View Full Version : Staying busy in the Winter

11-16-2011, 12:23 AM
I need some serious advice and feedback on ideas to get business rolling this winter... I live in the Pacific NorthWest (Portland / Vancouver metropolitan area) and Winter is fast approaching... We don't get snow regularly here so plowing isn't something that I can do, nor am set up to do... Here are my ideas so far:
Fence & Deck Weatherization (Quick Power Wash & Stain/Sealer Application)
Power Washing Siding, Roof, Gutters, & Concrete
Moss Treatments (Moss & Mildew are Washington's State Flowers hahaha)
Tree Trimming
Yard Debris Cleanup (Is Winter a good time to cleanup all the debris/leaves?)
Outside Waterline Insulation
Compost Container Installation (Either a wooden box type or rotating barrel)

I'm just starting out and hoping to get up enough money to buy a decent 21" Walk Behind, Stihl Line Trimmer w/ attachments, and a Stihl BR600 Backpack Blower to be ready for the Spring Rush next year...

Any advice is appreciated, I am 26 years old and this is going to be my full time bread and butter business from here on out

11-16-2011, 12:44 AM
Good luck. I think power washing would be a good idea where you are. I have wanted to move to your area for some time now.

11-16-2011, 02:34 AM
start a handy-man sorta thing. do anything and everything your capable of doing well.

gutter cleaning and repair, downspout cleaning and repair, replace shutters, caulking, painting weather pending, garbage removal, stone work, drain work, facia (if you get a bending break and can use it), tree trimming, replace shingles, wood work, fencing, install mailboxes, bonfire pits, powerwasing like you mentioned,garage door repair,moving, scrapping, driveway repair, basement cleanouts,garage cleanouts, i mean whatever pays the bills. I think a handyman business is the most under-rated business out there and has a potential to make good money. I work for my dad since my biz has slowwwweed way down now that winter is approaching. was my first year in biz so it happened. but i work for him and he can keep me busy everyday all day doing handyman work on places he manages. its amazing how many different things i have done this year. you do one job and so and so will know somebody who needs this or that done. get a good rep and you could find yourself very busy. talk to property managers see if you can work for them. they like a do it all guy who can get things done lickity split instead of waiting a week for a roofing company to put up a couple missing shingles.

11-16-2011, 03:22 AM
I like the idea of handyman oriented business - I'm thinking of a new business name, as my current business name is Oasis Landscape Design... I am thinking of something versatile and similar to my current License.

Oasis Now Yard Restoration

With that I could provide Landscape Maintenance, Power Washing, HandyMan Services, RotoTilling, and basic Maintenance / Construction. I'm trying to utilize all of my skills and equipment (whereas I have more skills than equipment, for now at least).

Thank You for the replies =)

11-17-2011, 11:40 PM
I'm not sure about pressure washing. A decent rig with attachments will cost you at least a grand if not more. I tried it and had about $700 in equipment and it still wasn't really worth a flip so I took it back.

Have you considered hanging Christmas lights?

11-18-2011, 11:37 AM
The one thing with power washing and staining decks is that if you really soak the deck in water is you now need to let the deck dry out to stain it. It would take a while to dry out in the middle of winter.

11-18-2011, 01:46 PM
Haven't really wanted to get into the Christmas Lights - People are really particular and finicky around here and it would be a job that I'de have to use customer lights and possible have to troubleshoot wiring issues. I worked as an apprentice residential electrician in Alaska for about 600 supervised hours, so the wiring part wouldn't be too big of a deal, just the time involved with "getting it perfect" for the clients...

With the deck & fence weatherization service, I figured I could pressure wash one day, then set up a large tarp over the decks for a day or 2 to keep them out of the weather. Coming back to stain / seal the deck once they had a chance to dry somewhat. Also I considered using a large blower type fan to direct airflow on the deck (with tarp secured over railings) so that I could pressure wash a fence or concrete while waiting for the deck to dry somewhat. I haven't done this before (although I've pressure washed a lot of concrete) so it may be a hassle...

I saw pressure washing as a good service to offer because I could use my 91 Honda Civic as my service rig (35MPG) and stay on ground-level for the decks, fences, walks, and concrete... I don't know if Winter is the best time to offer weatherization services on the wood though

11-18-2011, 08:48 PM
How about setting up to sell firewood/ I just started selling firewood this year, and am already swamped with orders. Heck, winter isn't even here yet in Texas.
Might be an idea to consider up there.

