[Guide Series] Part 3: The Process of Hiring a Great Land Clearing Service

[Guide Series] Part 3: The Process of Hiring a Great Land Clearing Service
By: Cactus Creek

How to find land clearing service companies (recommendations, online reviews)

The process of finding the best nearby land-clearing services is not unlike finding any other company. Hereʼs how to start:

  • Google Search—suggested terms are: “land clearing”; “cedar mulchingˮ; “brush clearingˮ; “property clearingˮ; and “lot clearingˮ. Add “near me,ˮ “near Kerrville TX,” or “near [city] [state]” if Google isnʼt reading your location or if searching while away from the property.
  • Google Reviews—look for quantity and consistency of customer reviews and what they say about their experience
  • Website—check whether they offer the right types of clearing for your project (or can help you decide); see if they have a story. Donʼt worry about website quality too much - after all, this is financial guru and billionaire Warren Buffettʼs website https://www.berkshirehathaway.com/.
  • Local Chamber of Commerce—companies with roots in the community join these organizations to network with their people and get involved
  • Contact Ranch Realtors—many property buyers have clearing their land as priority number one after taking possession, so these real estate agents get asked this question all the time
  • Neighboring Land Owners—if you see a property being cleared (or a recent clearing), stop in and ask about the contractor

Once you find a few leads ask questions about the below and if you like what you hear, set up an on-site meeting.

What to look for in a contractor

  • Strong Online Reviews—There should be plenty of customer reviews with a great average. Also look to see if there are just one or two “negative reviews” mixed in with five-star reviews, that’s usually a sign of a great company.
  • Fully Insured—Contractor should be willing to issue you a certificate of insurance indicating general liability and workers' compensation coverage. With heavy equipment on your property, this prevents accidents from hitting your wallet.
  • Uniformed Employees—Well-run companies take pride in everything they do, from the final product to their employeesʼ appearance.
  • Good Equipment—You donʼt want to see equipment roll onto your property that looks like the wheels have all but fallen off.
  • Leverage Technology—Technology improves precision and efficiency in the land-clearing services industry. Mapping out the target property areas ahead of the job drives how accurate the operators clear according to what was discussed.

Questions to ask potential service providers

  • Are you insured? Do you have workers’ compensation?  It is critical that the land clearing contractor has liability coverage (and names you in the certificate), but many property owners donʼt think so until itʼs too late. The equipment that forestry mulching companies – and traditional land clearing contractors – use is extremely heavy. On bad terrain, in poor conditions, a slip in situational awareness may be all that's required to damage a customerʼs asset if not leave someone injured. These events are rare but when they happen have serious consequences. Being named in the land clearing companyʼs certificate of insurance removes much of the financial risk.
  • Will there be a supervisor on-site? If not, do your operators speak my preferred language? This can make a big difference in a pinch. Life throws you curve balls and so do land-clearing projects, so itʼs good to know ahead of time whether you will be able to communicate with the crew member running the equipment.

If the project is bid by the hour, consider asking the following questions:

  • Do you bill idle hours? A “yesˮ here can be a big red flag if their hourly rate isnʼt well below market or they provide other assurances, such as a billing cap on completed services.
  • How do you verify the run hours you bill? As in, how do you make sure Iʼm not being billed for the machine hours spent not clearing my land? Contractors usually warm the equipment up in the morning which can add up, especially on cold winter days. It’s also not uncommon for the operator to need to hop out of the machine during the day, and there’s time spent cleaning the machine each day/week—an unscrupulous contractor may allow or even encourage his guys to let the machine hours run up to push revenue.

When looking for the right land clearing service, be diligent and thorough. Use online resources, community associations, and relationships to filter potential contractors. Leverage on-site visits to qualify them by asking questions. Great land-clearing companies bring a lot of value to the table so it's worth the effort.

Read on to Part 4 of this Guide Series to learn about the environmental impact of land clearing, and why cedar mulching is far and away the most ecosystem friendly method to clear land.