There’s a saying I like—you can do a small job with a big machine, but not vice versa. Not enough contractors realize those words apply to high-reach excavators. The result: They miss out on an opportunity.

Whether it is a smaller contractor looking to get into demolition or a contractor who wants to start bidding on larger demo projects, it makes sense to consider investing in a high-reach demolition excavator. A common misconception about these machines is that they have a limited use. Yes, they are designed for high-reach projects. However, with the right machine, there is no reason these multi-use tools can’t be capable of working on all of a contractor’s jobs.

For contractors considering making the leap to the high-reach demolition market, here are three tips to help in the decision-making process.

1. Selecting the right boom configuration

It’s important to choose a high-reach excavator that has boom options that will allow one’s company to compete for the demolition jobs it wants to go after and offers versatility on the variety of jobs capable of being tackled.

For example, with commercial high-rises, like a hotel, the structure may have lighter steel at the top of the building. Thus, contractors looking to bid on this type of work will want to prioritize maximum pin height over tool weight since only a mid-size tool may be necessary.

For tackling the middle of a building or a mid-sized structure, like an industrial building, contractors won’t need as much height, but will need a stronger tool that can cut through that stronger material.

The strongest, thickest material is often found at the bottom of a structure. For these jobs, contractors won’t need as much height, but will need a boom configuration that can support a heavier tool. The same goes for processing material at or near ground level.

Finally, just because it’s a high-reach excavator doesn’t mean these pieces of equipment need to be excluded from being used for digging or earth moving. With the right configuration, these tools can be just as effective for these jobs. Therefore, contractors should consider looking for a machine with a digging boom option for added versatility.

2. Choosing factory-built vs. aftermarket customization

After a company has determined what boom configurations it will need, it should evaluate whether it should work with a third party to convert a standard excavator into a high-reach machine or if it should purchase a factory-built high-reach excavator.

Something to keep in mind with a third-party boom is that adding that to an excavator means the machine has essentially been built twice: first as a standard excavator and then with the high-reach boom added on. This means dealing with two companies when it comes to repairs, warranties and other issues.

I’ve seen many contractors get stuck in the middle when a problem arises, inevitably ending with the other two parties blaming each other. A factory-built high-reach excavator means service needs only require one call and parts can be delivered faster.

Also, contractors should consider the performance advantages of having a machine that is designed to do high-reach demolition work. From the platform to the cab to safety features—a purpose-built machine was designed and manufactured to do a specific kind of work.

Having a factory-built machine also means changing out the boom and attachments is easier. For example, a single operator has the ability to swap out a high-reach boom for a digging boom and arm in 45 minutes—without assistance from another laborer—on some machines.

3. Design differentiators

If a contractor decides to go with a factory-built machine, they should know there are design differences between brands. Some include the boom configurations that are offered and the ability to easily change between high-reach and digging configurations. Interestingly, it’s a component that’s close to the ground — the undercarriage — where a lot of other differentiators can be found. Look for a high-reach excavator with an undercarriage that provides a larger footprint for added stability. A retractable undercarriage that expands can also provide additional stability when needed. Finally, hydraulically extendable undercarriages allow for a 360-degree working range, decreasing the time needed to reposition the machine. This can also be helpful if the undercarriage features easy-to-remove track frames and the ability to self-disassemble and reassemble for easier transportation.

In the end, there are a lot of considerations when picking the right high-reach demolition excavator. The right equipment dealer and manufacturers can help you find the best fit for your needs.

The author is the national sales director, demolition, with Volvo Construction Equipment, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and can be contacted via email at