Learn before you leap

Features - Design/Build

Hydroseeding service can be a lucrative addition to your company, but you should make sure you know what challenges await you.

February 13, 2013

Moonlighting Landscape Lighting Systems

Adding hydroseeding to your service roster may pose some unique challenges, making it particularly important to evaluate its pros and cons. Do your homework and dispel your common misconceptions before jumping in.

“A lot of people coming into this business underestimate equipment costs and maintenance requirements,” says Bill Richardson, owner of Hydroseeding & Bark Blowers, in Tacoma, Wash. “They’re also not familiar enough with the products available to benefit their business or their customer. Make sure you do your research and know your products – because they’re not all the same.”

Tanner Cole, president of Gatsby Grounds Co., in Lancaster, Mass., adds that contractors and customers alike have accepted the mistaken notion that hydroseeding uses a standard recipe. But there’s a lot more that goes into it. “We do soil tests and evaluate site conditions before we decide exactly what product we’re using,” Cole says. “There’s a misconception that hydroseeding is the silver bullet of growing a new lawn, but there’s a lot involved.”

Rodney Godshall, president of Godshall’s Landscaping & Hydroseeding, in Center Valley, Pa., says that as someone who does a lot of sub work, he’s had contractors promise the client a lawn in three to five days. “We can’t deliver on that kind of promise. It’s a common misconception that you spray and the lawn comes up right away,” he says. “That’s not how it works.”

Evaluating the service.
Cole says that adding a hydroseeding service can make a nice complement to some landscape businesses, but it’s something that needs to be closely evaluated. Depending on the services you offer, a hefty investment in a hydroseeder could be unnecessarily tying up capital. It’s important to consider whether you’re comfortable investing in a machine with a small window of opportunity – particularly if that window is in direct conflict with other aspects of your business, Cole says. “For instance, if you do a lot of maintenance work and spring clean-up is big for you, adding a bark blower is a good fit,” he says.

“But adding hydroseeding may take your time away from that core portion of your business and not give you the return on investment you’re looking for. You might be better off paying a subcontractor to do the hydroseeding so you can focus on your primary maintenance work.”

Why make the move.
Chris Bacon, sales manager for Hydrograsscorp.com says that hydroseeding can be a value-added service for landscapers who are trying to be more of a “one-stop shop.” “Today’s landscapers are looking to manage all of the services for their accounts,” he says. “You just have to consider the value of that investment.

Some contractors add hydroseeding as a service before investigating the cost of equipment and difficulty of work.

“A lot of landscapers are purchasing inexpensive equipment that’s not going to hold up or may need a lot of maintenance. Before you buy anything, make sure you see a demo of the machine in action.”

Godshall says it might be a good idea to use a sub until you at least have enough accounts to keep the machine busy. He started off with an inexpensive piece of equipment but moved up to a machine that costs nearly $40,000 as the need for better equipment for large commercial accounts grew.

Godshall says that while the residential market is finally turning around, he still prefers to try and focus on the big commercial projects. Bacon says that new construction is picking up again and creating hydroseeding opportunities.

While that may sound enticing, don’t let it blind you to the details. “I suggest carefully evaluating how this type of service would fit into your business model,” Cole says. “Make sure you’re making a decision that will be profitable.”