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Read our guide to find out the cost of a wood chipper rental and where to get it. Also, we included 4 free contractor quotes when it comes to wood chipping.
A wood chipper is a machine that is used for reducing tree and bush wood from its original state as branches, foliage, and trunks into woodchips.
Wood chippers are usually mounted on a mobile frame either with their own wheels, snow runners or mounted on a trailer or truck. The object is to make them as mobile as possible to reach the location where the trees are being cleared.
Before we go any further we must see if there are any other names for wood chippers with which you might be more familiar. The commonest alternative name is a wood shredder although this name is often reserved for a smaller lighter machine that specializes in shredding twigs and foliage only. In practice, though both the versions do essentially the same job and are different just in the matter of size and blade type. For the purpose of this article, we will be talking about both the wood chipper and the wood shredder and treating them as essentially the same piece of equipment.
Reasons to rent a wood chipper include:
Saves you money. The main purpose of using a wood chipper is to reduce the bulk of the trees and foliage you have just cut down. If you are disposing of the wood chips to landfill then you will reduce the number of truckloads you send which in turn saves on transportation, disposal fees as well as labor. If you know of any landscapers then you might be able to sell them the woodchips as mulch or walkway material.
Environmentally sustainable. Many districts no longer accept garden waste in landfill and have stopped the burning of garden waste. Producing your own woodchips means you have a ready-made mulch to lay around your plants.
Affordable for the home. Hiring a wood chipper gives you an affordable way of removing your unwanted fallen branches and trees. If your locality has had a storm and many trees have fallen you can share the cost with your neighbours.
Affordable for small businesses. Small landscaping or tree surgery businesses often cannot afford to buy a wood chipper. Hiring one spreads the cost of purchase and maintenance over the cost of a job. You don’t pay for downtime either.
When one is cutting, trimming and removing trees and shrubs there is a big problem with what to do with the waste. The woody parts of plants do not compost as easily as other parts of vegetation so you cannot just place the unwanted wood onto the compost pile and expect it to rot down like the rest of the unwanted vegetation. In order to convert it into a form more suitable for composting the woody structure needs to be cut into smaller pieces to give the bacteria and other wood boring insects more surface area on which to work.
The act of chipping the cellulose into more manageable chunks will also allow it to be used for other tasks other than composting. Wood and bark chips are very suitable for mulching around plants to keep the moisture in the ground and prevent the growth of weeds that would otherwise smother other plants. Wood chips are also very useful as the top covering layer of garden walkways and around children’s playground toys such as see-saws, swings and climbing frames where they can provide a soft and padded ground cover in case of falls.
The wood chipper will cut equally well on fresh wood as dry, dead wood. They can accept leaves and foliage and the length of feed stock is of no consequence. The only limitations are the width or diameter of the wood. This will depend on the size of the wood chipper, the diameter of the opening into the cutting chamber and the type of cutting components it has installed.
In this section, we will talk about the different types of chippers and the differences between them. All the machines that are in the family of wood chippers have the same basic configuration of parts:
Feed chute. This is an opening designed to feed the cutters with wood. It is similar in shape to a funnel so that wide spreading parts like tree foliage can be compressed into a narrow opening suitable for the blades.
Outlet chute. This is a chute that allows the chopped vegetation to be ejected from the machine into a waiting receptacle.
Rotating blades. This machine part will vary in sharpness and strength depending on what type of vegetation the machine is designed for. Heavy duty rotating blades are intended for tree trunks and branches. The rotor is designed to be able to withstand very high resistance to cutting. Wood shredders tend to have semi-blunt blades known as flails which mash and shred twigs of small diameter and other types of vegetation. Shredders tend to have small motors and blunt flails so are not able to cope with large diameter feed.
This type is used mostly in home gardening applications and those situations where leaves and foliage are the most usual items to shred. Some really small shredders which are no good for cutting wood use a type of nylon string to cut the vegetation. This string is similar to the type of cord used in a handheld strimmer.
