for you to acquire the necessary practical experience.
Reel mowers aren't bad, just different and they require a different approach to operate.
I have been maintaining and operating reel mowers for many years, and training mechanics and operators on these type of machines. Provided you have an above average mechanical aptitude, jump in and run one. If you need someone to assist in your rotary maintenance than now wouldn't be the best time for you to jump on a reel mower.
What I suggest is that you physically walk the area in question, check for how uniform the grade is, the density of the turf, check for irrigation, basically obtain a site report.
Usually, when an uneducated homeowner wants a turf site mown with a reel mower it is due to their not understanding that turf gets damaged when it is unlevel and not uniform.
This could be a time to sell aerification, topdressing and fertilizing.

HOOLIE
04-25-2006, 08:43 PM
I dunno, maybe just me, but I don't like working for people that "demand' a certain type of mower or any other equipment for that matter. They tend to be too picky as customers.

Sure it could help your business get rolling...I wouldn't necessarily run out and buy a special mower, could just be one or two homeowners whining about rotary mowers. Remember you'll be working for the HOA, not the individual homeowners...if the HOA feels like they need a reel mower I'm sure they will specify that.

nephilim0167
04-25-2006, 09:16 PM
I dunno, maybe just me, but I don't like working for people that "demand' a certain type of mower or any other equipment for that matter. They tend to be too picky as customers.

Sure it could help your business get rolling...I wouldn't necessarily run out and buy a special mower, could just be one or two homeowners whining about rotary mowers. Remember you'll be working for the HOA, not the individual homeowners...if the HOA feels like they need a reel mower I'm sure they will specify that.

Usually the picky ones are the ones willing to pay the extra fees to get exactly what they want. Maybe you should start liking them :cool2:

HOOLIE
04-25-2006, 11:52 PM
Usually the picky ones are the ones willing to pay the extra fees to get exactly what they want. Maybe you should start liking them :cool2:

Well true, but ''picky" often = PITA, just have to learn to distinguish one from the other :laugh:

Back to the original scenario...really the bottom line with many commercial clients is PRICE. So you really have to stop and think, do I want to spend additional $$$ to buy special equipment for this one job, and spend extra time servicing the account??? One could always present 2 options for the HOA...Option 1, cut the normal way at $xxxxx, OR Option 2, cut with a reel mower at $xxxxx+yyyyy. I don't see them springing for more money to keep a couple homeowners happy but you never know. At least you make them aware that you would be providing a premium service and that it costs more.

E&MLandscapeServices
04-26-2006, 12:04 AM
I dunno, maybe just me, but I don't like working for people that "demand' a certain type of mower or any other equipment for that matter. They tend to be too picky as customers.

Sure it could help your business get rolling...I wouldn't necessarily run out and buy a special mower, could just be one or two homeowners whining about rotary mowers. Remember you'll be working for the HOA, not the individual homeowners...if the HOA feels like they need a reel mower I'm sure they will specify that.

The bid request specifically stated 'reel mower' so it is the HOA that is requesting it. The HOA is made up of residents - and its a very small subdivision (25 homes - with about 5-10 more going in within the next year). The person that currently has the contact received it because he is friends with the builder and, when the HOA was first established, the builder was 'president' for the first year.

VWBOBD
05-02-2006, 03:11 AM
BUY A GOOD USED JACOBSEN AND GET THE BRACKET KIT SO YOU CAN CUT AT A HEIGHT MORE THAN 1". THEY ARE AWESOME, I BOUGHT MINE ON EBAY FOR 1/3 OF THE COST OF A NEW ONE, EVEN GOT THE TRANSPORT WHEELS AND A FACTORY TRAILER TO HAUL IT AROUND WITH. THESE MOWERS ARE ROLLER DRIVEN AND LEAVE A AWESOME STRIPE :dancing:

Runner
05-02-2006, 04:52 AM
You have a multitude of options regarding reel mowers - by brand name
entry level are the tru-cuts/mcclanes and locke (now ariens) to name just a few walk behind homeowner machines.
Additionally, Toro and Jacobsen have, a one time, made homeowner grade reel equipment.
Mowing an area the dimensions you described can best be accomplished by a riding greens type mower, commonly referred to as a tri-plex.
Mechanically, the easiest to maintain is a Toro GM3/300/3000 or 3200 series machine.
I would recommend staying away from early John Deere tri-plex machines only due to a somewhat odd reel mechanism that unless you know how to maintain, I wouldn't acquire.
Just remember, for a reel mower to operate, there is a certain relationship that absolutely has to be maintained regarding ground speed, reel rpm, type of reel, type of bedknife, mowing height, and the overall condition of the property being maintained.
If I were you, and you were really intent upon acquiring a reel mower, I would talk to a local golf course superintendent about operating one of his/her machines for a bit of time in order for you to acquire the necessary practical experience.
Reel mowers aren't bad, just different and they require a different approach to operate.
I have been maintaining and operating reel mowers for many years, and training mechanics and operators on these type of machines. Provided you have an above average mechanical aptitude, jump in and run one. If you need someone to assist in your rotary maintenance than now wouldn't be the best time for you to jump on a reel mower.
What I suggest is that you physically walk the area in question, check for how uniform the grade is, the density of the turf, check for irrigation, basically obtain a site report.
Usually, when an uneducated homeowner wants a turf site mown with a reel mower it is due to their not understanding that turf gets damaged when it is unlevel and not uniform.
This could be a time to sell aerification, topdressing and fertilizing.

