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Some getting started questions...

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by jvblack82, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. jvblack82

    jvblack82 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    Brief intro, have a landscaping company in Western WA. We like to eat during the winter so we bought a plow.

    We have 5 smallish commercial customers lined up so far. Have done one ice melt service thus far this season.

    I've read a lot of forums and posts and pretty well gathered what I need save a couple things I couldn't find.

    My main questions:
    1. How do you judge when to go out on automatic service?
    It's the ice melt that baffles me. Over 2 inches you plow, but under that what's the trigger to go do just an ice melt service? I've been trying to talk to our customers and get a feel for what they want.
    We have everything from if it's freezing temperatures, do it.
    If it's freezing and humidity is above 30%.
    If there are ice or snow warnings.
    And the given is if accumulation is expected/happening.

    What's the norm? Below freezing and humidity level is at x? and what should you look for? 30%? 50%?

    2. How often do you go?
    Is that just every 2 inches you go?

    3. How long does ice melt last?
    Lets say we're just getting dustings periodically throughout the day. How often would we need to redo the ice melt, daily, 12 hours, every other day? That's mostly what we get here. It's like once every few years we ever even make it to 6 inches, 2-3 might happen once a year so mostly we'll be doing ice melt.

    4. Here is some math I don't understand. From what I read a 50lb bag of ice melt will cover around 3000ish sqft. So if a bag costs $10 then why did Lowes send me a pricing sheet that asks me if I can de-ice their 250,000sqft parking lot for $300.
    250,000/3000 is 84 bags
    84x$10=$840 and that doesn't include any labor or anything, that's just cost of bags.
    So I've read about Salt Depots, but can't find them in a google search. How do you get enough Ice Melt to cover that much area at a price that is anywhere close to what they want to pay?

    5. How much sidewalk can you clear per man hour?

    6. How many sqft can you spread per hour with a hand spreader? With a push spreader? We don't have this yet but how much are does the truck bed spreaders cover per hour?

    7. How much time does it add for increased amounts of snow?
    I've read that if you're good you can plow about 1 acre per hour with an 8+ foot plow. If you suck or there are a lot of obstacles it can be as little as 1/2 acre per hour. But at what depths? It seems to be that companies that approach us want rates at 2-4", 4-6", 6-8", 8-12", and 12-15", over 15 is hourly rate.

    I think that's all my questions.

    One thing I've found is that across the country if it snows a lot, ice control is relatively cheap. Like $35/hour or so. Here where it rarely snows I've heard of many companies charging $250-$500/hour to plow. That seems to be an emergency, they called me in the middle of the night, rate but you'd never pay that in MN. From what I've read. We do $150/hr based on 1/2 acre/hour for smaller lots to get a per push rate. Bigger we just turn down at the moment. With only one plow a 7 acre lot might screw us over in a storm. $250/hr to do emergency work.

    Thanks in advance for any input.
  2. maxwellp

    maxwellp PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,112

    1. If it is icy salt it.
    If you only get 1.5 inches you will plow it then salt it.

    2. What every your trigger is. If they ask for every 2 inches plow it every 2 inches. I do not do triggers, I go by the total storm and plow it a few times so I am not plowing 10 inches of snow all at once.

    3. All depends on how much it snows and the temp. You will have to go out and see. If it starts to refreeze salt again.

    4. You would not bag salt a 250,000 sq foot lot that is 6 acres. Bulk Salt.

    5. No Idea , What is he using to clean the sidewalk?

    6. I don't spread salt by the hour. But I have do a 6000 sq foot driveway in 10 minutes by hand.

    7. 1 acre per hour is about right. 1-3, 1.5 for 3-6. 2 for 3-9. But this all depended on the type of snow and how far you have to push it.

    I go to hr. rate after 9 inches.
    $90 per hour. Here with a truck and a 9 foot plow.
    I have a 21,000 sq foot lot, about a 1/2 an acre $78 1-3.

    I will not do emergency work as my plate is full with the people I have on retainer. (ok if it was life and death I would, but 99% of the time it is bad planing on there part)

    Take or leave any or all of this - this is what I do here and am on the high end. I run in to low ballers that will do it for 1/2 the price. I will not come down and I tell them to use that other guy. I also give them this to think about, he may or may not show up or get it done in a timely manner. Does he have backup equipment? Equipment to handle the 24 inch snow storm?
    Some sign up some don't but I will get paid well for my customers that like superior service.
  3. jvblack82

    jvblack82 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    4. So I've gathered you use bulk salt but where the hell do you find that? We aren't taking on anything that big yet but down the road I'd like to. I did map searches and google searches and can't find bulk salt sold in the Seattle/Tacoma area. What would the place that sells it be called so I can find one?

