View Full Version : New Lawn Installation

03-24-2001, 03:27 PM
I am fairly new in this business and need some help. I have been asked to give a quote on establishing lawn at a recently completed home. The area to be grassed is about 2 acres. Some topsoil will be needed with subsequent grading and levelling. Given the size of the yard, I am looking for suggestions as to what equipment I'll need to do the job and what sort time frame I am looking at. Hope someone can give me some pointers.

03-24-2001, 03:46 PM
you are gonna need a tractor with a york rake. you are gonna need a lot of top soil. if this is for a builder then you can skimp on the top soil because by nature they are cheap S.O.B's you are gonna need something like 4 inches of good loam or more. seed (the cheaper the better) if you read the tag and it says that it is 56% k blue grass and 40% fine fescue or whatever.. and 1% weed seeds and whatever... get the one where you get the most germination from your seed. you can try either penn mulch or shredded straw. i have found that to work very well for me. um what else? get the seed, hay, topsoil, a couple of day laborers, york rake, not even a week hopefully provided there isnt many rocks and or much earth moving.... maybe 2 days, 3 days?

Fantasy Lawns
03-24-2001, 04:09 PM
here ya go


03-24-2001, 04:11 PM
Not many people are going to put 1000 cu yds of topsoil on this size of yard. Most times topsoil is striped off and placed near by for the excavator to spread.

First thing is to get a topo of the property so you know where the water is goin to drain to then make sure you grade it to that topo.

A good seed will help a blend of blue grasses and perennial rye grasses this way your lawn will be stronger.

Equipment you need are a tractor with a rake, a seeding attachment, like a brillion seeder, if you have weeds or grasses existing on the site you will need to do two applcation of Round-up about 2 weeks apart.
a disc might also be handy to have too:)

for more questions on landscaping try the landscape forum here more guys will see it that know what they are talking about

03-24-2001, 04:36 PM
You need to find out what the customer expects. Are you working for the builder who needs a quick rake and seed for CO purposes only, or are you working on the lawn for a homeowner who wants it done right the first time, and is willing to start maintaining 2 acres immediately?

Ask some questions, like the following:

1. Will the area be rough graded with a dozer, or will it be dozed and carefully backbladed by a skilled operator?

2. Is the existing topsoil (if it is topsoil and not fill!) clean and screened, or just a re-application of the material taken off the job before excavation and construction?

3. Is the construction complete? Sometimes it would be nice to know if the job is done. You don't want roofers or siding guys, or that last minute concrete patio ruining the work you've done or changing the grade up next to the house after the fact.

4. Is water available for irrigation purposes?

5. How much additional (depth) topsoil is necessary versus how much is desired.

6. Of the two acres, are all the sections equally important, or just around the house and a nice big chunk of the yard. That is, what is the long term landscape plan for the site?

I think the answers to the above questions determine the hassle factor, and allow you to find out what kind of job is expected by either the homeowner or the contractor. The answers will also allow you to figure out the necessary time and materials for the job.

Now, to answer you question, I'll make a couple of assumptions. They are that the site is flat and accesible, maybe within 10-15 miles of your shop. I'll also assume that the existing grade is ok, but the soil composition is mostly fill with plenty of 6" plus rocks buried just below the surface. I will assume that you need about 2" of additional screened soil over the entire area (Screened to less than 1/2" Topsoil cost to you delivered - $21.00 per cubic yard), and that you will spread at least 5#/1000 of a quality seed mixture over the area. I will provide an option for hydroseeding. These assumptions will allow for good results, but also do not account for tight areas, or lots of hand labor.

First - some calculations -

2 acres = about 90,000 square feet.

2"/12" = - .167 ft*90000 sq. ft. = 15000 cu. ft./27= 556 cubic yards of soil @ 21/ yard delivered = $11676.00
90 * 5#/1000 = 450# seed = $ 675.00
Starter Fert:
10 50# starter = $100.00
100 Bags Shredded Straw = $875.00

Total your cost = $ 13000. Plus markup on necessary items - In this case, I have already marked up the soil a little bit. Including any margin of error adjustments, lets say about $ 15000 in materials.


Remeber to allow for:
Set up and materials pick up (other than topsoil)
Rental of equipment or delivery of your own to the site

My approach would be(I am just figuring this as I type, not really grinding the numbers):

Sign the contract and deposit the first 1/3 of your charge.

Run over the area with a Harley Rake to remove any rocks before adding the topsoil. Since you are only adding a couple of inches, this will help prevent too many rocks from popping through later. You can also adjust for any slight grade changes, like filling in low spots. - 1.5 -2 Days with Skidsteer and skilled operator. Have a dumptruck and a couple of laborers around for rock removal. I might also leave a couple of dumpsters for rock and root removal, in order to keep the dump truck freed up for other jobs. - Cost about $3000.00.

