Residential Market Largest Influence on Concrete Pumping

Over the last thirty years, contractors have embraced the convenience, quality and efficiency a concrete pump brings to the job. Along the way, concrete pump manufacturers pushed the envelope by developing state-of-the-art technology to meet the needs of industrial, commercial and state-owned projects. Schwing America, Inc., White Bear, MN, developed the S 61 SX. Once unimaginable, the 197’ boom pump meets the challenges of everything from bridgework, to stadiums, to mixed-use mid-rises across the country. Schwing’s new 31 EZ telescopic boom pump offers the abilities of two pumps. With the lowest unfolding height of any 31-meter boom, the 31 EZ completes everything from indoor slab pours to conventional wall pours. The trailer mounted BP 8800 recently “topped off” the tallest building in the world, the Taipei Financial Center in Taipei, Taiwan, reaching an overall height of 1667 feet. Alongside these technological advancements, the single largest influence on the growth of concrete pumping in the US has been residential construction.

As the residential market segment grows, pumping contractors, poured wall contractors, and ready-mix producers have made adjustments to ensure the acceptance of pumping as a cost efficient method of concrete placement on residential sites.

Pat Phares, Patriot Concrete Pumping, Englewood, CO, says the company began in 2000. Patriot invested in nine concrete pumps specifically purchased to serve the residential market in the Denver area. “Our largest pump is a KVM 39 X,” says Phares. “We don’t own any of the larger scale equipment needed on commercial projects. The residential market is our bread and butter.”

Phares says a continually growing population in the Denver area is partly responsible for their success. “A few years ago, the housing development surrounding the Denver area was about a 25 to 30 mile circumference. Now, there’s about a 50 mile circle around downtown Denver.”

The acceptance of pumping as a cost efficient means of concrete placement has also become more popular in the area. “Over the last fifteen years, the people of Colorado have recognized the benefits of concrete pumps on these residential sites. For one thing, with the population explosion, the lot lines in these developments are very close together. If they don’t elect to use a pump, they need to bring in ramps and loaders and pay for the loader operators,” says Phares. “There is no supplemental equipment or pre-construction work when they use a pump. When it comes to cost and efficiency, people recognize that this makes sense. I’d say around 85 to 90 percent of the homes in the Denver area are pumped. Pumps are also beneficial in this area because of groundwater issues. We’re contracted to complete caissons to prevent infiltration. ”

Patriot keeps a tight schedule with each pump completing several pours each day. “I’m not sure exactly how they do things elsewhere, but we’re completing an average of 40 to 50 yard pours, three to four times a day. We don’t just schedule for our pumps to be busy in the AM.”

Patriot also maintains a close working relationship with Southwest Concrete Pumping, Denver CO. “It’s an ideal relationship,” says Phares, “We have the ability to bounce pours off of one another depending on availability and location of our pumps on any given day. It allows us to serve our customers better and keeps our fleet busy all day.”

Pumping contractors in other areas of the country have developed the practice of dedicating one pump to their best residential customers, guaranteeing availability. Developers appreciate an all-access pass to scheduling efficiency and quick completion.

In other areas of the country, it’s not a question of availability but of economics. In Lansing, Michigan, Cross Concrete Pumping offers flexibility with their minimum pricing in the afternoon to attract local residential contractors. Cross Operations Manager, Michelle Thomson says, “ We still run a four hour minimum, but if our customers can set up the pours back to back, we’ll bill it as one job. This is a fast paced industry and our residential customers are pumping more concrete than ever.”

Another popular trend within the residential market segment is the growth of poured walls. As poured walls become commonplace on residential sites, contractors are recognizing the benefits of concrete pump ownership.

A concrete pump goes to work regardless of weather, time of day or job site conditions. The labor savings creates more time in a day to complete multiple projects. With a concrete pump, there is no need for supplementary equipment. Where job site conditions call for bulldozers to create access for ready mix trucks, a boom pump reaches over inaccessible terrain for pinpoint placement. Excavating time is reduced, and backfilling is less complicated.

In the northern US, poured wall contractors have invested in frost law legal concrete pumping equipment to meet state requirements and extend the construction season. John A. Izler Concrete Contractor Co., Grand Ledge, MI, installs approximately 400 residential foundations and all the related flatwork each year. Five years ago, President John Izler decided to purchase a 28-meter “frost law” legal pump. “For a period of time each spring in my area, it’s illegal to drive trucks over a certain weight limit on some roads,” says Izler. “My pump falls within the legal limit.”

He rents his pump to other contractors, but 95 percent of its use is for his own projects. “I decided several years ago to decrease my labor cost wherever possible by the use of machinery,” he says. “My employees appreciate that because they don’t link the back-breaking parts of their job.”