Some wood chippers have a bin to collect the chipped material and some have a place to connect large collecting bags for the same purpose.
The different types of wood chippers are named after their cutting mechanism. There are three types of cutting methods and hence three different types of wood chippers:
Drum chippers. These types use blades to chip the wood. These can accept branches of larger diameter than the disk chippers.
Disk chippers. This type uses a cutting wheel to chip the wood. These produce a smaller chip than a drum type.
Screw chippers. These are mainly large chippers often using hydraulic power.
Each type of chipping method has its own pros and cons and these should be understood before choosing the right tool for the job.
There are also machines that combine the best parts of wood chippers and shredders. These are usually small machines and are aimed at the domestic market. Sometimes they have more than one feed chute for different types of material. Most domestic style combination chippers can handle wood branches up to three inches in diameter.
Another consideration that needs to be thought of is what type of motor to have. As stated earlier the small domestic shredders, chippers and combination machines will more than likely have an electric motor while the larger domestic models can have either an electric motor or a small gasoline or diesel engine. Larger commercial chippers will have a large diesel motor or be powered by hydraulics from a tractor.
The types of wood chippers available to buy or hire include the following:
Gravity fed. These are compact and efficient wood chippers ideal for gardening contractors, tree surgeons, landscapers, large gardens and private estates. These are also the most common type found in hire shops. They are fitted with wheels and are connected to a vehicle by means of a tow bar.
Power take-off wood chippers. These connect to tractors by means of an arm and receive their power from the tractor’s hydraulics. Typical users of these include large estates, farms, golf courses, local government authorities.
Tracked hydraulic wood chipper. This type is fitted with its own self-powered tracks for use off-road and where you cannot get a normal vehicle to go. Different types of models are suited for different conditions such as soft ground, slopes, narrow access to name but a few.
Road towable hydraulic chippers. These are larger versions of the gravity fed models but run using its own generated hydraulic power. They are very versatile and able to be used effectively across a range of applications. They range in power from 20 hp to 64 hp and have many variations depending on your application.
The limitations of the wood chippers or shredders depend on the power of the motor and the type of cutter used. Usually the inlet feed chute is designed so that the opening can only accept pieces of a size suitable for the machine.
As a general rule:
Wood chipper. This can be used for any type of feed limited by the motor power and blades. The manufacturer will always say the limiting dimensions of the feed stock.
Wood shredder. This machine will chop nothing larger than small diameter twigs and leaves. As with the wood chipper, different sized machines are suitable for only the manufacturer’s specified feed stock. The cutter ranges from a metal flail down to a rotating nylon cord.
Weed whacker. This is the smallest version and only deals in shredding soft vegetation such as leaves and weeds. This is outside our scope in this article.
Irrespective of the type of wood chipper, whether it is a really heavy duty metal blade type suitable for branches and trunks or a simple nylon corded weed whacker, none of them like chopping metal or stones. This means that as much as possible you must make sure that only the material that the machine is designed for is put through the inlet chute. This means that the following are strictly banned from touching the cutters:
It should be obvious that items such as stone or nails may seriously damage the cutters or leave them blunt. Wire and garden string can wind around the rotating parts and cause unnecessary wear. Although glass may not damage heavy duty blades too much, it will damage flails or nylon cord. Not only that but even if it is chopped up, you do not really want broken glass in your mulch or compost.
Wet and soggy material will just clog up the rotating parts and prevent them from cutting. Anything that either clogs the moving parts or winds around the axels will need the machine to be stripped down and the offending substances cleaned and removed.
Many contractors could conceivably use a chipper, especially those whose job entails ground clearance or gardening. This means that you would find the following occupations and organizations using a wood chipper:
If you own a motor lawn mower (not electric), you can achieve the same effect as a wood shredder by running the mower back and forth over the pile of tree offcuts. The rotating blades of the mower will chop the wood into chips suitable for composting. Do not try using a mower to cut thick branches or trunks however as the motor is not designed to handle cutting things as thick as those and you can seriously damage an expensive piece of garden machinery.
