Buying Equipment for Sweeping Construction Sites

With construction site cleanup regulations becoming more stringent, sweeping contractors might find doors of opportunity opened to expand their business.

Cleanup happens on a variety of construction sites including new construction, road building, demolition, and rebuilding areas picking up materials from mud to spillage of large and small gravel. Due to the various sizes and structure of materials picked up, some sweepers will be more efficient than others. Because every job and market is different, it is up to contractors to determine if a unit upgrade is needed.

Construction Sites vs. Parking Lots

Sweeping equipment manufacturers say there has been consistent growth in construction site sweeping. As laws continue to be put into action monitoring stormwater regulations, it is increasingly important for construction firms to manage the material on their site. With several types of debris being tracked out onto roads, it is necessary for proper clean up to be taken. “Storm Water Phase III mandates that no construction site be allowed to exist if it is tracking material out onto the road,” says Brian Giles, Elgin sweeper product manager. “The fines are high, and if you don’t do it they will come take your discharge permit away — shutting down your site.”

As a result, many construction firms look to outsourcing as a cost-effective way to manage their waste and avoid fines. “Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to purchase and/or keep a sweeper (and operator) on site when it is only needed periodically,” says John Paraschak, Stewart-Amos. “Construction site cleaning can easily be added to most sweeping schedules and provides a nice chunk of supplemental revenue.”

Determining what unit to use on each site depends solely on the job. “You have to look at what is being swept,” says Tom Rokas, inside sales at Tymco. “Sometimes construction sites are so bad that they don’t need a sweeper, they need a front end loader. Sometimes going from parking lot sweeping to construction site sweeping presents a different set of challenges.”

One main challenge that Paraschak sees is that construction sites are far dirtier and contain higher concentrations of all types of debris. “This includes heavy fine dust, rock, stone, gravel, mud, sand, and all types of construction material,” he says. “Some of this is ground into the surface and forms a crust that can prove difficult to remove. By comparison, the typical parking lot contains lighter and less concentrated debris that is scattered about or collects in corners and along curbs. This type of debris is much easier to remove.”

Contractors can complete construction site cleanups with their smaller units, but they might face a variety of challenges. “A parking lot sweeper could do the job, the problem is that because of the size the power isn’t going to be there, and it may get frustrating for the operator to tackle a big job with a parking lot sweeper,” Rokas says. “There are alternatives, such as medium-size sweepers, that would be a better choice for construction cleanup. A medium-size sweeper may give you equal maneuverability and larger hopper capacity.”

Giles points out that because parking lot sweepers can’t pick up all of the material on a construction site, they will have to jump out and pick up the chunks and throw it in the back tearing up the machine. He also notes that contractors who use small units will have an issue getting rid of the material.

Some Available Models

A number of manufacturers make machines suitable for construction site sweeping. Tymco offers three models — Model 435, Model 500x, and Model 600. The Model 435 has a 72-in. lift for the hopper with a 32-in.-diameter gutter broom. The Model 500x has a usable hopper capacity of 4 cu. yds. and a variable dump height from 2 -11 ft. The Model 600 comes with a pick-up head and optional Broom Assist Head.

Stewart-Amos Co. offers several units including the Starfire S-4, a mechanical broom street sweeper that incorporates a tight turning radius and 16-in. to 10 ft. dump. The Galaxy R-4 (70-in. high-dump/4.65 cu. yd. hopper) and R-6 (6 cu. ft.-plus hopper/38-in. dump) are regenerative air street sweepers with stainless steel hoppers and tight turning radius that use a blast-oriface style sweeping head to loosen compacted debris.

Three available units by Elgin can be used for construction sweeping. The Road Wizard (10-ft. dump/5.4 cu. yd. hopper) is a mechanical sweeper that picks up heavy gravel. The Broom Bear (10-ft. dump/4.5 cu. yd. hopper) has similar technology as the Road Wizard but uses one engine. The Eagle has a dump height up to 10 ft. and a 4.5 cu. yd. hopper. It also has a belt conveyor that can handle debris such as hubcaps and 2x4s.

Features to Consider

When looking at purchasing a unit capable of handling large construction site cleanups, one factor to consider is location of your facility to jobs. Contractors can benefit from having extra space in the unit. “Sometimes these jobs are away from your facility,” Rokas says. “The sweeper should have a large area for tools and extra water capacity to keep the dust down.” He also suggests having a vertical steel gutter broom.

Style of brooms also can help make a construction sweeper more efficient. “It should have big side brooms so that they can scrape up the mud,” Giles says. “The bigger the side brooms the better. It’s the metal brooms on the side that dig that stuff off of the surface.”

Paraschak suggests that contractors look for a unit that is highly maneuverable and capable of traveling at highway speeds between jobsites.

Whether using a current unit or purchasing a larger unit, contractors have options when approaching construction sweeping. Rokas says that if contractors are finding that construction sweeping is becoming more of their business, it might be time to consider purchasing a larger unit. “If it is becoming a hassle of using your parking lot sweeper, and you put it on paper to buy a larger one, by all means do it,” he says. “A bigger unit opens up doors, and they have confidence in attacking these particular jobs.”