He soon discovered that pumping concrete placements averaged 1 to 1 ½ hours less per job, increasing company productivity by 10 percent. “It’s hard to measure the increase in revenue, he adds. “But, by the end of the year, we know there is more profit for the company.” Izler also learned that the same crew is able to install more house foundations in a year.

With the addition of a concrete pump, poured wall contractors are also providing a higher quality product to their customers. Concrete pumps place footing and wall concrete at proper slumps, assuring strict control over the final performance of the product and a reduction in costly callbacks. Ed Sauter, executive Director of the Concrete Foundations Association says, “The image of the poured wall industry has improved with the acceptance of concrete pumping. The days of adding water and backing the ready mix truck up to one corner are over. The highest quality poured walls in the industry are produced by CFA members who pump.”

Several poured wall contractors have recognized the addition of a concrete pump as a business opportunity. With the new capabilities, contractors have created a separate business around their pump. This gives them the freedom to explore new markets and increase their visibility with project owners and general contractors in the commercial, municipal, industrial and civil industry markets.

For those contractors who have chosen to invest in other areas of their business, renting concrete pumping equipment has its advantages.

Herbert Construction Co., Marietta, GA, centers their operation around the availability of concrete pumps from Cherokee Concrete Pumping, Stockbridge, GA.

“We pump close to 100 percent of our footing and wall work,” says owner Barry Herbert, an active member of the Concrete Foundations Association. “With the efficiency of Cherokee’s fleet and their operators, we’re executing seven to eight pours a day. That kind of turnaround is only possible with a pump.”

Cherokee owner Wayne Bylsma accommodates Herbert’s operation by automatically reserving one pump for morning pours, which remains with Herbert crews all day long. “In the afternoons we might require three more pumps, often times more than that,” says Herbert. “Cherokee has been very good to us, and they can always supply what we need to get the job done.”

Herbert recently relocated his company from their headquarters in southwest Michigan to the new offices in Marietta. “Back then, we required a pump for one out of every twenty jobs,” he says, “The residential lots in Michigan are typically very large, allowing plenty of room for ready-mix truck access and other equipment. In the Atlanta area, the lot lines are tighter together; there’s no room to jockey around trucks. A pump reaches into all of those tight corners right from its setup on the curb.”

One of the most obvious benefits to renting a concrete pump is the predictable, fixed cost of the service. All pumping contractors provide trained operators to make sure the pump stays in prime working condition throughout the pour. Depending on the pumper, a wide range of boom sizes and specialty booms are available to insure the project’s needs are met with the most appropriate, cost-efficient equipment. The contractor doesn’t concern himself with the storage and maintenance of a rented pump. As in the case of Herbert and Cherokee, poured wall contractors and pumpers develop long-lasting relationships that benefit their customers and the industry in general.

A ready-mix producer who also offers pumping services becomes a one-stop shop for customers who require supply and placing capabilities. This streamlines the coordination efforts in comparison to scheduling concrete pumping equipment and ready-mix supply from two separate contractors.

Dan Rentz, Sales Manager with Apple Valley Ready Mix, Inc. (AVR), Apple Valley, MN, says AVR got into the pumping business to maximize scheduling efficiency. “In the beginning we were constantly waiting for a pump,” says Rentz. “Now we can dispatch mixers and pumps to one job all at the same time. This system benefits us and our customers.”

Rentz has been with the company long enough to see the effect the residential market has had on concrete pumping. “In the last 15 years in Minnesota, the housing industry has gone from block to poured walls. I would say around 95 percent of the residential work we do right now is poured wall work.”

An obvious benefit to the ready-mix operations is the ability to utilize an entire fleet of ready-mix trucks more efficiently with the addition of concrete pumps. Investment in a pump allows delivery of more concrete per day without additional trucks. Mixer turnaround times improve and company productivity skyrockets, leading to recognition from large general contractors for opportunities in commercial and municipal projects.

As the company expanded their fleet and pursued opportunities in other markets, AVR worked out a compromise with residential customers. “We execute a lot of our commercial work in the morning hours and dispatch pumps to residential projects in the afternoon. Our customers are used to that kind of system and schedule accordingly.”

Ready-mix suppliers have also invested in specialized pumping equipment with additional axles to meet frost law requirements in several states. This extends the construction season for developers and residential contractors in the northern US.

As the housing industry grows with climbing populations, concrete pumps are becoming more and more of an asset with developers and residential contractors. Poured wall contractors and ready-mix suppliers are gradually realizing the benefits of concrete pump accessibility and ownership, and concrete pumpers across the nation are capitalizing on the need for pumps in residential construction. The working relationships between all of these players are important for the advancement of concrete pumping in the residential market.