Residential construction in Phoenix, Arizona, is going so strong that developers are paying contractors to demolish existing homes to make space for newer, bigger and more expensive houses.
This is especially true in Arcadia, an affluent area of Phoenix and Scottsdale, where citrus farmers previously grew oranges, lemons and grapefruits. The median home value in the area is above $500,000, and home values have gone up 12 percent in the past year. Demolition specialist Bill George has carved a successful niche for himself in Arcadia, working with a select group of developers to demolish structures and grade lots for new homes. “Arcadia is one of the most expensive pieces of property in the valley,” Bill says. “West of 44th Street is where $350,000 houses go for $700,000, and $800,000 houses for more than a million dollars.”
Bill, now in his 40s, got an early start operating heavy equipment, and loading and transporting materials when he was still in high school. Shortly after high school, he started his own company – Bill George’s Dump Truck and Loader Service – and his business quickly took off, thanks, in part, to advertisements in the local newspaper.
In 2006, tragedy struck – Bill was run over by a passing truck. The damage to his health was significant. The accident caused fractures in his neck and back, and he was forced to sell his company and equipment. “After I got ran over in 2006, my right hand didn’t work at all,” he says. “I missed running equipment for the seven years and seven months that I was out of the business. I missed it constantly.”
Seven years later, Bill started his comeback. He got himself back in good physical shape, and he restarted his business. Bill and his father tackled their first project since the accident, operating just a loaned skid-steer loader. It took the pair seven days to demolish a home. When they were done, the person who hired Bill said, “If you want to demo a lot of houses, go buy an excavator.” Bill did just that. He bought an old excavator, described as “worn out,” but it got him started on the right path. As soon as Bill bought the excavator, he shared a picture of it with a contractor and the contractor sent him four or five addresses where he could demolish the homes.
Today, Bill positions his company as “experts in demolition,” as well as grading and drainage.
“I’m not a builder; I’m a contractor,” he says. “I’m a demolition and a grading contractor.”
Rebuilding with Doosan
As Bill was rebuilding his business, his biggest headache was with his older, worn-out excavator, which was always breaking down. That’s when he met Pat Gallagher from the local Doosan® equipment dealership in Phoenix and decided to demo a Doosan excavator. Pat was persistent yet gave Bill the time he needed to make the decision to switch to Doosan. Bill says he really struggled with not buying his previous brand of construction equipment over Doosan.
“I liked the way the Doosan excavator worked better, especially the machine’s reach,” he says. “It took me a couple months of renting both machines before I made a decision on which machine I was going with – Doosan.”
Bill purchased his first Doosan crawler excavator – a DX140LCR – and was pleased with the reduced-tail-swing-machine’s performance and size, which allows it to fit nicely on his residential demolition jobsites.
“The new excavator eliminated so much of my headache because the machine wasn’t breaking,” he says. “It was working like it was supposed to be working. Pat was really good to work with and did a good job of selling me on the aspect that the dealership is there to help, which they’ve proven time and time again.” Not long after he purchased his first Doosan excavator, Bill purchased a Doosan wheel loader, then a second Doosan excavator, a DX235LCR. He chose to step up from the DX140LCR to the larger DX225LC-3 size for more power and reach. He says he likes the strength of the Doosan excavators for their size class, which makes easy work out of big projects like tearing out swimming pools.
“My Doosan machines work five days a week, and they work hard,” Bill says. “Small guys, as busy as we are, we can’t have equipment that doesn’t work. I have good confidence in my Doosan equipment.”
Tearing stuff up
Bill’s crew demolishes homes and commercial buildings using the Doosan excavators with buckets and clamps. Operators grab onto debris, lift it and empty it into a roll-off container. If the property has trees, they take them down and place the trees into a container that goes to a local firewood company.
Then, the crew separates the trash from the bricks and blocks. The trash goes into a container and to a transfer facility. Once trash is removed, the operator uses the excavator to take the walls down on top of the concrete slabs. The brick goes into a container where it is transported to a landfill for disposal. Concrete, the last step, is broken and loaded into containers to be transported to a recycling facility.
“Demolition is tough on machines, and we’re so busy, I can’t afford for them to be down,” he says. “Everything revolves around the excavator working. It’s my reputation. We get in, we get the job done and we get out. We’ve done houses as fast as a day with everything being done, including concrete, on a smaller 1,500-square-foot house. It may take two or three days if there’s a swimming pool. It’s fun. Who wouldn’t want to tear down a house for a living?”
Makes dirt look pretty
After Bill’s crew demolishes a home, they almost always go back and build a certified house pad. An employee operates the Doosan® DL250-5 wheel loader with a bucket to spread the fresh dirt. “We over-excavate where the new house will be built – about two-and-a-half feet – and then we roll it back in for compaction,” Bill says. “The Doosan wheel loader is a great machine. The soil testing company that I use has made the comment that they’ve never seen anybody move as much dirt as fast as my guy Brian does.
“The cab is incredibly comfortable. It’s a nice, roomy cab, cold air conditioning – even in Phoenix summers. The visibility from inside the cab is great, too. The windows go all the way around the cab, plus it’s the right height and the pivot point is tall enough to where operators have good visibility.”
Employee Brian Richardson likes the Doosan wheel loader so much that he put a decal on the machine with his name on it.
“He’s the best wheel loader operator that I’ve ever seen,” Bill says.
Bill has built up a loyal crew. He has nine employees, including his 75-year-old father, who are instrumental to the company’s ongoing success.
“I’ve got the greatest bunch of guys,” Bill says. “My dad still works 50, 60 hours a week because he wants to. The team is as important as the equipment.” Brian Richardson, David Richardson, Ken Taelman, Tom Cravens, Bubba George, Justin Sayer, Tony Smith, Jason Theodore, Luke Swihart and Pam Wright work for Bill. Business is so good today that Bill doesn’t need those newspaper ads from his younger days. He has embraced a new means of sharing his story and what his equipment can do – Facebook®. His company’s page features photos and videos of his Doosan equipment doing what it does best – demolishing homes and grading lots.