Snow Removal: What Does it Take?

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Snow Removal: What Does it Take?

Snow removal in the Northern Virginia area is all over the place as far as snow totals and what is a “normal” year.  We have been plowing snow and managing ice for 25 years. One thing I have learned is that there is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to winter weather.  The individual snow totals can be anywhere from 1″-30″  as we have seen over the past few years.  The snow can be wet and heavy or dry and light which changes how you deal with it..

A lot of customers don’t understand what it takes to be ready for snow even before the first flakes fall.  I would like to let you know what goes on behind the scenes here at Sunrise Landscape + Design prior to a snow event:

First we have to send out contracts to our prior customers as well as to new customers or potential customers that will fit in our route.  After the contracts are in we have to determine that we have the proper equipment  and supplies to service those contracts.  If we need to add a plow you are looking at $5000+, snow blowers $1300, brooms $1600, salt spreaders/sanders can run $2600-$8000.  Loaders and trucks can be anywhere from $40K-$80K.  Even used equipment is $30+K and you never know what you are really getting.  Add snow shovels (minimum of 20-30 units to service out current contracts), rain suits for the guys (24-30 sets), and parts to fix any damaged machines from last year.  That is just the start; now we need to make sure we have enough sand and deicing materials in stock for at least 2 storms.  That equates to approximately 30 tons of sand and 40+ tons of deicing materials we must purchase and keep in stock while we wait for the snow to fall.

snow removal reston, snow removal great falls 
Loader piling the snow

Next step is to change over our trucks and equipment from landscaping to snow removal set ups.  This takes about 200+ man hours and we haven’t even done anything to make money yet!  The office has to prepare all of the route sheets, maps and necessary paperwork so everyone knows where to go, what to do and who the contacts are in case we have any questions.  Now we need to make sure all of the guys know what to do, are trained to be safe and as efficient as possible.  They will watch videos, do physical training in learning about the equipment and how it works and then visit the properties and get an overview of how everything works. This will be many more man hours!  Still have not seen any snow yet or worked any billable hours!

After all of this preparation we are basically ready to attack the first storm that comes our way.  We hope this is less than 6″ as you don’t always get the kinks worked out until you actually get out there and start the work.  When the snow is coming, all of the guys (and gals) are put on notice to get some rest as we may have to start in the middle of the night depending upon the storm.  Sometimes we work all day getting everything ready and we have to go out that night and work until the job is complete.  We always cross our fingers in hopes everything works properly and nothing happens to our equipment!!

Things always break, however, no matter how much care and planning you do.  Successful companies make decisions and changes to deal with the breakages, people not showing up and dealing with whatever mother nature throws at you.  I have been an athlete all my life and I have never been more physically and mentally tested as I have when I am performing plowing and ice management work.  The conditions are extreme, the duration and timing are never during normal business hours and you have to make decisions for the safety of your customers, crews and anyone who you come in contact with.  That is why we collaborate on most decisions and take into account as much info as we can.  Still things beyond our control happen all of the time.  All in all, if we do a good job we can make some money after the first 3 events or so.  Anything short of that could spell financial trouble.  It is always a fine line we walk regarding the toll snow removal takes on our equipment as to whether or not it is really worth it.

Snow plowing and ice management are challenging, stressful, exciting, grueling, fun, and many other adjectives I could use to describe what we go through.  In the end we appreciate having the work and enjoy the different set of challenges and accomplishments that go with it.

If you think you will need any help this year with snow removal call Sunrise sooner rather than later. 703-544-0028  (ie. before the snow starts falling.)


Contact Sunrise Landscape and Design, Northern Virginia’s premier landscaping company for all your lawn maintenance needs.  We are a full service landscape contractor serving Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County and Loudoun County.  Whether you need landscape design with water features, landscape lighting, walkways and patios or lawn maintenance services such as lawn mowing, mulching turf care, leaf clean-up or garden clean-up we work with you to make your landscape beautiful.


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