A handheld strimmer can be used to shred vegetation depending on the blade type. The normal garden shredder with a rotating nylon cord is only suitable for shredding soft plants and leaves similar to those chipped in a wood shredder or weed whacker. Some strimmers, especially if they have an internal combustion engine as a power source have rotating blades and these are able to shred more substantial twigs.
The only other items are an ax or similar cutting tool.
There are so many wood chipping machines available to hire or buy that at first sight the ordinary person might feel daunted when confronted with the vast range of machines on offer. In a case such as this, it would be a good idea to consider the following questions before deciding on the type and size of machine you need and whether to buy or rent one.
This is probably the first and most important question to initially ask yourself. If it is for use at home then the chances are that you will only be using it for a couple of days every year and the vegetation you want to chop will usually be small diameter twigs. If this is the case then choose one of the smaller electrically powered shredders. You don’t really need to buy one either as the number of times you will use it does not justify the cost of servicing and replacement blades. You also have to find somewhere to store the shredder for the majority of the year.
If you intend using one in your job then you must do the calculations to see whether the cost of long-term hire is comparable to the cost of purchase and servicing and maintenance. If you don’t want the commercial chipper to break down often and be reliant on domestic electricity then you will either need one that runs off a generator powered by gasoline or one that has its own gasoline or diesel engine.
Chippers with engines like these tend to be more heavy duty than electrical ones so it would be better to buy one of those rather than an electrically powered machine plus a generator. If your job needs a chipper then you probably have premises where you can store the machine on the few days when you are not using it. From this information we can conclude that if the chipper is for domestic use then choose an electrically powered rental model; if the chipper is for commercial use then either hire or buy a gasoline or diesel powered heavy duty machine.
This question is really asking whether you are using it in your job and how the cost of maintaining it compares to the cost of hiring. Small electrically powered wood chippers tend to have a limited lifespan before the motor burns out through overuse. They also can have an overheating cut-out switch installed to prevent the motor from being damaged by overuse. It is also a fact that if you are using it every day then ask yourself whether it would be better to buy a heavy duty model rather than buy or hire a lighter model.
Heavier models can cope with smaller diameter twigs but not vice versa.
If you have nowhere to store the machine then there is no point in buying one. Rent one instead.
Knowing the maximum size of the property is vital when deciding on the correct machine for the job. If you have a large estate with many trees of all different sizes then it would be better to choose a large heavy duty type, independently powered by an engine, is easily moved and has a larger chopping capability. If you just have a small suburban garden with a limited amount of garden waste, twigs and leaves then a small electrically powered machine will be enough.
Type of motor. We have already discussed the types of power source wood chippers have so won’t go into them here. Let us just say that the application will be a large factor in deciding what type of chipper to have.
Reduction ratio. This refers to how much the size of the feed is reduced by the chipping action. For example, a reduction ratio of 10:1 will mean that a volume of ten bags of leaves will be reduced to a volume of one bag of leaves.
The number of blades. If a wood chipper has a large number of blades then it will chip more efficiently. More blades will also reduce the amount of stress on the axle and motor and so increase the machine’s working life.
Vacuum. Some shredders come with a vacuum attachment to assist in clearing up the debris and other garden waste.
By deciding upon the basic parameters of the machine’s usage you will be able to easily decide on the size required, power source, mobility and whether it should be bought or hired.
The obvious place to hire a wood chipper would be your local tool hire center. Remember that the hire shop will be unlikely to stock chippers that are not in demand in your area. This means, for example, that if you live in the middle of the city, you will probably only find domestic garden chippers for hire. If you live in a rural area then there is more likely to hire a large diameter, heavy-duty chipper.
Luckily, if you hire a wood chipper, you don’t have to repair it. However, if you decide to buy one then you will open yourself up to all manner of extra costs:
If you hire the machine then the hire shop is responsible for ensuring everything is in working order. All you are required to do is to return the machine as clean as possible.
Yes, that is one of the main purposes of renting wood chippers. Anyone can rent them and anyone can use them. Remember though that they are dangerous machines so do not allow children to use it.