Unique Landscape
11-18-2011, 09:39 PM
We are Vanc area also
We run maint year around right now we are in full Leaf patrol
Tons of leaves .
Also fruit tree trimming moss control both on roofs and hard surface,s
We do a ton of sprinkler blow out,s right now we do right at 400 per year
lot to do and little time to get it done.

11-19-2011, 03:15 AM
Nice to meet you Unique - good to be in touch with another Vancouver based company... What exactly is involved in doing a sprinkler blowout? If you do gutter cleanouts, what's the most effective way to clean them out? I was trying to figure out a trick method to getting them done quickly and without too big of a mess. I don't have a lot of equipment and I am trying to stay busy this winter doing what I can. Any suggestions? What is typical for Winter here in Vancouver / PDX?

11-19-2011, 12:24 PM
i've heard a large shop vac with a long, stiff extension tube works great for cleaning gutters although i have yet to try it

any experience with this?

11-19-2011, 05:04 PM
I've been all over YouTube and seen a few of those shop vac-style cleaning extension tubes in action... It seems that a rather large shop vac would be needed, and I would think after 20+ feet of hosing it would have issues with clogging / loss of suction.

I also seen a guy who uses tarps (like a bib) on the ground below the gutters, and uses a handheld leaf blower to knock everything loose off roof, then what will blow out of gutters down... This seems like an effective method, since the debris that was knocked off the roof would be going into the gutter anyways, and if the gutter debris is dry, may as well get it cleared to move on to the wet slimy gunk at the bottom of the gutters...

I am going to try the leaf blower / tarp-on-ground setup as a first wave, then follow it with a gutter scoop / 3 gallon hooked bucket to get the remaining gunk off the bottom. After that a hose with attachment should be the right tool to flush out the gutter and clean off any messy edges.

Unique Landscape
11-19-2011, 05:28 PM
We just use backpack blowers to blow off the roof and blow out the gutters
and blow everthing into one area and suck everthing with a a leaf loader

11-19-2011, 06:45 PM
Do the backpack blowers get all the wet needles / slime / compacted muddy leaf mess we get here in Vanc?

Unique Landscape
11-19-2011, 07:44 PM
The blowers we us do
We run the largest redmax blowers made much better than stihl we think
we have tried all the others and to us redmax is the best for use.
We buy them from jack at onsight equmipment in orchards

11-19-2011, 08:27 PM
In another month or so I'll probably get a redmax as well... They flow more CFM, the only downfall is they are noisier than the STIHL BR600 Magnum - but who cares about noise when we're there to work ;-). I will go see your equipment guy and tell them you sent me once I am ready for an upgrade.

What are your thoughts on line trimmers? I was considering a stihl with the combi-style attachment system for limbing up in trees, blade edging, brush saw/blade system, and of course line trimming. I don't know how they hold up to professional use. I am still a little guy in this business so efficiency is my target at the moment.

Unique Landscape
11-19-2011, 09:42 PM
Same thing we have used ever brand out there over the years
the stihl 85 was a great string trimmer
i dont like there 4 mix the have now but that dont mean you wont like them
We are running redmax string trimmers
we did buy a tanaka string trimmer used last month and we really like it
we are useing a echo bed edger with a standard edger blade for edgeing
hedge trimmers both standard and long handeld are stihl.
For a pole saw we have echo and a stihl
we like to use one dealer as we get top service
Jack really treats us good

11-20-2011, 12:30 AM
The Stihl FS-85 is something I could definitely use for brush clearing applications. And a good pole saw - what dedicated pole saw model are you using? My long term business goal is to own a dumper truck with a bobcat T190 doing excavation, demolition, massive brush clearing, grading, and almost everything else the bobcat can do...

My goal now is to get started in these niches one step at a time, cost effectively. I figure that brush clearing would be a good start, to learn about that from the ground up. Since I have a nice rototiller I could do basic property reclamation, lawn installation, gardens, etc after clearing the brush out.

I wonder how hard it would be to do deck / fence weatherization (seal, stain) in the winter here? I am hoping that pressure washing generates me at least decent money this winter. The pressure washer is going to be my primary piece of equipment (aside from the rototiller) this winter.

