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  1. #1
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    Default I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Hi everyone, in the near future I will be buying a mini excavator, probably in the range of 2 ton-8 ton in order to start a small excavation business. It is gonna be pulled by a 1 ton ford (7.3 diesel) and probably be hauled around in a large dump trailer that can serve as a "dump truck" and a trailer for towing the machine around as well.

    My question first off is, would this idea be profitable? I know here in WNY that construction is a veryyy large industry and I constantly see machinery and dumptrucks everywhere, so I figured thats a plus for me.

    Also, my other main question is this: what could I specifically do with the machine? I have some ideas for the ad that I will be creating in the near future, and they are:

    -stump removal
    -small drainage and trenching
    -digging up rocks/old concrete/blacktop
    -creating small ponds/low lying areas of water

    I would love to know what you guys all use your excavators for or what some ideas I could use mine for, just so I have a broader understanding of what I can do with it.

    Thank you all very much, all input is greatly appreciated!!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    You will have a big cost up front and will have a fair payback period. For fair sized stumps (bigger than 15" diameter) a 8 ton will be under powered and will take a lot of work to remove. For a few stumps it is fine but clearing a couple acres it will take forever. It would be a good size for the other tasks you have in mind.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    I know here in WNY that construction is a veryyy large industry and I constantly see machinery and dumptrucks everywhere, so I figured thats a plus for me.
    Also might mean lots of competition. Or maybe they are all too big for the small jobs.

    Bruce

  4. #4
    Super Star Member dave1949's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Hope it's not like the old truck drivers advice: If you want to make a small fortune in trucking, start with a large fortune and buy a truck

    Not a very scientific observation, but it seems like people in the job segment you are looking at in my rural area are around for several years, then sort of fade away. I think it might take a fairly large population area or region to keep you in work most of the time. In tough times, many people will put off the "nice to have" projects and only spend money on the things that have to be done. So, being in or near a reasonably prosperous area would sure help I think.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    You might want to see if there will be any fracking going on in your area. People to haul things, or drive water trucks started off huge. Then there is a lot of work by the pad prep people. They palletize all stone from walls and then hire people to restack it, they also have hired out people to spread straw once they have done some sitework.
    If fracking does come to the area I would find out what companies will be there and try to get hooked up with them if might mean a lot of steady work.
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  6. #6
    Super Member Robert_in_NY's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Quote Originally Posted by bcp View Post
    Also might mean lots of competition. Or maybe they are all too big for the small jobs.

    Bruce
    This area is tough, there are a lot of small guys running around doing things like this already but then there is still demand. I don't see the OP getting rich off this but if he can keep his budget in line and do side jobs as he gets them he could make some extra money while enjoying the outdoors.

    While I didn't expand too much in your other thread dealing with what size excavator I will add a little more to this one. Drainage work is great if you have helpers checking the grade for you. It keeps you in the seat and making progress. If your going to try doing things like this by yourself you will find it very frustrating hopping in and out of the machine every 10' checking grade. You can go with a laser setup of find an old style transit (will be much cheaper but need two people to be efficient to run this style).

    I already covered the stump issues, concrete can be even worse then stumps. I just had to dig a drain line for a job site and the line was entering the building at an old window well that was filled with gravel. I dug as much gravel out as I could and started trying to work the concrete loose. It ended up being almost 2' thick on the bottom as they dug the hole, formed up the inside and poured the concrete from the form to the dirt. Had to use a Cat skid steer and lots of blocking to get it out. My mini could start to lift it but it was too bulky to really be able to get out of the hole. I could have dug a deep hole next to it but that would have been admitting defeat. When it was up high enough we put the skid steer bucket under one edge and I backed up while holding the other side. Drop the blade and was finally able to pull it onto the surface. Then used the skid to push it out of the way. I never expected it to be that big. It was almost worth getting the demolition hammer and breaking it down but again, that would have been admitting defeat.

    Small ponds and such are fun projects. Charge by the hour though that way they can have you dig till their pockets are happy. Digging a pond with a mini (or any excavator for that matter) can be a challenge as you need to keep moving the spoils away. You will find it very frustrating as you spend more time moving spoils it feels like then you do digging the pond.

