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View Full Version : Sod Installation:Prep,Install,Man Hour Help


mcw615
11-16-2010, 12:49 PM
My company focuses on Commercial Maintenance, Design and Installing Landscapes-Hardscapes. Looking to begin to diversify in the next year and expand our services, as we have currently met a very successful size in what we have focused on achieving.

I received a call yesterday asking for an estimate to redo the front lawn with sod. It is approximately 2,500 s.f [35'x75'] It again is relatively rectangular with really no obstructions, only a 3' sidewalk running through the middle of the front lawn.

I would really appreciate a mentor or two, and not anyone to bash with negativity; keep that to yourself.

Will be using Fescue sod, operating here in Central to Southwest Virginia we are at about 100% clay soil.

Prep-Work: Power rake the site, apply 1.00" of compost, re rake and cultivate with clay, roll. Apply organic starter fertilizer to stimulate root growth then install lay the sod?

Sounds like a two-man crew job. How many total man hours would it take from start to finish for the job on average?

BrendonTW
11-17-2010, 03:21 AM
To lay sod I charge around $300 per pallet. A pallet is 500 SQ feet. A pallet of fescue costs me $135.00. The $300 includes deliver, soil prep (no major dirt work, just minimum shovel-rake type stuff), fertilizing, and laying.

With that high mount of clay you might consider tilling in your compost and some sand as well. Probably an 1" of sand and 1" of compost, tilled into about 3 inches. Smooth that out and compact it with a roller or plate compactor. (Rent - Plate compacter 28" is about $60/day and a ride-on roller is usually 3-5 feet wide and around here about $150/day). When it is all hard and flat, put down your starter fertilizer and then rake the flat soil with a heavy steel rake to score up the surface. Make sure it's damp, then lay your sod.

I have no idea what compost goes for where you're at, but say it's $25 per yard. Washed sand usually runs around $25 per yard here.
You will need 7.7 cubic yards of media to cover 2500 SQFT at 1" depth.

So you're looking (cost) at
Sod: $135/pallet @ 5 pallets = $675.00
Compost: $25/yard @ 7.7 cubic yards = $192.50
Sand: $25/yard @ 7.7 cubic yards = $192.50
Rental: Compactor = $150
Delivery Fees (If you're having sod, sand, and compost delivered)

Then you need to add your man-hour rate to that for an estimated amount of time. My rate with one employee on the job site is $75/hour + $10 per hour for every extra man present and working. So if you think it would take you and one other guy 12 hours and your two-man-hour rate was $85.00 then labor would be $1020.00.

Hope this method helps. You really need to figure up your own pricing and get an operating cost per hour for your business so that you can have a consistent pricing method. You'll never ask how to price a job again if you get this down.

mcw615
11-17-2010, 11:10 AM
To lay sod I charge around $300 per pallet. A pallet is 500 SQ feet. A pallet of fescue costs me $135.00. The $300 includes deliver, soil prep (no major dirt work, just minimum shovel-rake type stuff), fertilizing, and laying.

With that high mount of clay you might consider tilling in your compost and some sand as well. Probably an 1" of sand and 1" of compost, tilled into about 3 inches. Smooth that out and compact it with a roller or plate compactor. (Rent - Plate compacter 28" is about $60/day and a ride-on roller is usually 3-5 feet wide and around here about $150/day). When it is all hard and flat, put down your starter fertilizer and then rake the flat soil with a heavy steel rake to score up the surface. Make sure it's damp, then lay your sod.

I have no idea what compost goes for where you're at, but say it's $25 per yard. Washed sand usually runs around $25 per yard here.
You will need 7.7 cubic yards of media to cover 2500 SQFT at 1" depth.

So you're looking (cost) at
Sod: $135/pallet @ 5 pallets = $675.00
Compost: $25/yard @ 7.7 cubic yards = $192.50
Sand: $25/yard @ 7.7 cubic yards = $192.50
Rental: Compactor = $150
Delivery Fees (If you're having sod, sand, and compost delivered)

Then you need to add your man-hour rate to that for an estimated amount of time. My rate with one employee on the job site is $75/hour + $10 per hour for every extra man present and working. So if you think it would take you and one other guy 12 hours and your two-man-hour rate was $85.00 then labor would be $1020.00.