Unique Landscape
11-20-2011, 09:38 AM
We use a stihl fs 130 pole saw and a older echo power prunner
as for brush clearing
on a large scale we use rich ezeta stump grinding also in vanc
he has a rayco 175 that is a D4 track mounted stump grinder and brush mulcher on smaller scale we us or tractor with brush hog.

We do some pressure washing really no money to make
to many flie by nights doing it for nothing
I can go broke sitting on the couch dont need to work to go broke

11-20-2011, 04:40 PM
Rich Ezeta is who my buddy had come out to his property to remove 6 Fir stumps, good people to work with. I know what you mean about competing with the low ballers out there, most of which don't have a legitimate license, insurance, or even a small bond. I pay my taxes and stay with the market-rates of the business, though I will take just about any work that comes my way. I build relationships with my clientele through honest hard work, going the extra mile, and sending post cards / thank you cards as follow ups after a job has been completed. I believe it's all in the image you cast, and that the average 40+ homeowner would rather hire an honest, tax paying, small business owner trying to support a family rather than a low-ball hustler that is trying to blow-n-go...
I have a buyer setup for my Ranger, hopefully this goes through in the next couple weeks. I'm going to purchase a class 1 hitch setup for the Civic I own (which can tow 1,000lbs) and use it for my Winter Rig saving most of my revenue for a dump-style truck. I've seen full sized mid-70s era dump trucks go for $2500-$4000 on Craigslist, this is the market I'de like to break into. Hoping I don't get a basket case, though I am a skilled mechanic and have friends who are diesel mechanics if something is amiss.

Unique Landscape
11-20-2011, 05:35 PM
Let me know if you need a good 21 mower
we are going to sell one of or back up mowers
olso going to sell a toro 37inch hydro that we have been useing for a back up mower
the 21 is a hustler with a honda great runner and bagger $400.00
the toro just put a new starter work great $ 1,200.00

11-20-2011, 10:23 PM
Im selling my truck soon but I will have more of a need for equipment once I get ahold of a fullsized truck. I can pick a decent truck up from auction near the first of next year for 700-900 and spend another 250 turning it into a flatbed w/ sides.

11-24-2011, 01:11 PM
You don't want to pressure wash in the winter its just to hard on you with the cold. I hang Christmas lights for some customers prune trees, a little bit of fire wood from the trees, gutter cleaning, fix fences, snow if I can get it, mulch, leaf clean up, and handyman stuff.

11-26-2011, 08:53 PM
Winter is a hard time to start business. We won't make much new sales until Feburary... Until then, I live on my contracted maintenance income ($4000/month) and work in the office.

Pressure washing generates good money for us. I have around $2600 invested in a 4.0 GPM 13 horse honda w/ 24'' stainless steel surface cleaner, and 24' extention wand. Also have lots of chemicals, 4' gun, different parts to use depending on job, lots of high pressure hose and garden hose, injectors, and nozzles to choose from.

I wouldn't suggest pressure washing during the winter, unless you want to be sick... I only wash during the winter if it is concrete, when I can wear my rubber boots. Doing a house in cold weather is just foolish. 1 man w/ my machine generates between $60 and $75/hr.

We get additional business by leaf removal this time of year, and all of our heavy pruning and renual prunings happen between Feburary and March. Then its business as normal starting around the middle of March...100 hr weeks until October.

You may want to consider having the business as a side job during the winter...and spend several hundred more hours doing your market research.

Do good work, and you'll do well.

11-29-2011, 04:57 PM
There's also garbage pickup/lot maintenance for commercial properties like shopping centers etc. A lot of walmarts and home depots don't actually do this themselves. Won't get rich doing this, but it's steady year round income and pretty easy & inexpensive to do. It's also a good "in" with property management companies, you should eventually be able to get the landscape contracts for some of these places.

With regards to snow you don't necessarily need to be setup to plow. Most municipalities have by-laws requiring residents & businesses to keep their sidewalks shoveled/cleared. Even if it only snows once or twice a month, some income is better than none and clearing sidewalks doesn't take much investment on your part. Also a lot of plow guys won't touch a shovel :)

With your climate you should be able to keep reasonably busy with yard cleanups, pruning etc. and the other odd jobs like gutter cleaning.