Whether you choose to hire a professional to chip your garden refuse or whether you decide to do it yourself will depend on a lot of things; the first ones which spring to mind are mainly the size of job and number of trees, whether you are physically able to do the work (it can be extremely tiring), how much spare time you have and whether you can afford to hire someone.
Let’s talk a bit more in-depth about these and see if we can come up with any more points.
Manhandling fallen branches into an organized pile next to the chipper is not something you can do if you are not used to heavy physical work. Tree branches can be heavy and the force needed to provide a continual stream of feed into the chipper will further add to the tiredness.
If you have a large garden or a farm you may have many trees to chip, especially if you have recently had a storm and lots of trees have become casualties. The trees will require cutting into a size easier to handle so hiring a chainsaw might be worthwhile as well.
You don’t want to be wasting the hiring time you are paying for, so get everything ready before hand. Cut the trees into the right lengths, stack them neatly facing where the chipper will be stood.
You can get everything ready over a number of days, in fact however many weekends or evenings it takes before you hire the chipper.
The cost will be purely for the wood chipper and ancillary costs.
✓ The contractor will have a vehicle to remove the chipped material.
✓ The contractor can do the chainsaw work as well as the chipping.
✓ He will get all the work done in a shorter time than if you do it in your spare time.
✓ He will be insured against damage to property and person. This is very useful if damage occurs to the wood chipper.
✓ The contractor will have more experience of doing this kind of work and will know the best way to go about it.
✓ If more than one pair of hands is needed then the contractor will be able to supply assistance.
✓ You won’t be able to spread the cost over a few weeks.
✓ The contractor should already have all the required safety equipment.
There are many factors that will affect the cost of hiring a wood chipper. The most obvious factors are:
✓ The size of the machine
✓ Electrical, diesel, gasoline or hydraulic powered?
✓ Delivery or self-collect
✓ Average prices for your locality
✓ Any damage inflicted on the machine
✓ Purchase of safety equipment
Costs to hire will vary depending on where you live and size of the machine. The following costs are intended to be indicative only and represent the average cost.
|Size of wood chipper||Rate|
|Wood chipper 4”||$130 per 24 hours|
|Wood chipper 6”||$200 per 24 hours|
|Wood chipper 9”||$270 per 24 hours|
You should listen to what the contractor has to say as he has been doing this kind of work for many years and knows a few things that you have probably never thought of. What we mean is that you should not be afraid to ask pertinent questions about what experience he has, what insurance cover he has and whether he is licensed or not.
Gardening (and wood chipping can be classed as gardening) is one of those occupations where it is not strictly necessary that you employ someone who is licensed. On the other hand, you should only be dealing with someone who knows what they are doing and someone who is a certified gardener or tree surgeon will certainly know what they are doing. An experienced and licensed tree surgeon will have no problems answering your questions and setting your mind at rest. So let’s make a list of possible questions shall we?
Contract. You should get an agreement in writing with the contractor specifying the following points so both parties know where they stand.
The scope of the job. What exactly is the contractor being paid for? He needs to know what he is expected to do and what not to do.
Deadlines. You need to know when he is likely to start and finish the job and so does he. Don’t expect the work to start on Monday because unless you are very lucky, any experienced gardener or tree surgeon will already have work booked into the diary. Be patient and wait your turn or go to someone who is less in demand.
Payment. When is the payment due? Getting a contractor to do work like this does not require buying any materials (except fuel for the chipper) so the only outgoings should be hire costs and labor. Find out when you are expected to pay for these. Don’t pay for anything up-front otherwise you run the risk of the contractor taking your money and running. Wait until everything has been chipped, removed and the area cleaned up. Then pay the bill.
How to expedite changes to the contract. No matter how well planned the project starts out as there always comes a time when something happens that was not expected. Perhaps the equipment breaks down and needs to be repaired. If the chipper has been hired then there shouldn’t be any problem with this as the hire shop will just send out a replacement.
