Demolition Excavators: Factory-Fitted Versus Aftermarket

Wrecking balls are tools of the past. Excavators have the capability to more strategically and safely dismantle structures, and many contractors I talk to view demolition as a growth opportunity for their business. This leaves them with the decision to either purchase a factory-fitted machine that is specially-suited for demolition or convert a standard excavator with aftermarket fittings.

So how do you decide? Here I’ll examine the four primary benefits of a factory-fitted machine and potential pitfalls — including costs — of outfitting a standard excavator with aftermarket solutions.

#1: Enhanced Safety
Let’s start with the most important benefit — safety. If the goal is to outfit the machine with a high-reach boom, there are several nuances between a factory-fitted machine and an aftermarket machine that can greatly impact safety.

Almost every manufacturer that purpose builds their high-reach excavators has a modular joint boom concept, but pins that hold the modular joint to the boom connection can differ. Some use a half hook for the top pin and short pins on the bottom. However, a well-designed demolition machine uses full-length hydraulic pins. Because they’re hydraulic, an operator can pull them out without leaving the cab. They also are more reliable than shorter-diameter pins.

Converting a standard excavator also requires outfitting the cab with a guarding package — which runs upwards of $20,000 in the aftermarket. That also involves working with a third party whose package may not be designed for that particular machine and offers limited support. A factory-fitted demolition machine comes with a guarding package and with full support for the spare parts by the OEM.

#2: Strong, Stable Platform
A factory-fitted demolition machine has much larger boom cylinders, heavier frames and extra counterweight. They also have hydraulically extendable tracks, which give operators a 360-degree working range. Here are cost estimates to add those features to a standard excavator:

  • Boom cylinders: $5,000 each
  • Counterweights: $14,000
  • Hydraulic extensions: $50,000

#3: Visibility and dust control
Two additional considerations are tilting cabs and dust suppression systems. In a factory-fitted machine, the cab will tilt up to 30 degrees, giving operators the best view of the jobsite. Aftermarket tilting cabs will likely cost $40,000 or more to install.

An aftermarket dust suppression system costs approximately $10,000 and may not include the different misting options found on a factory-fitted machine.

#4: Reduced Liability
If there’s a problem with a converted machine, it’s not uncommon for third parties to pass blame to each other. Also, the more a factory machine is modified in the aftermarket, the more likely its factory warranties will be voided. It’s best to avoid these scenarios by purchasing a single factory solution covered under one warranty. From Volvo, that happens to be a Lifetime Frame & Structure Warranty.

The Bottom Line
While there are options to upgrade a standard excavator to a demolition machine, various components built by multiple manufacturers not only cost a lot of money, they come at a detriment to safety, productivity and ease of repair. Purchasing a factory-fitted machine gives you the best opportunity to make high-reach demolition endeavors successful ones. Check out some recent customers who have seen success by going with a factory-fitted Volvo high-reach excavator: Continental Demolition, Rachel Contracting.

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