View Full Version : Construction Vs Maintenence

03-21-2004, 12:37 PM
I was wondering for you guys what makes you more money with less overhead? Grass or installs.

In my case my overhead is not even half to do installs verses what it is to do grass and I prolly gross about 3x's as much doin installs rather then grass. How bout you guys?


03-21-2004, 01:14 PM
More over head in installs but also more profit.

03-21-2004, 01:16 PM
how do you have more overhead in installs?

Randy Scott
03-21-2004, 01:42 PM
Originally posted by landscapingpoolguy
how do you have more overhead in installs?

Bigger dump trucks, bigger trailers, skid-steers, augers, sod cutters, cut-off saws, compactors, and then some. Both require a lot of equipment purchases but doing any amount of large install and landscaping jobs will far outweigh the cost of mowing equipment. Our enclosed trailer and truck combo with all the equipment for mowing is probably around $75k combined. Our landscape set-up, two trucks, two trailers, skid-steer & attachments, hand tools, etc.., probably right around $175k, maybe more. Even taking away one truck and one trailer still puts it at $125k.

If you're talking about EVERY aspect of installs, it's huge money for equipment. If you're talking the $2 or $3k jobs only, light plant installs, then no, you probably would have more money into mowing equipment. Small landscape plant install jobs require a pick-up truck and a shovel.

03-21-2004, 01:55 PM
My install jobs range anywhere from 1,000 - 25,000$ ....All of that equipment can be rented.....and included in the price of the jobs untill you make enuff money to purchase items of your own...I do alot of planting and hardscapes.....yes the trucks are bigger but they spend less time on the road then a grass truck does, hence saving gas as a big overhead......basically grass has a limit to the amount that can be made from it every year.....meaning 1 truck and crew can only do so much ......i see construction being way more profitable because the jobs sizes really depend what the customers want to spend $1000 or $50,000.


03-21-2004, 02:19 PM
I find the construction end to defiantly be more profitable and yes you can rent all that equipment but if your doing alot of bigger jobs it's worth to make the investment I don't like paying the rental places when I could be making the profit! or paying for my equipment. the only thing that sucks about it is if you don't have enough business for the equipment it ends up sitting around alot and that's a loss when I see that happen I try to rent it out to other lco I know.

Joe :cool:

03-21-2004, 02:41 PM
Semiskilled help can be a very limiting factor on install jobs if your labor market is tight. Of the few people that are out there that will work in landscaping in my area, there are a lot more that you can put behind a mower than there are that you can turn your back on and let them plant something. There is no one available to hire as a supervisor.

If this is a bad economy, I don't want to see what is going to be around to hire in a good one. Everyone talks about the bad economy that they hear about on the news, but I can not find anyone that is actually affected by it around here.

Anyone can walk onto this sand bar and start at $14/hr as a basic landscape laborer with no experience on the same day.
Imagine how that would limit you as an owner. You can sell tons of jobs, but you have no one but the stars of the court report in the local newspaper to get it done. Hopefully someone will have a license that is not suspended. They will stop at Dunkin Donuts on their way to the job after they punch in. No one will bring lunch, so someone has to take an order, leave the job, come back and take lunch with everyone else (that happens at morning break as well). Yes, you can fire them. Then you can watch them work for your competition while you don't have enough help.

The result here is hundreds of small 2-5 man companies. Everyone is a chief and there are no more indians.

03-22-2004, 10:55 AM
My delima is not too much labor for installs ...rather labor for Maintenence....on installs im always on site....on grass i cant be at every lawn....its hard to find guys that actually care about what they are doing.....guys that will turn the ztr without scuffing the lawns...guys that trim all the edges of the beds and sidewalks...and guys that actaully follow a rouite that I effciently set up...and lets not forget about guys thgat actually have driverse liscences.......In order to get it done right I have to hire out at a higher price to get the quality there....PLants can be planted wrong and still survive, but one week of a property looking like hell from ztr scuffmarks and clippings that were never blown away.....will give me an upset customer that either no longer wants service or no longer wants that particular worker at there home.....and ontop of everything my prices have to go up more putting me out of the market be cause its costing me too much hourly to find good help......so is it really worth it?

03-22-2004, 11:59 PM
Say what you want about the amigos from mexico, but my experience is that they are for the most part very hard workers, do a good job and are willing to work for less than $10. My problem is finding one good person to supervise. I am small, but am very busy, and am trying to find someone to supervise a crew so I can bid jobs and posibbly supervise another crew. No one wants to work. People around here don't mind laborers, but they want to see a white guy one the job. Sorry, but those is the facts. I have had friends that are great guys and work hard, but don't really have the desire. Some say they will do it "for a while", even after I show them how much I make and how much they could make. I don't get it. They all have this idea that landscaping is beneath them. I am college educated, have worked for large companies, but got sick of the bs, and am now making way more than I ever have. I see the potential to make really good money, but it I can't find a good forman, I will be stuck making just good money.

Strawbridge Lawn
03-23-2004, 08:44 AM
AGLA: Thanks for your thoughts. Former New Englander myself.
Laborrates for unskilled are between 8-12$ an hour here.
As my work load increases the challenge is escalating in the labor

03-23-2004, 10:38 AM
Well back to the topic at hand....I still see construction as a More profitable venture with less initial capital over construction....Maintenence you have to buy your equipment, mowers, blowers, trailers, trimmers, etc up front...construction all you really need to get started is a truck(preferably a dump) and some shovels...the rest of the equipment you can rent as you need and eventually buy.