    5. Sorry it's a shovel. We don't have a snow blower or anything fancy yet. It snows so little here it's risky to invest too much into a snow plowing operation of any sort. We try to operate debt free as a company so last year there was just no way do more than shovels, which we never even used because it never snowed. No snow is rare, usually get some. This year we saved some pennies and got a plow to take on smaller lots.

    Thanks for all your answers!!
  4. maxwellp

    maxwellp PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,112

    It is for help! But there are always those who use there energy in other non-helpful ways. Just ignore them.
    If you would like me to expand on any of my answers I will.
  5. maxwellp

    maxwellp PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,112

    No I just use bags. My biggest lot is a 1/2 acre. I do not want to play the bulk salt and in the truck spreader game any more. I now have worked my accounts in to Big over priced country houses. I can get my hourly rate way up by charging the driveway price and not by the hour.
    Sidewalks - I use little Toro power lite snow blowers. Very lite 38lbs. They do not make them any more, but I find them here and there for $50 - $100. Anyway as for shovels I use ones called THE SNOWPLOW plastic blade 18 to 48 inches. I have a 24, 30, 36
    They rock, for less than 2 inches I just use them it is faster. I can't really tell how much one person could do in an hour because I don't have any long ones - no city houses. But a guess on 1 inch of snow - one person with a 36" shovel for one hour - 1 mile, what that 5240 feet? Now you would not cache me doing that. ha ha . Mine are just up to the doors and or around the house. 200 feet or so.
  6. maxwellp

    maxwellp PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,112

    As for where to get bulk salt, Go to your or call your local County Dept. and ask them where they get it. I could get it here but you have to take a full dump truck load 12 yards =/- or a semi dump full / lots more??
  7. jvblack82

    jvblack82 Junior Member
    Messages: 4


    Thanks for your answers, helps a lot!
  8. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    I know your prices are way out of line for anything snow related. If you are serious about providing snow plowing, maybe try this, ROADTRIP! Go somewhere that gets snow and buy your equipment there, it would be cheaper then where you are ,take the hit up front then you have it ,not like snowblowers/snowplows will go bad after one yr.
  9. OC&D

    OC&D PlowSite Veteran
    from Earth
    Messages: 3,064

    That's a little jacked up. Most companies around here won't give a hard number on a salt application because there are too many variables. It may take a little or it may take a lot depending on lot conditions and what type of deicer you're using. Often companies charge a fixed dollar amount per ton applied, usually with a trip charge or some sort of minimum charge. Regardless, $300 to properly salt a lot that size sounds insane to me, no matter what product you're using. A good example is the situation we have here right now. We had a miserable storm where we received several inches of extremely high moisture snow, after which it got really cold. Everything froze and now we have lots and streets with a great deal of hard-pack snow and ice. To get down to dry pavement would not only take a deicer that worked down to 0F or colder, but it would take a huge amount of it. It can be done, but it would be expensive. How can a company give a hard number on something like that?
  10. jvblack82

    jvblack82 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    Thanks Eric. We're so unused to snow I didn't even think about that. Good point. We've been approached by a lot of companies that have a set price they want to pay and we come back with a yes or a bid. I guess I should at least put limits on any set pricing for deicing. Like this amount covers x number of bags, beyond that is billed per bag as the need arises. Or just tell them no that's not how it works.

    Good point though thanks!
  11. poopdeckpappy

    poopdeckpappy Member
    from KC,KS
    Messages: 32

    If your doing bagged salt. You will get to a point, after watching your material melt rate and amount spread, that you will start to understand by osmosis that whether salting with tailgate or in bed spreaders will work out best for you. When time is of the essence, it is imperative that you figure logistical ways to get your lots done faster. With a tailgate, you'll be loading bags into the hopper when the plow guy in the next lot is spreading and getting faster results. He'll give you a little toot or wave as he leaves before you.
    If your customer sees this or has problems, that guy will be doing your lot next year.