View Full Version : Screening Topsoil

10-07-2007, 08:34 PM
What does everybody use? Box screener, Home made or a Trommel? I just recently got a 15acre field in the heart of the city to do. Looking at starting in spring and makin some cash:drinkup:

10-07-2007, 08:42 PM
I have had a Thomas box style screener and a Rawson conveyor feed belt discharge style. Both worked well, the box style was a bit quicker in topsoil. The Rawson had easier to change screens. I've never used a trommel style.

10-07-2007, 08:52 PM
What do you feed your screener with? Can you screen enough with a box screener to make it profitable? Most times the topsoil is damp and cloggs the screener up:realmad: Do you have the same problem?

10-07-2007, 09:06 PM
What do you feed your screener with? Can you screen enough with a box screener to make it profitable? Most times the topsoil is damp and cloggs the screener up:realmad: Do you have the same problem?

I was feeding the Thomas box with a skid steer. It did really well in topsoil, even wet stuff. It had a pretty large deck and was a double deck style and shook pretty aggressively. The other nice thing with the box is there is essentially no set up time and its easy to move. On the downside, unless you set it up with a conveyor, you have to move the product twice. Still worked pretty good though, even doing it with a somewhat small machine.

10-07-2007, 09:08 PM
What model thomas? What screen size does everybody use? I think I'm going with 1/2 ?

10-07-2007, 09:16 PM
Mine was a 300. I used 3/4" square because its what I had. 1/2 might be a better choice. I wouldn't go any smaller though, smaller the screen, longer the processing time and my experience is that super fine topsoil just takes so darn long to settle. Something with just a little thicker material here and there makes it a little more solid. Just my opinion though, some take it right down to 3/8's.

RockSet N' Grade
10-07-2007, 10:11 PM
Grademan......what is the job? Stripping the 15 acre parcel down to a particular grade?

10-07-2007, 10:21 PM
They are going to turn the parcel into commercial land, In order to do that they need to raise the grade of the property. They roughly need about one meter over the whole thing, They (engineers) want the topsoil removed before filling the property. So the site will be mine for a year, I hope. Nothing worse than moving dirt more than you have too.

Hoping to sell all the soil in a year, but that going to be tough, I have no room to store it and they want it gone. I will definitely flood the market here, I am hoping to sell at average prices but by the end of june its not gone I'll have to be like walmart. Rollback sales :cry: :hammerhead: I just need it gone and put some $ in my pocket. I probably won't have time to spread it at customers yards:cry:

RockSet N' Grade
10-07-2007, 11:00 PM
Don't know what your market there is, but here - without trucking, screened top soil goes for $11-13 a ton. Time to figure out your marketing........sounds like a great deal and time to be very creative....

10-07-2007, 11:58 PM
For a job that big, with that much time to do it, I'd seriously consider at least a small dump truck and a driver, maybe even lease a 2nd machine, hire an operator. You could sell the dirt, deliver it, and spread it. That's maybe 72,000 yards of topsoil, assuming it is 3 feet thick. That's 9000 loads at 8 yards each, or 4800 loads in a tandem (~15 yd) dump truck. Screened top soil could fetch upwards of $150 for a tandem load, that would work out to nearly three quarters of a million dollars. You could pay for the truck, new loader, new trailer, and overpay somebody to load it / screen it and still do pretty well for yourself.

Of course, that assumes you have a lot of it and everybody wants some of it.

10-08-2007, 12:05 AM
I dug six test holes by shovel and least amount of topsoil found was 14 inch and the best section was two feet. I dont know if they will let me take all of that two feet because than that section will require 4 feet of new fill. < gravel> Yah the numbers sound promising but The owner of the land wants a kick back in his pocket, Anybody know how much I should give him?

10-08-2007, 12:06 AM
i would strip it and load it right into trucks and stockpile it at your yard (assuming its big enough) screen it as you need it.

10-08-2007, 12:08 AM
No, I dont have a yard to stockpile, Man that would be some big tho

10-08-2007, 12:12 AM
The owner of the land wants a kick back in his pocket, Anybody know how much I should give him?

Not much! The value of that dirt where it sits is negative, not positive. The value is created by your work, not so much by the dirt. Maybe 5 bucks a load?

