How To Choose The Right Topsoil Screener

Topsoil screening with fine screen

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Topsoil screening can be a great source of income, especially if you are transporting material away from a site to dump, or have access to free soil to screen.

You are essentially making money from dirt!

In this post we’re going to go through some of the screener options out there, and which ones might be right for topsoil.

We'll also give you an idea of budget and output so you can decide what the best option is for you if you're trying to get into topsoil screening

Incase you aren't too familiar with topsoil, the clue is in the name.

It's the soil that usually makes up the top 2 to 12 inches of ground depending, on the area.

It's full of broken down organic material from leaves, dead animals and vegetation, and makes a huge difference to how plants grow, because it's full of nutrients.

This also means it's much darker in colour than other types of soil.

Other than this organic soil material, topsoil is also made up of a mix of rocks, water, contaminants and other organic materials like plant roots, sticks and weeds.

In it's raw state like this it isn't very useful, because these rocks and sticks will hold back the roots of new plants from sprouting and can restrict water flow.

But if topsoil is screened to remove larger rocks and things like sticks or roots, it can be very useful for gardening and other applications where plant growth is promoted.

It is also generally worth a lot more after it has been screened, which is what we’re interested in!

Generally speaking the finer the product the more expensive it is.

Now there are a bunch of different types of screens out there, but for topsoil we're only interested in screens that can output a product in and around the 1/2 inch or 10mm size.

Once we break it down into categories of screeners that can produce this size of material, you have six basic options;

  • Fines screeners
  • Scalping screens
  • Trommel screens
  • Screening decks
  • Screening boxes
  • Screening buckets

What machine you choose from here will depend on a few things

Like how much screening you want to do, whether you need a unit that is easy to transport or store, and how much you want to spend!

You should try to estimate how much time you plan to spend screening soil, there's no point buying a machine that is too big or too small for your needs.

You'll also need to consider the supply and demand of topsoil in your area.

Chances are you won't have an unlimited amount of topsoil around you to process, and even if you do, you need to make sure there are enough people around you that want to buy screened topsoil.

Once you've figured out how much time you have to screen, and how much material you plan to process, you can take a look at different screen types and models.

We go into a lot more detail on tonnage per hour in our post on screening topsoil, but roughly speaking, excavator buckets and screen boxes will do sub 50 tons/hour.

Anything over that and you're going to need a larger dedicated screening machine

If you already have an excavator a screening bucket might be a great option.

There are some fairly cheap options, like this Italdem GV1000, that can be used on a site to sort material into two products pretty quickly. They also reduce the need to transport stuff to and from a job.

Screen boxes like the Robotrac or Portafill MR-2 are also a great option where you want to process more material, but budget is a limiting factor.

Once you go over that 50 tonnes/hour mark you can't use a screen box or screening bucket and will need to invest in a larger screening machine.

Larger units will significantly up the amount of topsoil screening you can do and have the potential to make you a lot of money per hour.

But they also cost a lot more upfront, getting into the $100ks and sometimes over $1 million.

One of the nice things about buying a larger screen is that there is usually a lot of demand for them, so you can rent it out to recoup some of the cost of financing the machine.

If you buy something like a tracked scalping screen, that can process a variety of materials, you can probably claw back the cost of financing your machine by renting it out for a week a month.

When looking at larger screening plants, we usually recommend either a sclaping screen or a fine screen.

Scalping screens are very versatile machines and can handle a range of materials from demolition waste to fine topsoil.

They work on a decline and can be set up to intake or output a variety of material sizes depending on the need.

They can't make a super fine topsoil product, but if you want to use your screener for a range of jobs, or want to rent it out, they're hard to pass.

As the name suggests, fine screens make a finer product.

They work with a screening deck that is on an incline, generally producing a product in the 1-6mm range.

But it’s also worth noting that you can’t dump large rocks and stones into these machines as they will likely damage the fine mesh.

If you’re looking to invest in some equipment to screen topsoil, Machinery Partner is always here to provide free and unbiased advice on what machine might be right for you.

We have over 15 years of experience with crushing and screening and no allegiances to one manufacturer or product, so we always put your needs first.

Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll be more than happy to help you start your journey into topsoil screening!

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