It is refreshing and you can always tell when someone has true knowledge in something. In this particular case, it happens to be reel mowers. Heed this advice.:weightlifter:

VWBOBD
05-21-2006, 05:53 AM
BUY A GOOD USED JACOBSEN AND GET THE BRACKET KIT SO YOU CAN CUT AT A HEIGHT MORE THAN 1". THEY ARE AWESOME, I BOUGHT MINE ON EBAY FOR 1/3 OF THE COST OF A NEW ONE, EVEN GOT THE TRANSPORT WHEELS AND A FACTORY TRAILER TO HAUL IT AROUND WITH. THESE MOWERS ARE ROLLER DRIVEN AND LEAVE A AWESOME STRIPE :dancing:
i still dont like stripes myself but customers do so......so be it

jameson
05-21-2006, 11:05 AM
I would stay away from a commercial golf course mower unless the lawns are very flat, they propel themselves with a drum or roller. The better homeowner models are driven by large wide wheels so if you get a little high in the center the cut is still ok. They are a little more forgiving is the best way to put it. Tru-Cut, Trimmer are about the only ones I would reccomend. Trimmer is the best.

Also it is a lot more to sharpen the golf couse mowers. Around here only one place besides the courses will do it and they are far away and I'm at the bottom of the list so its 10 days to two weeks to get them back if they are not busy. Do you really want a mower that had been used commercially? Golf courses have the most resources to keep those things productive if they can't keep them productive how could we?

With obstacles they are a pain, the catcher sticks out in front, if the trees have surface roots you will be bouncing over, topdressing or scalping tree roots. You cant get into corners unless their is room for a catcher to hang over. If the drives/sidewalks are level with the turf it is great, if not a pain. Too high scalp, too low weed eating for 6". I will try to post some pictures later in the week.

Still, they do give a beautiful cut but its not a poor mans game.

I agree 100%! I still have 1 Tru-Cut 25" w/5.5 Honda that we use every week, it is 10+ yrs old, still running strong. These things are built like Sherman tanks, tough as nails, they are NOT a box-store brand.

http://www.trupower.com/tru_cut/reel-mowers.htm

SWD
05-21-2006, 03:53 PM
To reiterate my previous post regarding reel mowers, a commercial reel mower with a seperate bed bar and knife is the best way to go.
Ease of maintenance, bed knife facing, parts availability and overall durability of the unit necessitates this type of set up.
Again, investigate the possibility of your acquiring practical experience at a local golf course. Be sure to ask to watch the mechanic on the set up of the unit.
Provided this isn't a feasible maneuver for you, check into the dedicated out front collection mowers like a Walker or Exmark Navigator.
These machines closely approximate the quality of cut of a reel mower and with the collection system integral to the machine, the associated debris such as leaf and small twigs/tree debris are collected at the same time.
My crew currently operates one Navigator so I can attest from first hand experience how well the Navigator performs. I'm certain the Walker is equivalent.
Bear in mind that attempting to mow over small twigs, leaves or aerial roots near trees can significantly damage the bed knife and possibly the reel as well.
Additionally, your method of transport has to ensure the bed bar and knife assembly does not come into contact with the trailer flooring or the machine will knock it's self out of adjustment.
Keep us posted on your progress with this POA.

SWD
05-21-2006, 04:02 PM
One other point about acquiring a reel mower from a golf course.
The equipment used on a course is usually part of a package deal the superintendent or manager has arranged with an equipment supplier.
Typically, the lease mandates a superior level of maintenance to these units to ensure their return value at end of lease time.
Once turned in from a lease, these machines are then available for much less than a used unit that was purchased than sold after a period of time.
This is why E-bay and other sites are saturated with used reel mowers, they are bought from the leasing agency for pennies on the dollar than turned around for a tidy profit.
A dealer specializing in lease packages will usually keep the better machines for their sales people to move then dump the questionable units on to web site re-sellers.
The problem you run into is lack of warranty/dealer support should a unit require more than ordinary maintenance when purchasing through a web site dealer.
Also, the maintenance history is usually not available so you really do not know what you are purchasing.