If we halve my previous numbers to adjust for an average top soil depth of 18", then that's still 2400 loads which would get him up to twelve grand, which is a lot of money to pay someone for the pleasure of doing them a favor!

10-08-2007, 12:24 AM
he pays you and thats all there is to it.

RockSet N' Grade
10-08-2007, 05:18 AM
Grademan....I don't know the terms and conditions you set up in your agreement, so I may be talking out of turn. If he wants a kickback, in general, I would think it would be at the end of the job when it is all said and done and not at the beginning. Maybe he would like to pay for your diesel ( it just hit $3.25 here yesterday )? I am not fond of kickbacks as a general rule.......

10-08-2007, 04:53 PM
The biggest problem is that the large civil contractor are throwing lots of kick backs as it seems that everyone now call themselves a excavation contractor. Prices are getting cheaper here. Just hoping to keep the big dogs out and get some $ in my pocket. I am going to bush hog that property in the next month. Maybe even till it. {Weather Permitting}

10-08-2007, 06:56 PM
pics when you start!!

10-08-2007, 08:01 PM
Grademan- Sounds like a fun a profitable job!:cool2: What kind of equipment are you going to use to strip the dirt?

RockSet N' Grade
10-08-2007, 09:43 PM
GradeMan.....I wouldn't touch that property until you have a signed contract in hand. As soon as you start manicuring it, IF you do not have a signed deal it will bring attention to the activity/site and I am sure someone will talk with someone and get the job right out from under you........if I have seen it once, I have seen it a hundred times. Remember, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" ( one of my new favorite sayings along with " Why Do It Right the First Time When You Can Do it Twice?". Couldn't help myself.......I crack me up :)

10-09-2007, 12:49 AM
Dozerman I was Planning on bush hogging the 15acres then till it. Windrow with the excavator and then finally screen it. Anyone have any better ideas?I have never done such a large lot before.

10-09-2007, 12:52 AM
I hear you guys on the contract, I was talking to the guy tonight and he gave me his word, I have worked with him before on some other projects so I'm thinking of trusting him.

RockSet N' Grade
10-09-2007, 09:02 PM
I would encourage you to rethink your thinking. Nothing wrong with a written agreement to keep an honest man honest. It may go well on words only, then again, memories fade ( just ask me ) and unless you like to work for free, it is just plain good business sense to have a written agreement. I have done a hand shake deal or two in my day, we all have I am sure, but I work real hard at doing everything in writing these days. It does not seem to offend an honest businessman who wants you to do the work to sign an agreement.......often times, when someone does NOT want to sign an agreement it is a sign.......Your choice......in the time it took you to read this, you could have typed up a simple agreement, faxed it, and gotten a signature............

10-10-2007, 07:36 PM
So what does everyone think for stripin the field, dozer, excavator or loader? Should I even bother to till it?

10-10-2007, 08:18 PM
So what does everyone think for striping the field, dozer, excavator or loader? Should I even bother to till it?

tilling or harley raking will let it screen a little quicker and easier and produce a cleaner product to sell. To strip, well, I would typically use whatever I had for equipment. Ideally though, a dozer to cut a nice even grade and ramp up some nice piles would work great. If your clearing brush and pulling stumps before an excavator would be nice, not sure if you mentioned if the land was clear or not yet. A loader works well to screen or, depending on the situation, an excavator works nicely to load a screen but only if you have a belt discharge and stacker belt on the screen. Personally, for me, I try to do jobs with the equipment I've got. If you have to rent anyway, well, get the ideal pieces for the job.

10-10-2007, 09:17 PM
I5 acres is 15x43560sqft=653400 sqft. Divide that by 9= 72600sq yds. To figure out just how much soil will be removed, multiply by the sqyds of surface X depth of the top soil in inches by 110lbs. ( your soil might be a little more or less than this amount, but itís a pretty close number) Your average topsoil depth is 19 inches. 19in X 72600 sqyds= 1379,400 x110lbs= 151,734,000 lbs of soil. To convert to tons / by 2000= 75,867 tons of soil. Assuming a tandem truck at 15 tons per load, 75,867/15=5057.8 truck loads. At $150 (extra cheap in my opinion for screened topsoil) per load thatís, 5057.8x $150= $758,670.00. Not chump change by any measure.