A days worth of small dozer work with some laborers around for the edges to spread the topsoil. We would also employ the harley rake to help spread the soil. If the amount was 200 yards or less you probably wouldn't need the dozer, but might want to use a loader in order to spot the material around the site. Another $3000, or $ 2500 depending on how reliable and timely soil delivery is, and how dry or wet conditions are.

Now, hand rake out the soil - This should go fast because the soil is clean, and you might want to have a larger crew on hand to help speed it along. I'll estimate 5 Guys, 1 foreman with the harley rake on hand, for 1 day. Cost about $ 2500.00 more.

Collect the second third of your estimate.

Next - finish up detail work then spread 1/2 the seed, rake it in. At a 90 degree angle to your first pass, spread the remaining seed. (We don't always rake it in again depending upon soil conditions). Spread the fertilizer, and begin to mulch over the seed. Have part of the crew start cleaning up the site. Probably another $3000.00 day, just for estimating sake. If you want, figure 90,000 * 7 cents/sq. foot for hydroseeding = 6300.00. This would include the seed, spreading, fertilizer, and mulching. So subtract that from your estimate if you opt for hydroseeding.

Turn on the water and get your last third of the money!

Finally - remember to add for picking up your equipment and moving to the next job, or for any dump charges and trucking charges.

Total cost (If this method seems logical to you) -
About $ 28,500 plus tax.

This works out to about $.32/square foot, which at first seems high, but without seeing the site, we are working off of assumptions.

Last year, we did a job like the above one and it came out to about $.35/square foot for the lawn part of the job including topsoil, materials and labor. So the number in the above example seems reasonable to me. The jobs don't always work like this though, at the other end of the spectrum, we used to install 20,000 square foot lawns for a builder in one day, with no topsoil or fine detail work contractor's mix, and light hay, for about $2000.00-2500 each. We used to keep the iron moving on all sorts of jobs, as long as we knew exactly what the customer expected. The more nice lawns you install, the less crappy ones you'll even get involved with (as long as the economy holds on!!!.

03-24-2001, 04:39 PM
I took a while to type my response, maybe it should be moved over to the landscape forum, at your discretion, Paul. I too came up with 1000 yards of loam at first, but then cut down the depth to 2" so the job didn't start out at 20k before any machines showed up!

Did I leave anything out?

03-24-2001, 06:34 PM

I'll put my two cents in on the topsoil and seeding - I think the posts here are on the mark for seed and a need of topsoil. However, you need to find out what the customer expects for topsoil. If I told my customers in my market that they needed 30 tri-axles of topsoil, they'd fill their pants then ask me to leave. :eek:

If this is going to be a well-manicured lawn with lush landscape beds everywhere and garden walks, flowers abound, etc, and they have loads of $$ to spend, then try for that much topsoil. ;)

I do pretty much the same as all of my biggest competitors (companies ranging from 15 employees to 100), and for a 1/4-1/3 acre lot, I bring in about 40 yards of topsoil (at $9/yd). That gives about 2" of topsoil. Extrapolate that for something like this project, and you get 240 yards.

However, I've only recommended this when all of the lawn is important to them. If most of the lawn is just going to be unused area (no jungle-gyms, etc) then just add soil where it's needed.

And if you don't plan to do lawns this big in the future, don't go out and buy equipment for big jobs. We did 1 1/2 acres last season with the same stuff we use for our little lots - a skid loader with bucket and Harley Rake, a broadcast spreader (human-powered), and a bale-chopper. BTW, don't spread straw mulch by hand on an area that big. Buy bales and rent a bale chopper - you shoot the whole thing in an hour or so. Or hydroseed.

And for raking the soil, other than around the house, the wide open areas that won't get much use (if this is the kind of lawn your putting in) should be possible to finish grade with just the Harley. NO HAND RAKES. You can rake the seed in later, but the Harley will get it done for the fine grading.

I would do that same job, making the assumptions I did, for $10-12K, and be done in 2 days, using a 3-man crew. And I'd throw in our 'psuedo'irrigation service for them - I hook up sprinklers and hoses to cover the area for them, and have all the shutoff valves by their spigots. In 6-8 weeks I go back out and collect them. Helps them get the lawn going, because here, real irrigation systems are like UFOs: You've heard of 'em, but never seen 'em.

03-24-2001, 06:56 PM
I'll take a few thousand yards of $9.00 screened topsoil. We are about 1 hour north and east of New York City. I screen my own stuff many times, and sell it, depending on the grade (1/2" minus up to 1 1/2" minus with a lot of compost for planting beds) from $18-23 per yard, picked up. Closer to New York City, the same stuff might run 30-35 per yard.

Stonehenge is right, with the right operator, you could Harley rake the open areas and virtually eliminate any hand raking. If you don't do this regularly, why not hook up with a larger contractor who is all set up to do the job. You could learn a lot by working with the right guy, and make a few bucks too. Often times we sub ourselves and our equipment out to smaller companies who don't have the horsepower to work on a job that size.