Hope this method helps. You really need to figure up your own pricing and get an operating cost per hour for your business so that you can have a consistent pricing method. You'll never ask how to price a job again if you get this down.

Thank you for your detailed response. I was able to calculate the costs from the products in my area, I was looking for someone to help give me an estimate on how many total man hours to complete this. I believe I am going to go use my skid-steer with the power rake to prep the soil instead of a tiller, and use the bucket to help maneuver the compost.

BrendonTW
11-17-2010, 12:44 PM
With two guys, if you're super efficient, probably 20 man hours. Being a first time, probably 30 man hours.

andyslawncare
11-19-2010, 02:20 AM
I wouldn't recommend tilling sand in with the compost (sand will actually bond to the clay, and won't improve drainage; it will make drainage worse. The best way to improve drainage & airflow in clay is by adding organic matter), but yes till in the compost. If you lay the compost on top of the clay then the sod, the roots will not grow very deep since all the nutrients will be right under them-yielding in a lawn that is not drought tollerant. Also a good rule of thumb is to till in 25% by volume of the root zone with compost... say 6'' root zone, add 1.5'' compost, or 11.57 cubic yards of compost tilled to 6''. You will need 5 pallets, and won't have much room for error when you are cutting in edges, as the 2500 sq. ft. given tells you that you need 4.96 504 sq. ft. pallets. Try to get 150/pallet for labor for sod install and tilling (maybe more if you don't own a tiller) + all of your materials + labor for spreading the compost. How will you be moving the compost; by hand or machine? By hand it will take quite a while, with a machine very quickly.

With 2 people, it will take 5 or 6 hours for laying the sod (maybe faster if you have good help), ~30 mins to roll the sod, 1 hr to till (depending on your equipment), how ever long it takes you to power rake before tilling, and some time to move and spread the compost (depends on your equipment). I usually charge sodding and stone work higher than other services, but if you already do stone work you should know what you will need to bring in for the time.

I recommend killing the existing vegetation at least 7 days before installation with round up. Its a good idea to prep for the sod the day before it goes down, you can then have 2 people on prep day, and 3 people on day 2 = 2 half days instead of maybe 2 days of the sod not going down... the sod should be laid, watered, and rolled within 48 hours of it being harvested from the farm, or you are pushing the buttons on disease and fungus next year.

andyslawncare
11-19-2010, 02:41 AM
Don't use sand! Please! I just read a few of the posts before mine... I'm not sure of a source to use at this time, but I work in Atlanta, and we have 100% clay soil also. People think that sand mixed with clay helps with drainage, but the sand only bonds to the clay! I think one of them has negative charge, and one positive... something like that. Either way, you will spend the same amount by applying 100% compost instead of a 50/50 mix, and the results 5 years from now will be prime! I am college educated in horticulture (will have my degree after I pass 2 more core classes...English 2 and speech), and I have studied soil composition. Please hear my experience through! Clay needs organics, and ONLY ORGANICS to improve soil quality!

MDLawn
11-19-2010, 01:29 PM
I did a 1100sqft job that took me alone about 15hrs. I had very poor site access and there was a lot of moving stuff by hand :dizzy: Easier site access could have shaved of a lot of that time though. What i did was

Sod Cut
Amend soil
Starter Fert
Lay Sod
+ all the minor headaches in between

I Know thats not the figure you may have been looking for but that was my time frame on a job with poor access. I'd say with help I may be around 18-20 hrs (no power rakes, tillers just sod cutting)? But since I havent done that size yet hard to say, sorry.

juststartin
11-20-2010, 06:27 PM
With two guys, if you're super efficient, probably 20 man hours. Being a first time, probably 30 man hours.

good estimate

SDLandscapes VT
11-21-2010, 10:03 PM
Agreed--do not add sand. Sand + clay = concrete and not a good growth environment for grass. Also, I would not use a plate compactor as sod doesn t particularly care for compacted soils. I have a tracked machine and the machine + a harley rake leaves the soil firm enough for walking/mowing/etc but not too hard to inhibit growth. Always add organics they will improve all ends of the spectrum too sandy--add organic too much clay add organics. I have seen some awful sod work that turned into a maintenance fiasco due to poor installation.

dtriv89
11-21-2010, 11:54 PM
Plate compactor? Come on guys.