To remove this dirt, I would use a dozer to push mounds and use a rubber tired loader to fill the trucks. Unless you get a very large track hoe, (Cat 325 or larger) its going to be slow at filling dump trucks. Match the loader size to the number of trucks you will be loading and consider renting trucks as well as the loader. Depending on the schedule of how long you would have to remove the dirt, you can screen as you go, but I doubt many grading contractors will give you that kind of time. 5000+ truck loads will take a pretty long time to move with just one or even two tandem axle trucks.

I would look for a vacant site you can rent to store the dirt on as you remove it and set your screen up at that waste site. That way you are not restricted to how long it takes you to sell the dirt and can set a price you can make money at instead of flooding the market with cheap topsoil. I would also make that site as close as possible to the actual construction site. The haul bill on 5000 truckloads of dirt is going to be pretty steep. Whichever site you choose, you will have to lay a base of heavy stone at the entrance to prevent mud from getting on the highway. You will probably have to rent a broom to keep the highway swept where you are entering the roadway. If brooming the highway, you will also need signage to alert the traffic and possibly a flagman. Removing that much dirt isnít going to be cheap, and can be a financial disaster if you donít plan it right.

10-10-2007, 09:44 PM
Just looking through the posts again. Can't remember who said it but a contract is a must on a job this large. Sometimes they aren't worth the paper they are written on but you've gotta have it to protect yourself. Another things I am looking at again is the scope of the job. I'm not sure what your previous experience is but this is by my standards anyhow a huge job. Not a solo job by any means and I can't remember if you said what deadlines your working with but you are talking about a lot of material. I quickly through in a few rounded off numbers and your at 35,000 plus yards. Maybe you have a better idea about this job then I am assuming you have but, it would really suck to work at this project for half a summer, realize your in way over your head and have to bail and loose you tail on it. Also, what kind of environmental concerns are you dealing with? Stripping this much land will mean tons of silt fence, swales, possibly retention areas for surface runoff,etc, hard to tell not knowing the site. Here, I believe anything over an acre has to be mulched or hydro seeded within a certain number of days as well. Permits, watersheds, etc. Sounds like a fun and exciting job for sure but not just as easy as doze and go on a job this large. Just trying to make sure you know what you are getting into. I'm sure I'm missing a bunch of other points as well, I'm no expert and have never done a job anywhere near this size.

10-10-2007, 10:32 PM
After doing all that math, I realized a made a huge mistake about the weight of the topsoil. I was using the 110lbs per sqyd ( one inch deep), which would be correct if the material was gravel, when I should have been using 62lbs per sqyd (one inch deep) for soil. My final numbers are over by 56%. :hammerhead:

Grassmanvt is also correct in that you will have to erect erosion control, including silt fence, and possibly a retention pond to catch runoff. You will also have to file a site plan, and if its like NC, it will have to go to about 7 different agencies. The owners or General contractor should be the ones to file the siteplan. Whosever name is on that permit is the one that is responsible for the entire project. If the property changes owners or general contractors ( whoevers name is on the permits) while construction is taking place, new permits will have to be applied for and in hand before work can continue. You cant obtain the permits and then transfer them to another contractor when your part of the project is over. Once the siteplan is approved, and you start moving dirt, you will have to maintain erosion control measures, but you wont have to keep everything seeded as long as you are moving the dirt. If it sets undisturbed for over 14days, you will have to cover with at least straw. If you complete the removal of the soil from one acre of the site, you will have to cover with seed or straw while you work on the rest of the area, unless you can complete the dirt removal in 14 days or less, and then you will have to revegetate the entire site unless the general contractor starts his part of the contract. The permit holder is resposible for keeping the site in compliance.

You really need to do your homework before signing a contract and starting this project. If you cant get a signed contract, dont do it, the civil pentalties can get pretty steep and it needs to be plainly clear who is going to be responsible for what. If the contractor is subbing to you, you need to make sure he is in compliance with applical laws. Your location is listed as Canada, your rules and regulations are probably a little different than ours, you need to be sure before you jump in over your head.

10-10-2007, 10:36 PM
Grassmanvt Yes, I realize how big this job is and its going to be a burden. The custumer approched me and is giving me this great oppurnity. There is a brook on the very back of the property. If talked to the environment and they want a setback and a silt fence. No big surprises, They are going to get egineered drawings of grades of the lot wich it is going to be filled to. They are getting pretty strick around here for harvesting topsoil.

