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Hardscaping and Large Boulder Work with Compact Excavators

Posted on 29th Dec 2015 @ 4:38 PM

You know you’re doing something right when 90 percent of your business comes by word of mouth and repeat customers. This is the case for Tracey Reese, owner of Reese Landscaping Services LLC in western North Carolina. Serving Transylvania and Hendersonville Counties since 1998, Reese Landscaping offers year-round residential and commercial services ranging from comprehensive lawn service, including maintenance, seeding and sod to tree installation and removal. As the company grew, Reese Landscaping expanded its offerings to include the construction of retaining walls, patios, steps, dry creek beds and more.

“The largest percentage of our work today,” according to Reese, “is hardscaping, which means creating beautiful outdoor environments with all-natural stones and boulders.”

Reese, who began working in the lawn service profession right out of high school, is a hands-on professional who works with one full-time employee and two part-timers. He is also a true environmental craftsman — an artist who cares about the quality of the work he and his team produce, the materials they use and the equipment they need to do the job right.

As Reese puts it, “Boulder work is definitely our specialty. It’s why we make the extra effort to bring in special boulders from Virginia. They’re a lot nicer and are squarer in shape than what we can find locally, which makes them perfect for building strong retaining walls. Plus, they come in many unique colors.

“Virginia boulders make a difference. Sure, they cost more, but I believe you get what you pay for. It’s the same reason we use Volvo equipment,” he adds. “We want the highest quality at every level for our customers. Customers notice that. It’s why we get so many referrals.”

Upon delivery, Reese immediately separates boulders according to type — decorative, border rocks and wall rocks. Keeping an inventory of around 300 tons of rock at all times, his customers can come to his shop and personally hand pick which rocks they want or give details of what they’re looking for. Reese takes it from there.

“The popular trend in hardscaping is definitely boulders,” he said. “Most of my customers want boulders because they never have to be replaced.” Boulders also produce a more natural, weathered aesthetic for retaining walls, walks and water features than traditional cut stone.

Reese personally oversees every job with a lean fleet of two Volvo compact excavators, an EC35 and EC55B Pro, alongside a tractor and two dump trucks. The Volvo EC35 he runs today is his second, replacing his first that was still going strong after 10 years. As he tells it, “The reason we bought the second EC35 is because we tried other machines that didn’t compare to the strength and versatility of the one we had already. When it came time to upgrade, my cousin recommended I check out a competitor’s machine like the one he was using. I delivered a load of boulders to the competitor dealership to test out their new machine. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it couldn’t begin to do the job that my 10-year-old Volvo was still doing. That’s all I needed to see.”

Compact excavators today come standard with features found on full-size excavators and are perfect machines for boulder work, according to Reese. “The left and right boom offset capabilities are amazing for such compact machines. They allow the operator to work up close to walls and embankments. This is critical for what we do. These mini units are so efficient that our only attachment is the hydraulic thumb. Working with the bucket, the thumb is a very precise tool for grabbing rocks. And if you’re cutting a tree down you can grab the tree, pick it up and pull it to you and remove the limbs. For what we do, it’s the one attachment we need.”

Versatility and performance set compact excavators apart. A special kind of machine is needed to work in tight spaces, lifting and moving heavy materials like boulders, which can weigh 1,200 to 1,500 lbs and be 2 ft wide by 2 ft tall by 3 ft long, while having the ability to quickly place each boulder in position with artful hydraulic precision.

Reese agrees. “Compact excavators are incredibly strong, and they respond quickly. When you want to stop, they stop right away. When you want to turn, they turn. They’re easy to handle, and they’re durable.”

The excavators also come standard with a dozer blade that Reese uses often for other on-the-job tasks, such as grading and smoothing dirt and leveling gravel. “I love the versatility they bring to every job,” he says.

Reese Landscaping is supported by ASC Construction Equipment in nearby Mills River. “The truth is, I’ve never once not been able to work because my equipment was down. Elon Holley and Steve Brown at ASC periodically check in to see how my equipment is performing, and if I need anything at all,” Reese adds.

“If I ever have to call Volvo for assistance, which is rare, they respond quickly and immediately fix any problem,” Reese continues. “The Volvo machines are built better, and they’re just plain stronger than the competition. You can tell by looking at one that it’s built to last. After seeing what my Volvo can do, my cousin went out and got his own. If I ever need to purchase another machine, it will definitely be a Volvo. I won’t consider anything else.”