If however, it is the contractor’s own chipper that stopped working, he will be expected to either get his machine working as soon as possible or hire one. If the hire costs are significantly different to the price he originally quoted then he is within his rights to charge you for the extra. A proper procedure should be written into the contract to cope with any variations to the contract, and then there will be no nasty shocks for you when you receive the invoice.
Insurance. The contractor must specify his insurance policy details in the contract and give you proof that he has this insurance. Maybe he can give you a phone number or email address you can contact for confirmation. His insurance must cover all damages to your property and any neighbor’s property as well as injury or death to anyone caused by his actions or inactions. He must also be covered for any claims for compensation by his own workforce.
Certification. The contractor must attach a copy of his license to prove that he is registered with the local government to do the work you are paying him for. You must get in contact with the issuing office and check that all the details are in force and are correct.
If you are doing the job as a DIY project and you are hiring the equipment then you need to know certain information from the hire shop.
Contract. Make sure the contract covers every problem that can arise. Most hire shops will have a standard hire contract that covers everything that could go wrong and states who is responsible. You have a choice; you either accept the terms of the contract or go elsewhere. Don’t expect to negotiate, it won’t happen.
How do you operate the equipment? It is in the hire shop’s interest to have their property back in one piece. They also have a duty of care to make sure you know how to use their equipment so let them explain and listen well. They should also give out a fact sheet reiterating the instructions too.
How long can you keep the equipment? Sometimes the work might take longer than you expect. Make sure that you will be able to extend your hire period if needed.
Wood chippers, shredders and in fact any machine with rotating cutters can be very dangerous. Always treat wood chipping machines with the greatest of respect and read the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly before turning the machine on.
Carry out an inspection before operating the machine to ensure all connectors are tightened and all parts are in good working order.
Shields and guards will be supplied with the machine. Make sure you use them correctly and as they have been designed.
Do not push the feed into the chute by hand, you could easily slip and push your arm into the blade. Most machines will come with a tamper to help with loading the machine properly. If one isn’t supplied then use a strong and sturdy branch to do the tamping and keep your limbs away from any moving parts.
Always use personal protective equipment when using a wood chipper. The most important of these are:
A face shield or visor. Wood chippers can throw sharp pieces of wood at high velocity so keep your face and eyes protected. Either use a transparent polycarbonate face shield or a wire mesh face shield. Whichever one you choose make sure it is impact proof.
Heavy duty work gloves. Handling tree branches and twigs can rip hands to pieces if you are not properly protected. Wear heavy duty leather work gloves to protect your hands.
Coveralls. The machine will be throwing out wood chips soaking with sap that will stick to your clothes. If you wear protective coveralls you can forget about the chips damaging your nice clothes and concentrate on what you are doing.
Safety helmet. Protect your head from high-velocity impacts with wood chips by wearing a safety helmet. Not only will it protect your head but will also prevent wood pulp from becoming tangled in your hair.
Safety boots or shoes. Foot protection is essential when working with heavy branches and uneven ground conditions. Use steel toe capped shoes with ankle support.
Long hair. If you have long hair, ensure it is tied back and covered so there is no chance of it becoming tangled in the machinery.
Ear defenders. Many wood chippers make a lot of noise when chipping the tree branches. Protect your hearing by wearing suitable ear defenders.
Work in pairs. This is not always possible, but you must try not to work alone or out of sight of anyone else. That way if you have an accident with the machine there will be someone there to turn the machine off and help you if needed. At the very least you should have someone nearby who will check on you frequently or is within earshot.
A wood chipper is a useful piece of equipment that is able to reduce the volume of garden refuse to make it easier to handle and to cost less when disposal charges are calculated. Unfortunately they cost a lot to purchase and maintain so it is worthwhile renting one from your local hire shop. The staff are experts at using the equipment and will give you training in the operation of the machine. After all, they want their property back in one piece!
Go down to your local hire shop this weekend and rent one to tidy up all those fallen trees left over from the last storm.
Thanks for reading.