Well, although I'm a bigger guy, I'm not a bigger operation. I have put down a fair amount of mulch in the last 11 seasons doing this and I'm a pretty bright guy, so it's not like my opinion is useless, lol.
I sketch the property and beds and take measurements by pacing things off. I used to use a measuring wheel but I find it more simple and accurate enough to just pace things. I write my measuresment right on the sketch. If the bed is irregular in width, I eyeball where I think the average width is and pace that off. If it's a circle, I usually just call it square for ease of calculation. If a bed runs along the front and then continues along the sides I break it into 3 beds and I measure and calculate them separately. I then calculate the square footage of each area I've measured (all right on my sketch) and write down the result for each and circle it. I then add up all the circled numbers to get my total square footage.
To me, the trickiest part is often getting a number to use for the mulch depth. Miscalculating that can make a big difference in how much mulch you'll need and your price. Just because you want a mulch depth of 2 or 3 inches doesn't mean that those numbers will work in your calculation. You have to take into account the plant density too. If you've got a bunch of spreading Junipers in the bed obviously you're not going to bury them under 3 inches of mulch. I usually use a depth of between 0.15 to 0.18 feet in my calculation....the more open the bed the higher the number I'll use. Multiply that by your total square footage, divide by 27 and you have how many total yards you'll need. Multiply by my mulch price per yard (don't forget delivery cost) and I have my material price.
Then I figure how many hours it will take to prepare the beds. That's another area where it can be tricky to figure...it's easy to underestimate that. For this part I'll estimate how long I think it will take and often add 20% as a contingency. Multiply that by labor rate to get the price for prep.
Then to figure out your producton rate. Mine is generally between 1 and 2 yards/hour on a sustained basis. I'll usually go with 1.5 yard/hour/man. Multiply the number of yards by my hourly labor rate to get my labor price for installing the mulch.
Double check all calculations...let me repeat that louder....DOUBLE CHECK ALL CALCULATIONS, add it up and there you go.
Perhaps if the beds are large you can measure your areas from aerial photos rather than on the ground, but I always physically measure them on the ground.
Last edited by Darryl G; 12-19-2012 at 12:39 AM.