alf500series
11-25-2010, 10:21 PM
maybe im not understaning what you have but 15 hours to do that front yard?!?! i think i could use a pic and dig up that yard by hand and re-sod it in 15 hrs. i have done several sod jobs and NEVER rolled the sod, and not even sure what you would use a compactor for.--especially with clay soils. my usual plan of action:

*remove grass-usually with skid steer or mini skid
*loosen soil with rake
*rake out low spots & fill with new topsoil if needed
*if yard is new or needs amended then super soil is brought in
*remove rocks, clods & sticks
*i also use coffee grounds from starbucks and panera for a nice little kick and spread that all over the ground
*lay sod
*water sod after layed

you should be able to do that yard with two people in about a day. not sure what your prices there are but i usually charge $3.50/yd installed for the sod plus the labor for the skid steer work.

BrendonTW
11-25-2010, 10:45 PM
Did you read the other posts? He would use the compactor for compacting the top 3-6 inches of tilled soil/compost. If you do not compact it and just lay sod on the fluff soil it will sink unevenly. And I said 20-30 man hours meaning a 10-15 hour job depending on his equipment and experience.
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SDLandscapes VT
11-25-2010, 11:43 PM
still using a compactor or heavy compacting type roller will negate all the work of the rototiller. mix in compost with rototiller if amending is needed and then grade using machinery--if you grade well the weight of the machine can compact to the necessary level. if going by hand use a water filled roller and roll and rake till you get a nice grade(for water and even/level)

juststartin
11-26-2010, 01:24 AM
still using a compactor or heavy compacting type roller will negate all the work of the rototiller. mix in compost with rototiller if amending is needed and then grade using machinery--if you grade well the weight of the machine can compact to the necessary level. if going by hand use a water filled roller and roll and rake till you get a nice grade(for water and even/level)

Why do golf courses roll the greens and fairways after installation?

btw, 20-30 man hours = one day.

coffe grounds??? really?? When you have 100 pallets of sod to lay, do you have to visit every starbucks within a 250 miles radius before laying the sod?

alf500series
11-26-2010, 06:13 AM
yes coffee grounds. between the 3 starbucks and the panera i can get several 5 gallon buckets of coffee grounds in just a few days. ive got it stock piled. it decomposes quick and gives the grass a nice little boost. plus makes the yard smell good!

SDLandscapes VT
11-26-2010, 08:53 AM
a golf course roller is fine---it is a non-vibration type roller. i ve worked at a gc and run one. furthermore a gc will aerate and topdress much more frequently than a residential property to relieve the compaction from rolling and player traffic. the big thing here is a non-vibration--we re looking for a smooth, settled (not unhealthily compacted) surface on which to lay the sod for best results.

BrendonTW
11-26-2010, 03:32 PM
I guess that makes sense, roller vs. vibration.

LizzieLandscapes
12-11-2010, 09:11 AM
Just a comment, I suggest you use 4" to 5" of compost rather than just 1" in order to facilitate better drainage in that clay soil. Oh and be very carefull of that tree's roots when raking underneath it's dripline. You can cause root damage.

Cloud9Landscapes
12-13-2010, 01:01 AM
Spray the lawn with glyphosate twice with a week between each application to eliminate chance of any of the old grass, bent grass or nutsedge from coming back. wait another week or so and come back and strip off all the old sod using a sod cutter. Next you should till in organic matter like sphagnum peat moss and or compost. I have heard that wood mulch is problematic and it makes sense considering that fairy ring and numerous other turf problems are caused by decomposing wood. After you till, use a harley rake and landscape lute to establish a rough and final grade. Water the lawn very heavily twice to settle the soil. I have found out the hard way that rolling the lawn with a sod roller is not a effective method or smoothing out your surface, it creates air pockets that settle in and make depressions that put you into a depression. After the soil surface becomes dry, go over the lawn and fill in the low spots and rake out the high spots. Then install the sod, roll with a sod roller half full and water, water, water

Labor wise, I predict a crew could get all this done in 35 hours. The project would span a couple of weeks but would be effective and surefire.

Frankly, I would never again in my life establish another lawn from sod. Where I live warm season grasses can be propagated from spriggs and then I am not transferring the mucky clay that doesn't drain from the sod farm into my yard. I know that sod is the way to go on a customers lawn though because it is quick.

Landscape Poet
12-13-2010, 01:27 AM
To the OP - your original question is about the time it should take and not the method correct?