I don't really want to put any cash on this project. I haven't found any locations that will rent me a spot to put even a thousand loads of soil. I need to sell it on the location wich will make it even harder. Anyone have anymore ideas now?

Setup One old guy in a rental loader and big rental screener

2 use my own gear and loose other work

This job is going to be real hard for me. At first I was just to happy to have that much soil, now i am thinking of all the problems

10-10-2007, 10:40 PM
muddstopper You guys down south sure have some strict rules, They tell us just to put up silt fences and go to work. Mind you they don't want to see it i n the water also.

10-10-2007, 10:54 PM
When is the job supposed to start and be finished? (maybe you already said, you'll have to excuse my memory) Probably the hardest thing will be finding a home for that many thousands of yards of topsoil. Would be much better with your own yard to store to keep prices up. Cost or even finding someone willing to rent a yard to store with no guarantee when material will removed might be a difficult thing too. Any ideas on where the topsoil could be sold yet? Might be able to get them to agree to store some on site as they probably will need a bunch to finish the project as it is developed. Sounds like a challenging project but thats what makes it fun.It also not the kind of project everyone could handle so there should be a chance to make some bank on this one.

10-10-2007, 11:22 PM
If you are going to strip that much off of 15 acres, then you need to rent a set of big pans along with a Cat MT, CNH STX, or Deere 9000's series tractor.

RockSet N' Grade
10-10-2007, 11:35 PM
There is a guy here who does this topsoil business and makes a killing. He uses leasers for trucking, has Komatsu loader to feed the screening machine, dozer and a scraper and does a section of the ground at a time. He advertises in the newspaper, has signage on the lessor trucks, and a sign on the front of the lot, fills up pick up trucks for happyhomeowners and sells the heck out of that stuff........it has made him in the last couple years a fairly well-heeled bank account and put him on the map. It sounds like a great opportunity IF the economy holds together and people are landscaping their yards or their are commercial projects going on that need clean landscape/gradeable material. If it was me, I would sure give it serious consideration, but maybe organize it under an LLC or Corp so if it goes south you have some kind of insulation on the whole deal. I wish you great success on this one, it could be awesome.........

10-11-2007, 01:16 AM
muddstopper You guys down south sure have some strict rules, They tell us just to put up silt fences and go to work. Mind you they don't want to see it i n the water also.

Some states are now requireing an onsite Level 1A eroson control certified personal if you are "Using a Loader, Trencher, or even a Shovel. " The folks in Ga. can fill you in on this law that went into effect Jan 1st this year.

Last year they wouldnt even let me till up a 75ft x 30ft spot for a lawn without installing a class C silt fence.

I dont want to scare you from doing this project. I have never seen a dirt removal site where people didnt line up with their trucks looking for free fill. I know of one particular site that removed over 300,000 cuyds of topsoil and sold it all in less than a year, and he didnt even own a dumptruck. Good top soil in my area brings a premium and is hard to comeby. All this guy did was provide a loader, (no operator), for the guys to load their trucks and he sold it by the dipper full in pickup trucks and by the truck load in dumptrucks.

10-11-2007, 06:24 PM
Well i have to sell The Topsoil at the location, but how do you get top dollar for your product when you only have one season to get it gone? Like that's alot of loads

10-11-2007, 07:11 PM
Where exactly are you?

10-12-2007, 10:22 AM
Your location and the actuall amount of building going on will determine how fast you can sell the topsoil. Once you start the project, you will be surprised at how many hualing and residentail contractors will come to your site to purchase the soil. Its quick money without you haveing to pay for a truck or fuel. You wont get topdollar this way, but still make enought to make the project worthwhile. The guy with the 300,000 yrd3 of topsoil is located in a small rual area, but he had the topsoil at the height of the building boom. His situation is different than yours in that the dirt came from an airport expansion and he owned the land surrounding the expansion area. The general contractor stockpiled the soil for him on his property, all he had to do was provide a loader for the trucks. Still, with at least 6 months to sell the dirt, you can just use a dozer or large pan, to push the soil to one corner of the lot and set your screen up next to the stockpile. You will probably sell more uscreened topsoil that you will sell screened, but its still money in the bank. I just wish I had that much topsoil to sell.