View Full Version : Retaining Wall prices

10-22-2005, 12:12 AM
I have been in the lawn care biz for 10 years now. It is a family operation and I am taking over. I want to get more in to landscaping and hardscaping. I have helped build some small walls before and we did a nice size one at my house but nothing for a customer.

My question is, how do you work up your price for retaining Walls? do you go by the hour? materials time 2 or 3? How long does a standard retaining wall take? Do you figure it by the square foot? I have to bed one here in the next few days, any help would be appreciated.

Thank You

10-22-2005, 01:09 AM
I price per block & that figure is derived from what I need to make to cover all business related costs and still put food on the table. We figure how many sq ' we can lay per hour and break that down into a cost per block ratio. Took good record keeping to use this as our guidline and of course there are nearly always variables. One quote in a post I read here refered to the W.A.G. method and yet another refered to the S.W.A.G. method. When all other methods have not given you a sound answer.

10-22-2005, 01:16 AM
Here's something I found on another site...

Below is an example of a bid I helped someone with tonight. It was for a 150' x 4' retaining wall. The same method of arriving at the total labor cost could also be used for lawns (I suppose, I never have tried). I thought id share it with you all.

Production rates using 6" x 6" x 12" block:
Base - 8 LF/WH (linear feet per worker hour)
all other courses - 16 LF/WH
2.5 hours to manually move 1CY crushed rock.

Of coarse the actual time it will take depends on your skill level. The above production rates are for an average to well experienced individual.

Material Needed:

Using the 12" long block you will have 75 SF of base block to lay and 525 SF of all other courses to lay. Each block is .5 SF thus making all the blocks youll need at 300. Add 10% onto that for blocks you will cut, blocks that have defects, or extra you might need --- therefore youll need 330.

Don't forget your crushed rock for behind the wall. Youll need about 18 CY of rock for behind the wall (10% added on). Since this wall is over 3' tall you SHOULD install drain tile behind the wall also.

Labor Needed:

Base course will take about 18.75 hours to install.
All other courses will take you 65.63 hours to install.
To move crushed rock - 7.2 hours (by hand)
Site prep/ clean up - 4 hours
TOTAL = 95.68 hours

If excavating is needed, you'll have to add time on top of the 95.68 hours.
So for the sake of this we'll stick to 95.68 rounded up to 96 hours.

Factor on your travel time, we'll say 3 hours. So now yuor total labor is 99 hours.

NOW THEN....take your hourly rate, we'll say $20 (what you pay yourself), and multiply 20x99=$1980. Add on a labor burden (kinda like extra labor) of 25% to that $1980....now your cost is $2475.00. BUT we are not done....using a multiple overhead recovery system we add 50% onto the labor. Now your TOTAL LABOR IS $3712.50. STILL THOUGH...we are not done..... Factor in the profit you want to make on the job. We'll use 35%, so here is the formula to factor in this additional cost:

Total Costs x 0.35
1.0 - 0.35

Using the above equation we get 1999.03. So now your FINAL PRICE IS $5711.53 for the labor alone

Using this method will give you fairly accurate bids. As you can see its not just using your rate times how many hours you will work. Rather it figures in your labor you pay out, your overhead, and the profit you want to walk away with.

Hopefully this was not too confusing.......
Yeah as I re-read this, the 35% profits is quite high. Normally it is 15%, so now the formula should be:

total labor x .15
1 - .15

So the new profit is about $655 thus making the total to be $4357.65. That all comes out to be $44/hour. (Using 35% profit made it $57.70/ hour...probably too high for most of us)

IF you use this method, you will need to tailor the profit, labor burden, and overhead recovery rates for your business. This is how many of the largest landscaping companies figure their bids on jobs.

10-22-2005, 02:27 AM
First of all, understand that when you want to enter into retaining wall installations, you are entering into the highest risk aspect of the landscape industry. Most walls we deal with are not actually considered landscape work, rather, site work, or engineering work.

That said, and don't take this wrong, if you are asking anyone how to price the walls, there is a strong chance you don't have the knowledge ti properly install walls. Many think all you do is level off some base, throw in a toe course, and stack the wall. you could not be more far from the reality of it all.

In retaining wall work, there are many other factors than the installation to cost in. First, the soil work. You need a good geo technical firm to do comprehensive soils analysis so that data can be given to the civl engineer and they can design the wall.

The average wall we install has $6,000.00 in soils analysis, and about the same in civil engineering. Then there is the grading involved with the wall. Are you going to make your own cuts to install the wall? And if so, how much dirt do you need to move. Is there enough cohesion in the soils you have to be able to use them as back fill for the wall you are building, or will you be required to import soils?

Then there is the actual wall material cost, gravel drain fill, drain pipe, fabric, strata grid, yada yada....

Start adding costs up and the more wall face you do, the less the cost per SF will run you/your client. No matter weather you have a small amount of face feet, or a large amount, the process is still the same, assuming the wall is tall enough to require a permit.

We have walls with over 100,000 face feet that run into the $20.00 per sf cost, and we have wall with less than 1,000 face feet with $60.00 per square foot costs.

Since you are in the lawn care business now, make sure your insurance policy does not have any exclusions for retaining walls. If it does, ask specifics as to how high, surcharge or not, etc etc.

In our area for example, they examined our general liability, looed at the percentage of walls we do in relaton to other work, and increased our rate from the $10,000 a year we were paying to near $50,000. And that was the lowest quotes we got.

I'm just preparing you for the venue you are about to encroach upon. If you care to go further, find where the nearest NCMA training class is being held and sign up and go. After seeing how the walls go together, it will better help you in finding what prices you have to charge.

10-22-2005, 08:36 AM
On commercial walls we run price per block plus site preparation costs. On smaller jobs I just run materials plus labour plus site prep. I will never ever lower or cut costs on walls as you can lose big time on walls. Better off to let somebody else get burnt than drop your prices. Small walls can be just as expensive as bigger jobs in some cases and experience is needed to quote these jobs. If you do not have a lot of time on walls go work as a labourer for somebody who does, you can learn a lot in a short time.

Organisation is a key factor with walls, and organising stone, machines, materials etc can take time. You must cost this into the job or its not worth it..believe me.