Tony Clifton
03-23-2004, 10:42 AM
Definately less overhead with installs. Sure, if you have 2 men working with a full size dump, and skid steer plus any other equipment you may have the overhead will be more, but in most cases you can put 6 or more guys on one of these jobs with the same equipment plus a few more shovels and wheelbarrows, and your profit jumps way up.. Howver, with mowing it is hard to stay profitable with more than 2 guys to a truck unless you are doing really large commercial work, and even then you have to buy more mowers etc. to keep the guys busy. I think it is important to have a good mix of both landscaping and maintenance, the maintenance provides consistent revenue, especially when the customers are on year round contracts.

03-23-2004, 10:59 AM
it does provide the consistent reveune but I feel like I said that the profit margins are slowly getting smaller... for instance, I have to pay for a truck, all the mowers, blowers, trimmers gas cans, trimmer line, Gas to fill truck and mowers with every day, oil for 2 strokes, Trailer, Two guys , the WC for the two guys, Dump fees, and any little extras, because there are always breakdowns and stuff dying.....We dont have time to wait for stuff to get repaired most of the time so ya just gotta buy a new one....By the time all that expense is dealt with im lucky if i net a $1000 a month.....Its all about us having the up front capital......Then once you bill the customer(residential or commercial) you have to chase them for the money for the work.....I have prolly had to contact every customer at least once about a late payment in the past 3 years...it drives me crazy when i have to do that......Then on top of everything else the competition is fierce...and to 90 percent of the customers price will beat out quality....If i have to beat every High school kid and retired teacher with a mower who will only be around for 3 to 4 weeks before they give up....then i start to lose the little if any profit that im already making.


Tony Clifton
03-23-2004, 02:27 PM
Chuck, I see where you are coming from. Making money doing maintenance is not easy but it is definately possible, I was feeling the same frustrations as you a couple of summers back. The first thing you dont want to do is put yourself on the same level as the part timers, set yourself apart from them, and most importantly don't try to compete with them with price. I always sell quality now, and not price, and we get a lot of the jobs we bid even though we are not the lowest price. As far as equipment goes, never run out and buy something new everytime something breaks, work with what you have and always have the parts you most often need on hand in your shop or on your truck with you. One trick to maintenance is to only have what you need and nothing more, make sure your equipment is being used 100% of the time. We use John Deere mowers now for the most part and if there is ever a problem we stress that we need the equipment ASAP and that we want a loaner until they can fix the problem (That is for astuff that we cant or dont have time to fix in-house). I hope this helps, I could ramble on for hours with suggestions and may have a lot of insight for you and I am sure others do as well.

03-23-2004, 02:33 PM
well when it comes to equipment i have an exmark ZTR and a Wright STander...both dealers are good with fixing those....but as far as small equipment like bp blowers, and trimmers, and chain saws...when they break i dont get loaners so i just gotta get new ones.....i easily go through 2 trimmers and blowers a year and they always eem to be just outside any wanrantee time

Tony Clifton
03-23-2004, 02:53 PM
Chuck, just out of curiosity what kind of trimmers and blowers do you use? We have some stihl back packs that are 4-5 yrs old and used daily, and shindiawa trimmers and edgers that are going into their 2nd season with no problems. Actually one of the shindaiwa edgers is going into its 5th season and all we have done is change the air filter and plugs. However I used to use echo trimmers and would have to replace them every season, I got 2 new John Deere back pack blowers and I am not sure that they will last long. I plan on buying shindaiwa back pack blowers in the future. Chain saws are always a problem, I have 2 stihl and 1 J.D. The stihl 009 is prob 6 yrs with lots of use and no problems, but we have an 036 pro that is junk, it is close to a $600 saw. The JD saw was great at frst but is pretty much shot now but I think it is still under warranty.

03-23-2004, 02:57 PM
i had all echo stuff and as it craps out i am replacing it......redmax bp's and trimmers wil be next.....chain saw will prolly be stilhl

03-26-2004, 12:35 PM
Back to the original question at hand is Construction vs Maintenence.... wich has a lower overhead with a higher net return...personally i see construction...being the better of the 2, i can get away with a truck and renting larger expensive tools untill i can afford to purchase them and my net returns on those are alway 30 - 50 percent...grass on the other you never know what your gonna get ...gas is always a variable, disposal is a variable, labor is a pretty constant number as long as there is no overtime, and equipment you have to purchase up front......plus grass has a limit to how much money can actully be made per seaon/per truck crew combo


03-27-2004, 05:42 PM
Generally it is easier to get a higher price for work that the customer sees as being beyond his own skill levels. Most people feel that they could do their own maintainence themselves, so do not perceive the real value. In construction, often the job is beyond the clients own abilities, and therefore they are more willing to pay.

Just the other day, I met with a client and gave a bid on pruing some large trees, removing one very large tree and grinding out several stumps. She agreed to my price in a heartbeat, and then proceeded to complain to no end about the lawn guy that had just left her a bid for spring cleanup.

Austreim Landscaping

03-27-2004, 06:20 PM
I think there also are just too many guys doing grass too......some guys are actually businesses, some are not, reguardless this year especially i have seen way too many guys with trailers and equipment,im out of the grass business and sticking to constrcution only. good luck grass guys. Oh my grass stuff is for sale.


03-28-2004, 08:34 PM

Good luck, I hope it works out for you. What are you asking for the stander?

03-28-2004, 08:48 PM
thanks Henry,

Id like to get around $4000 for it. It has around 150 hours on it and comes with a catcher 973 332 0734 if your interested.