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Traditional landscapes can be instantly enhanced by the addition of a decorative concrete site amenity. The installation of a statue, column, or balustrade can provide a dramatic architectural lift to an otherwise barren area. Placing and securing these items differs greatly from the installation of smaller, more common concrete amenities, such as urns and vases. With these relatively lightweight amenities, the Contractor secures the item by installing a concrete foundation and fastening the object with metal dowels. For larger amenities, the weight and size of the object can create unusual logistical challenges for the installer.

"One of the most important things to remember when installing large amenities is to install adequate footing. If the base isn't large enough, the statue isn't secure," said Jeff Adams of South Staff & Stone in Oceanside, California. The right footing provides a solid base for the statue to stand on. Once the statue is fastened to an appropriate base, the item should be secure for many years. However, if the base is too small, problems will occur once the landscape is watered and the ground settles leaving structural insecurity. Adams says that choosing the correct size for the base is a judgment call made by the installer. "If there is a question, it's better to overdo the size of the footing than to have it cause a problem later." Creating a Plan.

Another important aspect of installing large amenities is to safely deliver the object to the site. To avoid problems, a comprehensive plan must be devised in advance. The first task is to determine the size of the object. Accurate and complete measurements are needed to define the item being installed. The second task is to get the correct dimensions of the site. This data should include the measurements of the site itself, along with all adjoining areas. Pathways leading to the installation area should be assessed for their potential use as installation routes.

If you're installing a statue in the backyard of a residential property, measure every entry point in the yard. Once you know the measurements of the object and area you're installing, you can choose the best installation option. Is the item too heavy to be hand-carried by a group of workers? Will the item need to be lifted by a forklift? Are the entryways wide enough for a forklift? Is a crane a better option? These questions must be answered prior to the actual installation day. As many contractors have found out, if you don't have a good plan in place before installation, you will waste unnecessary time and energy.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Once you know the weight and size of the object, and the measurements of the site, you can choose the right equipment to move the item. Forklifts and cranes are invaluable when lifting heavy items and safely placing them into small and narrow areas. The equipment is available in different sizes and load capacities. Cranes are great for their flexibility, whereas, forklifts are ideal when dealing with easily accessible installation sites. The dimensions of the site, and the limitations in the budget, are what determine which equipment to use. If you're placing a statue in the backyard of a residence, a crane may be the best choice since most residential properties offer very limited pathways for forklifts. A crane presents Landscape Contractors with more installation options.

Choosing the right crane depends on several factors. "The way to choose the correct crane is a two-step process. First, contractors need to figure out the boom length of the crane," said Butch Ortiz, Branch Manager, Bragg Crane Service in Santa Ana, California. "Second, the contractor should measure from point to center of the crane to determine a working radius. When they have these two measurements, plus the weight of the actual object they are installing, the contractor can use the manufacturer's charts to decide which crane can handle the job." Manufacturers of cranes and forklifts can be invaluable resources in helping to determine the appropriate equipment.

To Rent or Buy

Once you know what type of equipment to use, a contractor should decide on whether to rent or buy the equipment. The decision to purchase or rent a large piece of equipment can be a difficult one. The main factor to consider is the projected amount of usage for the equipment. If a Landscape Contractor rarely installs large concrete site amenities, purchasing an expensive piece of equipment wouldn't make sense. Renting would be a better option for equipment that will be minimally used. According to Charles Maltese, Executive Director for the Rental Industry Association, the advantages of renting are numerous. "If you've never rented equipment to take on additional jobs, tackle new construction challenges, or to supplement your equipment fleet, you're probably missing profitability growth opportunities," said Maltese. "Renting equipment, rather than buying it, can increase your cash flow, management costs and free capital without increasing your debt ratio. The choice to rent depends on your business circumstances, the length of time or number of times you will need the equipment."

RIA has developed a list of reasons to rent landscaping equipment that will detail how Landscape Contractors can save money. The association says that renting equipment enables the contractor better control over the choice of equipment. With renting, a contractor can customized each job with equipment specially made for different applications. Besides saving money, renters can also save on additional expenses since most rental rates include the cost of maintenance. Therefore, money would be saved on repair cost and expenses for parts and labor. Additionally, owning a crane or forklift requires a large space to safely store the equipment.

 Sculptor Yoshikawa created a double-sided waterfall in a central courtyard for a public service building located in Chula Vista, California. A European crane was used for installation (see photographs at left). The large (H 13' W 8' D 7') water sculpture was delivered to the location with two trucks. "It took about two hours to set up the crane with three workers," said Yoshikawa. "Since the artwork was being lifted over a building, a spotter (someone giving radio messages to the crane operator) was required. Basically everything went off without a hitch."

Of course, there are many benefits to purchasing the equipment. If your company uses a crane for over 40 jobs per year, it may be worth buying a crane. The main benefit of purchasing is having easy access to the equipment. If you own the equipment, you don't need to worry about reserving it. "Cranes hold their value over a long period of time," said Gary Bach of Coast Cranes in the City of Industry, California. "It's like buying a house, it's better to buy than rent. It all boils down to usage."

Although the costs vary, in Southern California, a brand new standard one-man mobile crane is about $225,000-$325,000. A used crane can run anywhere from $50,000 to $175,000 depending on the age and condition of the equipment. Renting the same crane would be an average price of approximately $120-$140 per hour with a 4 hour minimum. This rental price includes having a professional driver operate the equipment. On average, renting a crane may equal approximately $1,000 per day. If you have 40 jobs per year that require a crane for at least one day per project, you're looking at a rental cost of $40,000. You may be better off buying a used crane depending on your anticipated usage.

Another option is purchasing a truck-mounted crane. William R. Morgan, president of Morgan Company in Santa Ana, California, says that this type of crane is cost-efficient and flexible. "Truck mounted cranes are easy to use, lightweight, and fold up into small packages, leaving more space available in the truck," said Morgan. The cost for a truck-mounted crane ranges from $7,000 to $40,000.

Through proper planning, difficult hardscape jobs can be successfully completed with little aggravation. The most important thing to remember is to create the proper installation strategy by utilizing the right equipment for the job. LCM

 Sculptor Yoshikawa created a double-sided waterfall in a central courtyard for a public service building located in Chula Vista, California. A European crane was used for installation (see photographs at left). The large (H 13' W 8' D 7') water sculpture was delivered to the location with two trucks. "It took about two hours to set up the crane with three workers," said Yoshikawa. "Since the artwork was being lifted over a building, a spotter (someone giving radio messages to the crane operator) was required. Basically everything went off without a hitch."

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September 17, 2019, 11:00 pm PDT

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