03-24-2001, 07:59 PM
A question for you that like to use screened topsoil?
Your going to run it over with a tractor or skid steer. All that money you spent to have the dirt fluffed up now your going to just knock it down or if you just dump it with the bucket it's going to settle more in some places than others!

Me if they wanted dirt I'd just start the trucks rolling bringing me black dirt, straight from the pile, my skid steers and tractors will spread it and grade it, then seed it.

Have anyone uses a Brillion seeder? http://www.brillionfarmeq.com/

It's what most sod companys use for seeding, leaves a nice smooth seed bed and you can control the amount of seed very easy. no guessing on how much you are putting down per 1000 plus you are getting the seed in the ground without hand raking.

Now for the fertlizer we have started using 8-32-32 for starter fert, really gives the seed a boost, not much N but you need the P and the K for good root deveolpment.

ok I've rattled on here so.

03-25-2001, 10:23 AM
Iwant the 9 dollar a yard topsoil too.....prices like that would cut some of my work in half with out even flirting with touching margins. HMMM...at those prices maybe a couple trailer loads is a good idea...Stonehenge, is that nice black processed organically rich soil or is it excavated, not so black and lacking organic matter type???

03-25-2001, 12:03 PM
The latter.

03-25-2001, 12:04 PM
I would ... ummm, well maybe you could ... ummm, ahhh HEAL, I really dont have anything to add here!

I would like to comment on what Paul has said. For such a vast area it is foolish to pay top dollar for soil if its only going to get trampled and such. I would save the coin for those smaller jobs when a finished grade is necessary for blending into established turf.

Good luck this season!

03-25-2001, 12:22 PM
We use a lot more unscreened topsoil than screened on our jobs. I agree that it works just as well, and practically speaking, you are screening it on site with the Harley rake, for instance. However, if you are pricing a spec'd job, or have a customer who doesn't want to hear about the savings on material for some additional labor, then I find the screened material an easier sell. This is particularly true on smaller jobs (80 yards or less). Contrast these landscape jobs with our wholesale yard customers (landscapers) who don't have any experience with unscreened materials. Simply put, they just don't know what to do, and screened soil is easy for them. I don't argue anymore!

On a similar note, has anyone seen the Roto-Dairon at work. The machine is fabulous, and seems to bury any rocks well below the surface, entirely removing the need for screened soil on jobs like this one. A friend of mine bought one, and we watched it/tried it. It even comes with an air controlled seeding attachment if you don't have a brillion or other seeder.

03-25-2001, 02:08 PM
Out here there are 2 ways to get good soil - you can get lucky with an excavation company digging for a new home that happened to hit a mother lode of great black, organic stuff, at $40 per truckload (but be prepared to have to screen out some junk on site), or pay $13/yd for some good screened stuff. Still sounds cheaper here than there.

However, everybody pays that price here, so it's no great advantage to me. Everyone's margins reflect that.

Never seen the Roto Dairon - is it something that attaches to a 3-pt or a skid loader?

03-25-2001, 09:54 PM
Thankyou for the wealth of info. My customer (a homeowner, not a builder) isn't worried about a lush and durable lawn - he's looking more for a visually pleasing lawn which it seems from your advice can be achieved with minimal topsoil to fill slight depressions and even out some unlevel spots.

All the advice makes sense, although I am not familiar with a Harley rake. Will dig around online to find out more.

Again I sure do appreciate the help.

03-25-2001, 10:16 PM
On that note, more than once we have made deliveries to houses which were built in nice ($400,000 each) subdivisions. It seems as though there was supposed to be topsoil on the sites, but it all disappeared at about the same time the excavator did......I guess that stinks for the unaware home buyer. Some excavator or landscaper buys up the soil before the lot is sold, and the unsuspecting homebuyer wonders why he can't get grass to grow until he purchases some more 'new' topsoil. Now, as I read this, I suppose we should be thankful for those realtor/excavator combos!

03-26-2001, 09:16 AM
A Harley Rake is a skid loader attachment that is a long thin drum with big teeth on it that you can angle left and right, and rotates forward or in reverse, and can rake out debris and/or grade an area. Glenmac is the mfg.

03-26-2001, 10:50 AM
Phil, you should try working at some of the parks we do. EPA super fund sites have better dirt than most parks here. you think a Park district spending $300K or more would spec in good top soil but I have never seen a LA do it yet.

03-26-2001, 07:11 PM
Paul - How about this for a deal. I found a road contractor widening one of the big parkways, which will go unmentioned. The loam from the islands, untouched was perfect (tested clean and everything). I gave him a key to my gate and had piles every morning for a couple of weeks. That stuff came off of the job clean!!!! It grew the best grass going, and needless to say, the price was right. I guess years ago someone payed attention to specs.

By the way, any experience with a Royer shredder model 365? I seem to have found one cheap, and have used this type before. They produce nice product, but are a little different than the average screener.

03-26-2001, 08:26 PM
I can't speak for the model, but a local company here sold their Royer and stopped selling dirt - they were spending more time fixing the shredder than running it.

It was old, though, so take that with a grain of salt.