View Full Version : Help with topsoil estimate

04-21-2004, 10:43 PM
I talked to a customer who does most of her own landscaping but she needs some help with labor, especially with spreading topsoil. I have never done this before and have no idea how to go about estimating the labor involved and pricing it.

The topsoil would be dumped in one location and would need to be moved by wheelbarrow to the back yard and spread. Most of the topsoil would be used in the back yard, and since she has considered building up an area in the back over some rocks, she has estimated it would be up to 14 yards.

Assuming that one had to transport all of the topsoil by wheelbarrow, let's say an average of 100 feet, in addition to spreading it, what would be the estimated ammount of time to spread one yard?

How would I determine the pricing for this kind of labor-intensive work? I am assuming I would have to charge a lower rate than what I would charge for lawn care, since it will not involve special equipment or experience, but I really have no idea because I have done very little landscaping work.

This customer has done some very impressive landscaping in her lawn and I would not mind providing her with the needed labor and picking up the needed extra income, while having a chance to learn more about landscaping. I want to take this into consideration when determining pricing but I also need to consider that my pricing should reflect the fact that I am a contractor and not a laborer.

Any advice you can give will be helpful.

04-22-2004, 09:54 AM
My advice is to tell her you need to either rent a Toro Dingo or a small tractor type front end loader.You're gonna kill yourself moving 14 yards of topsoil by wheelbarrow.It's gonna be wet and heavy.
Any way you can double check her numbers,btw?

04-23-2004, 04:14 PM
I don't really know how to calculate it, but she said she did it herself last time and used 7 yards, and apparently it wasn't enough. Plus she wants to build up the lawn in the back to cover some rocks. How do I calculate how many yards I need? I've never done this before.

Would the Dingo tear up the grass? What would a rough estimate be with a Dingo? Could it be done in 2 days for example, assuming it was 14 yards? I think she said she was going to take down a section of her fence anyway, so I'm sure I could get the Dingo in the back.

04-23-2004, 10:41 PM
Run down to Lowes and pick up a project calculator.Then get a measuring wheel.
Now measure the length and width of the area she wants the topsoil put down.
Next,punch those numbers into the calculator and multiply the square footage times the depth of topsoil she wants.IE, 30feet x 30feet x 3 inches = (how many cubic yards of topsoil you'll need.)
Call around to rental stores for the Dingo rental rates in your area.
You may tear a little grass up but just be careful.What ever you rip up,throw down some topsoil and seed.

Pilgrims' Pride
04-25-2004, 08:55 AM
For what it's worth,

I humped and spread and raked about 10 yards of wet loam on 10/11/01.
Did it all by myself. It took all day 10 hrs.
I looked and felt like I had fallen down a flight of stairs and was sore for a few days after.

If you bid this, I'd say offer the customer an hourly price. That way nobody loses.
Insist on the dingo or other machine and add the rental price into your estimate.
Remember that you will probably be picking up and returning the machine. GET PAID FOR THAT TOO.

Hopefully that will work for the customer.
If not, and you decide to take it on anyway, remember that pain is just weakness leaving the body!
Have fun.

BTW You can figure square footage as mentioned above (L x W)
then divide by 100. That will give you the number of yards needed for 3 inches of material.
Its fast and easy and accurate.

04-27-2004, 03:21 PM
Thanks for the help. I'm going to see how much the dingo rental costs and then talk to the customer again.

04-29-2004, 10:49 AM
Here is a way to sell the dingo to the customer... if you charge her $35/hour and it takes 2 days thats about $560. If you use the dingy and it only takes you one day that is $280 (approx) plus a guestimate of $200/rental fee thats still only $480. We'll say $500, she saves at least $60. I had rather work one day of easy work than 2 days of backbreaking work even if i would double my money... unless i dont have much work then i would take the back breaking work.

just my thoughts..

04-30-2004, 09:38 PM
It takes 1 man 1 hr to move 1 yd of topsoil that distance. If you are also going to spread and level, 1/2 hr per yd. This work is physically much harder than grass cutting; charge accordingly. Plus the cost per yd of topsoil. Charge her at least 30% more than you paid. Thats what I've done for more than 25 yrs, hope it works for you