Tools of the Trade: Must-Have Equipment for Your Lawn Care or Landscaping Business
If you’ve always had a love of and knack for caring for your own lawn, you may already have enough maintenance equipment to get your business off the ground. But you may need newer, bigger, and more powerful equipment. After all, this is a serious business you’ll be running, and serious businesses need serious tools.
Your biggest expenditure by far will be for a sturdy, reliable vehicle for hauling your equipment (if you don’t already own a truck that can serve this purpose). Landscaping experts recommend choosing a heavy-duty flatbed truck (one-ton rated) with at least one locking toolbox ($200 and up) mounted on the flatbed and a dumping mechanism for unloading topsoil and other landscaping materials quickly and without shoveling (starting at $900). This will run approximately anywhere from $27,000 to $36,500.
This is a must if you have a lot of equipment and don’t want to be hoisting it up repeatedly into your van or truck bed. A new, steel mesh landscape trailer can cost $1,500 and up. A plain-Jane 5-by-10-foot single-axle light-duty trailer with 12-foot side rails and a ramp gate (also a must so you can wheel mowers aboard) starts at about $800 new. Invest in locking tie-downs to keep your equipment safe when you’re on the road. Locking 8-foot tie-downs will run about $18 each.
Just as you can work out of a home office, you can start your business without the overhead cost of a storage facility by using your own garage or shed. A shed kit with pre- cut, easy-to-assemble pieces can be delivered right to your door or you can save money by purchasing plans for around $50 and building it yourself. Check on what local building permits your town requires before purchasing. In addition to sheltering your vehicle, you’ll want to use the space to do repairs and store equipment and extra supplies like trash bags and fertilizer.
If you don’t have enough room in your garage or carport, you’ll have to find another facility because many cities have ordinances that prohibit parking commercial vehicles on residential streets overnight. An alternative to using your own garage would be to rent a bay in a self-storage facility. A space as small as 10 by 15 feet, which is about the size of a large bedroom, is sufficient for lawn equipment and miscellaneous supplies. If you want to park your truck inside, you’ll need about 10 by 20 feet (a small one-car garage size), or 10 by 30 feet if you want to pull your trailer in, too. The rent varies widely according to which part of the country you live in, but you can expect to pay $50 to $200 a month.
Here are a few more things to consider purchasing:
Uniforms and hats. Personalized T-shirts and hats not only give you and your team a neat, professional appearance, but they also function as low-cost advertising tools. Embroidered polo shirts cost around $15 to $30 each, T-shirts cost around $13 each and hats run about $12 to $17 each.
Safety equipment. Lawn equipment operates at up to 95 decibels, and according to OSHA, hearing damage can occur with even limited exposure to sound levels in the 85-to-90-dB range. Earmuff-style hearing protectors that look like stereo headphones are affordably priced at around $25 a pair.
While you’re at it, invest in a sturdy pair of safety glasses. You should also wear work gloves while on the job -- they give you a firmer grip on the handles of your equipment, which is especially important when your hands are sweating in hot weather. Steel-toed work boots are also essential.
Lawn care necessities
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. To get started in the lawn care business, you’ll need many pieces of equipment. Here’s a quick list:
Lawn mowers. There’s a dizzying array of commercial lawn mowers on the market. These days, most are self-propelled, a feature you’ll greatly appreciate after you’ve spent hours crisscrossing acres of green grass under the blazing sun. Mowers often come with very useful attachments and features like mulchers and side catchers that can make your job easier. And for bigger jobs, a riding mower is a necessity. You will also definitely want a standard walk-behind model in your arsenal for hills and smaller jobs. Make sure you get a mower with a floating deck, if you plan on mowing hills. The decks float to hug turf contours and provide a beautiful, finished cut. You can get a reliable mower for $1,000 to $2,600.
Snow removal equipment. If you’re planning to offer snow removal services in the winter, you’ll need a snow plow for your truck or a snow blade for your lawn mower. You’ll spend anywhere from $1,200 to $5,200 on this.
Spreaders and sprayers. Even if your intent is to stick to mowing, it’s a good idea to offer fertilizing as one of your basic services. For that, you’ll need a broadcast granular spreader, which, as the name implies, disperses the fertilizer in a wide arc. Spreaders cost around $35.
To attack weeds growing in cracks in the sidewalk or driveway, invest in a small, three-gallon pressurized herbicide sprayer. It will run about $40. If you’re working on properties larger than half an acre, the four-gallon backpack sprayer is your best bet to ease the weight. Those are about $70.
Trimmer, edger, blower and hedge trimmer. The trimmer is used to reach grass that grows in places the mower can’t reach, like around trees or mailbox posts. A commercial model will run $200 to $400. An edger removes the grass that grows over the edge of driveways, sidewalks and other borders. A commercial motorized four-wheel model will cost around $400, while a stick edger runs about $200. A backpack blower is used to direct stray clippings back onto the lawn and can cost $200 to $550. Finally, a hedge trimmer puts the finishing touches on those stately borders. A commercial electric model will cost $180 to $500, but can be a pain because you have to hunt around for an outside electrical outlet. You might want to pick up a cordless rechargeable model instead, which you can get for under $100 at a home improvement store like Lowe’s.
Here’s a list of the basic tools you may need to work on gardens, berms, flower beds and other areas as a landscape maintenance/gardening professional:
- Pointed and square-edged shovels: for turning loose earth
- Spade: for digging up just about anything
- Spading fork: square-tined implement that won’t bend out of shape
- Hoe: long-handled for cultivating; scuffle hoe for cutting weeds
- Pick: for piercing
- Mattock: for cutting and chopping roots
- Hoses: 50-footers are standard, with a 1-inch diameter and cast solid brass connectors
- Dandelion tool: a chisel-like tool that can fit in your back pocket
- Pruners: with a sheath
- Loppers: for chopping off heavy branches
- Pruning saw: for getting in between branches
- Hedge shears: the low-tech manual type for shaping topiaries, electric or gas shears for hedges
- Commercial tool and blade sharpener: to keep cutting edges sharp
- Lawn roller: a heavy device (usually filled with water) that’s used to level lawns
- Hand tamper: for compressing soil, gravel or crushed stone
- Power tamper (aka Jumping Jack): the same as a hand tamper, but gas-powered
- Vibratory plate compactor: for compacting soil on big jobs
- Sighting level: surveying instrument used to measure the angle of inclination between the user and a target
- Tape measure: most useful in longer lengths like 100 feet
- Measuring wheel: for taking onsite measurements
- Marking paint applicator: device used to put down lines on grass, concrete and various other surfaces
- Chalk wheel: for drawing temporary lines
- Flagging tape: for surveying, mapping, tagging and other marking applications
- Sledgehammer: long-handled, two-faced hammer used to drive stakes into the ground or for other heavy pounding
- Single jack: a short-handled sledgehammer
- Stake driver: hammer for driving tree stakes
- Basic carpenter’s tools: including hammers, hand saws, power saw, drill, level, square, plumb bob
According to the experts, if you’re buying everything new, a budget of $5,000 to $6,000 will cover the costs of your basic tools.