Leaf cleanup and a decent leaf vacuum

Discussion in 'Bidding, Estimating and Pricing' started by CJ's Mowing Service, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. CJ's Mowing Service

    CJ's Mowing Service LawnSite Member
    Messages: 236

    what do you charge for leaf cleanups? Do you go hourly, by square footage?

    Also, what is a decent leaf vac that isn’t a bank killer??
  2. RLeClair

    RLeClair LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    I charge my standard rate of $50 per man-hour. Cleanups can be unpredictable and difficult to bid, which is why I give ranged estimates to customers. Lot size has some meaning when bidding cleanups, but it is more about the size of the trees on and surrounding the property. The other day, I did a .6 acre lot that took 8 man hours and a .115 acre lot that took the same amount of time due to the presence of 80' scarlet/pin oaks.

    Far as leaf loaders, if you're trying save money, go for a used one. New ones at my dealer cost between 3K-5K. Don't skimp on power. 18HP minimum engine size.
    dplawn likes this.
  3. RLeClair

    RLeClair LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    Also, it's worth noting that the time it takes to do a cleanup is highly variable on the skill level of the crew and crew leader. If you are new to this sort of work, after a couple seasons, you are likely to notice great increases in efficiency. Make sure that you take into account your experience level when making estimates and pad them accordingly.
    hort101 likes this.
  4. tiner

    tiner LawnSite Member
    Messages: 27

    Many variables in pricing leaf cleanups. Charging an hourly rate is the safest way to do it,if the customer will agree to that. (and not ask immediately afterwards how many hrs. is it going to take you) Granted, your not going to get rich doing it that way, but typo won't get burned either. I am lucky,most of my c/up jobs are longtime customers that we have done many times, but even the same c/up jobs can,and will very from year to year.
    Are you doing multiple c/ups and keeping up w the property as the leaves fall?
    Are you cutting the lawn in season,and making sure lawn is kept cut at a reasonable height so you can move the leaves over the lawn?
    Do you need to remove or Vac the leaves and hall them away?
    If its a onetime c/up, how wet and matted down are the leaves?
    If your giving a "set" price, especially for a non customer, Do Not be shy about giving a price that assures you will make a decent profit.
    Have the neighbor"s w adding yards done a c/up yet?
    The weather can also make a big difference on how long it takes to do a c/up, no matter how good your equipment is.
    As far as a leaf Vac, we have been using a 16hp leaf loader on a hinge mount on the back of Isuzu dump, w a fiberglass leaf box. Wrks out great,
    Leaf box is very easy to get on and off,and at the time I bought the leaf loader,it was around 4k.
    hort101 likes this.

    JLSLLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 16,738

    Gotta spend money to make so that you can work smart. I am solo and suited for large or small clean ups.. I’ve bought 4 “bank killers” over the years.. Always made my money back and some.. Spring too..

    Big back pack blower(s) and a leaf vac or two makes the day when doing a full clean up
    dplawn, Doc8406 and Walker56 like this.
  6. Green Industry Pro

    Green Industry Pro LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Tyler Texas
    Messages: 545

    I'm looking into getting a leaf loader as well. General consensus on here is bigger is better. Get the biggest one you can afford or wait until you have the money. Generally guys say 16-18HP minimum and brand doesn't matter.
    dplawn likes this.

    GRANTSKI LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,822

    If you are solo it’s a tough call. I owned a leaf vac last yr but didn’t have a Ztr and bagger. Got rid of leaf vac this yr - but got a ztr.
    If I had to choose between the 2 id take the Ztr w bagger. But a lot of my properties are dump on site / in the woods so that makes a big difference.
    Nick Gillard, oabdu123 and hort101 like this.
  8. sven1277

    sven1277 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 742

    When I first started doing leaves as a solo operator, I would mulch the leaves with one mower, then bag them with a triple bagger. That type of bagger allowed me to either dump in the woods or into my truck. I waited till I could afford the leaf loader I wanted. I know a lot of people say a 16ho is good. I think they're crazy. I used to watch competitors using that size while I was doing it my way, and I was faster. Now the company is much bigger. We run three 4 man yard crews and one 3 man vac crew. Two yard crews are set up with a clamshell bagger, a stander with a beefed up jrco leaf plow, and a hurricane z3. The third crew only has the leaf plow. All crews have backpacks for everyone with at least one extra carried on the truck. The yard crews get the leaves out to the street for the vac crew to come by that day or the next. We do around 250 during the season. I price flat rate but strive for $75-100/mh. The weather is the biggest variable. We started leaf season this year with a snow storm, then freezing temps, multiple large rains storms each week, and wind (always blowing the wrong direction). The previous two years, the acorns were the worst I've ever seen and slowed things down. Acorns and wet leaves are hard for leaf vac so the more hp the better. We have a 35hp tow behind and it still bogs under big loads. Buying a 49hp diesel for next year and another hurricane to improve efficiency on the third crew. I have always loved leaf season. We do it production style and make money doing it. Like said earlier, you have to spend money to make it.
  9. redmax fan

    redmax fan LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,948

    whats needed is a way after chopping leaf up with mower to load them with a home made redneck device like at link . just have to make the proper type container to dump leaves in , i guess a tarp with heavy duty grommets would do but theres got to be a more efficient way . but i dont know if the arm on this swivels like would be needed to dump leaf in beds -http://www.hanksdeuce.com/spare_tire_rack_installed.htm

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