    I have a friend who has a full time job but he does small projects on the side. He has a 3 ton mini he uses for drainage projects, a small dozer and small loader tractor (small kubota 30 horse unit). He stays very busy just by word of mouth doing small projects for people. He knows what his equipment can handle and what it can't and he isn't afraid to turn down projects that are too big or too much of a hassle. He makes some extra money and it helps him to keep adding to his toy fleet but it isn't his sole income. Try to find your nitch and build up slow. If you have very little excavator experience it will be easy to cut your own throat bidding. Try to pick jobs that pay by the hour till you get enough experience to better bid a job. And remember, bidding an excavation job is a gamble, you never know what your going to hit under ground till you start digging. And remember, 811 is your friend. Call them anytime you dig and always be careful.


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  7. #7
    New Member
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Quote Originally Posted by MIKE R View Post
    You will have a big cost up front and will have a fair payback period. For fair sized stumps (bigger than 15" diameter) a 8 ton will be under powered and will take a lot of work to remove. For a few stumps it is fine but clearing a couple acres it will take forever. It would be a good size for the other tasks you have in mind.
    I keep getting mixed ideas and statements about the stump removal with a mini. Ive heard that a 3-5ton machine will do just fine for most stumps, and then i also hear that you wont be able to remove any stumps until you get at least an 8 ton machine.... so im still not sure what to go with here in terms of stump removal, and whats the true depth of a stump removal as well??

  8. #8
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Quote Originally Posted by RPPaving View Post
    I keep getting mixed ideas and statements about the stump removal with a mini. Ive heard that a 3-5ton machine will do just fine for most stumps, and then i also hear that you wont be able to remove any stumps until you get at least an 8 ton machine.... so im still not sure what to go with here in terms of stump removal, and whats the true depth of a stump removal as well??
    Sorry. I am talking about the time to pull a stump. With a 8 ton you can usually just pull from behind and it will come up where as a mini you have to dig around it then pull. It also depends on the type of stump. Maple, oak, birch give a little harder time while spruce, balsam will pop up easily.Hopefully this clears up some confusion .

  9. #9
    Super Member Gary Fowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Estimating digging jobs is very risky and isnt done very often for fixed price unless the contractor is very familiar with the soils. I remember once on a KBR job a contractor bid to put in some piling and hit some obstructions about 60 feet down. The subcontract administrator didnt want to pay him extra and insisted that the contractor should have known that there was rocks and or logs 60 feet down which is impossible to know even if you have done jobs before when there is only a stray rock in 5000 holes. The project manager finally had to intercede and agree to pay the contractor for his extra time as the idiot SC manager was not going to give and the contractor was about ready to pull out of the job which would have cost the project at least 8 weeks to get another contract in place.
    In my area, the dirt guys will give you an estimate (which is usually low) but work by the hour only due to unknown obstacles under ground. Just yesterday I passed by a road construction area in Little Rock, Ark and they were cutting back a large hill above a new freeway interchange. Right in the middle of the cut, they had left a large outcropping of granite or limestone that looked to be about 100 feet wide at the bottom with almost vertical walls and ran all the way up the cut. Looked like they cut the end off where the road came thru but left it on the hillside cutback. Nothing but dirt on each side so it really looked weird. Had they been made to remove it, would have needed drills and blasting to get it out. Just an example of what you could find if you agreed to dig something for a fixed fee. If you do, you need to have a disclaimer in the bid for extra money in case of foreign objects encountered.
    2010 LS P-7010C 20F/20R gear tractor & FEL, 2009 Kubota B 26 TLB, RTV 900 Kubota,17 foot Lund boat with 70HP motor, 2012-20 ft 12k GVW trailer, 2011- 52" Craftsman ZTR mower, 2013 Ferris Zero Turn, 3 weed whackers, pressure washer, leaf blowers, 7 foot bush hog, 8 foot landscape rake , 8 foot 3 PH disc, 2 row cultivator, 350 amp Miller AC/DC welding machine and all the tools needed to keep them all repaired and running.

  10. #10
    Platinum Member rmk700's Avatar
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    Default Re: I want to start a small excavation business...need advice!!

    Like others said remember to always call in for locating buried utillity lines. They can get expensive hitting them and they are burried everywhere.

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