If so I can give you a pretty accurate read on time as I just laid close to the same amount you are talking 2500 sq ft less than two weeks ago.

Mine required a little less skid/bobcat work than yours as it was cutting in around insect damage - but total removal for 3 k was around 3 hours with 1 bobcat operator and two labors - bobcat operator was also ran the sod cutter - the to labors did nothing but pick up loose sod and place in dump truck / bobcat bucket and use the landscape rakes.

Took 4 men (two experienced, two not) from 9 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon to get through 6 500 sq pallets. Now keep in mind that was grading again with landscape rakes and also doing in a lot more cutting in that your guys will have to do.

As far as pointers go that other have given you, I am on a different soil type - so I would not be able to give your first hand advice but I do agree with making sure you account for extra time around the tree and its root structure - could be lots of knuckles there - just below the surface and if you are using a sod cutter, that could equal damaged blades - bob cat that could equal damaged tree.

8inchBlock
12-14-2010, 07:19 PM
We also add ketchup into the coffee grounds followed by a stampede of mythical unicorns to compact the soils. But thats just us.

Landscape Poet
12-15-2010, 11:48 AM
We also add ketchup into the coffee grounds followed by a stampede of mythical unicorns to compact the soils. But thats just us.

Coffee grounds do have a place in agricultural practices - turf care being one of them if this guy really has access to grounds he is lucky.

Patriot Services
12-15-2010, 04:01 PM
I can send you all the compacted sand you want.
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JShe8918
01-09-2011, 02:12 PM
Wow i am beginning to see that my area is very high on landscaping and very low on maint. prices! I know i am late on the thread, but i still had to comment about this. Almost all of our local landscapes charge $7-$12 per planted gallon. Example. 7 gallons x 7 dollars= $49 to install plus the price of the shrub with no less that 25% mark up. We always make sure that we did the hole far larger than needed due to our compacted red clay soil. We then use 2 part top soil, 1 part mushroom compost, and either 1 part peatmoss (or a substitute house brand potting soil). We generally charge $60-$70 based upon a 7 gallon tree or shrub. Also to the sodding. I gave a quote for roughly 450 sq feet of sod. The quote was for $500 this included bermuda 419 $90 dollars for the sod, 30 minutes of tractor work, 2 man hours of raking, install of sod, and rolling the sod. Come to find out she had gotten three other bids all of which were upward of $700 with the most expensive being right at $1000. Man did i cut my throat. Also this goes to show how pricing varies state to state and even county to county!

Jonathan

andyslawncare
01-10-2011, 07:29 AM
maybe im not understaning what you have but 15 hours to do that front yard?!?! i think i could use a pic and dig up that yard by hand and re-sod it in 15 hrs. i have done several sod jobs and NEVER rolled the sod, and not even sure what you would use a compactor for.--especially with clay soils. my usual plan of action:

*remove grass-usually with skid steer or mini skid
*loosen soil with rake
*rake out low spots & fill with new topsoil if needed
*if yard is new or needs amended then super soil is brought in
*remove rocks, clods & sticks
*i also use coffee grounds from starbucks and panera for a nice little kick and spread that all over the ground
*lay sod
*water sod after layed

you should be able to do that yard with two people in about a day. not sure what your prices there are but i usually charge $3.50/yd installed for the sod plus the labor for the skid steer work.

WHY WOULD YOU NEVER ROLL YOUR SOD? IT IS NECESSARY FOR PROPER ROOT TO SOIL CONTACT AND A PROFESSIONAL FINISHED PRODUCT! It"s also a good idea to roll the tilled soil with a half filled roller to see imperfections and fix them before you start to install the sod

YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

andyslawncare
01-10-2011, 07:40 AM
yes coffee grounds. between the 3 starbucks and the panera i can get several 5 gallon buckets of coffee grounds in just a few days. ive got it stock piled. it decomposes quick and gives the grass a nice little boost. plus makes the yard smell good!

I would think that un-decomposed coffee grounds would be stealing nitrogen from the surrounding soil while it decomposes.


why not start breeding red wigglier worms and feed them coffee grounds, then collect your worm **** harvest to am amend with? Though you should remember that if you add less than 1'' of any amendment tilled to a 12'' depth, you are not adding enough to make a noticeable difference in soil quality...