Charge on Grass Labor

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by andy_b, Feb 17, 2001.

  1. andy_b

    andy_b LawnSite Member
    from Texas
    Posts: 2

    Hi were new to landscaping and have done a few new lawn jobs, putting grass down.
    I was wondering what the average cost for labor that most of you charge for installing pallets of grass.
    Is there a formula that is used "generally" that figures in labor of tilling, spreading dirt and laying grass. I just figure it would be easier to just "add" a certain dollar amount to the cost of a pallet of grass.

    Also what is the average amount that you pay employees for jobs. Is there a diffrence in hourly rate versus different job?

    Thanks for any help.
  2. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Posts: 1,625

    Hello Andy, Welcome to the Forum :)

    You can do a check of all posts using the search engine at the top of the page. just type in "sod". Different parts of the country are going to have different pricing structures along with the size of the jobs you are doing. Pricing is also going to be different depending on your going rate for labor and commerical or residental work.
  3. Clinton D. Wagner

    Clinton D. Wagner LawnSite Member
    Posts: 45

    Hi Andy, Paul is right that different parts of the country are going to have different pricing structures to charge for doing a job....

    However,task hours should be about the same from the east coast to the west cost on laying sod.

    Four men should be able to lay 10,000 sf every four hours.
    10,000 sf divided by 4 men = 2,500 sf per man.
    2,500 sf divided by 4 hours = 625 sf per man per hour.

    Most of us try to bid our task hours by what one man can
    install per hour to find our total hours needed, in this case one man at 625 sf per hour would need 16 hours to install 10,000 sf and if you was to use four men it would only take them 4 hours.

    Labor rates can very some what, but should fall within one
    of these hourly rates....

    6.50 per hour
    8.50 per hour
    10.50 per hour
    12.50 per hour
    15.20 per hour
    17.50 per hour
    18.50 per hour
    21.21 per hour

    One of the first things I would want to have is a budget
    that I could use that would cover my labor rates and still
    be within the "ball park" of landing a job....

    What I would do is put a set budget for labor that I was willing to pay per sf, ".04 cents sf " to my men, for laying sod.
    (This is not what I would charge my customer, it is only
    my budget for paying my labor) I may charge .12 cents a sf
    to the customer or even more.

    Lets say that you were bidding a job that needed 10,000 sf
    of sod installed....
    10,000 sf X .04 cents = $400.00 for labor budget...
    Ok what is labor going to cost you at the above rates...?
    based on 16 man hours
    6.50 per hour X 16 hours = $104.00
    8.50 per hour X 16 hours = $136.00
    10.50 per hour X 16 hours = $168.00
    12.50 per hour X 16 hours = $200.00
    15.20 per hour X 16 hours = $243.00
    17.50 per hour X 16 hours = $280.00
    18.50 per hour X 16 hours = $296.00
    21.21 per hour X 16 hours = $339.00

    I like to use this type of bidding for anything that I would bid on that way I can always give a man a raise and know it is within my budget for that job, or the next one that I have yet to do.

    You may be doing the same job but got to get in done in four
    hours with four men at these rates...

    2 - men at $8.50 per man X 4 hours = $68.00
    1 - man at $10.50 per hour X 4 hours = $42.00
    1 - man at $17.50 per hour X 4 hours = $70.00
    total cost is $180.00 for labor, your budget was $400.00
    your average labor rate was $11.25 X 16 hours=$180.00 are still within your Budget...

    Let's say this is not your day....
    Sod shows up on the job!
    and your men don't....."@$#$@!"

    So you got to lay it ...
    and you do it in the 16 hours...
    you just made $400.00 or $25.00 per hour
    and you are still within your budget of the $400.00

    Tilling, Soil prep., Topsoil placement, etc...
    can be done the same way....

    This is not intended to replace any information you may have now. It is only intended to help you with your judgement in bidding.

    [Edited by Clinton D. Wagner on 02-18-2001 at 05:14 PM]
  4. jeffyr

    jeffyr LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 876

    Impressive and informative thread Clinton.
    Thanks for the info

  5. diginahole

    diginahole LawnSite Member
    Posts: 249

    How do you collect your time/unit info. I try to collect this info on every job but it would be a full time job in itself forming the data base for each individual operation of every job. Do you have a better system than pen and pad or do you rely on published lists? I have many years of experience to give me a good idea of how long it takes to accomplish most tasks but I would love to have concrete proof by documented case studies.

    Blair Deutekom
  6. Clinton D. Wagner

    Clinton D. Wagner LawnSite Member
    Posts: 45

    Hi Blair,
    Where to start, I hope I can make this as short as

    I started out in 1958 and back then, most contractors, the
    few that I worked for only paid piece work. It was a good
    opportunity to make good money and learn how much time it took to install different products. When we did our time cards,we had to put down exactly how many units of each product we installed, such as heads, valves, controllers, etc., plus how much lawn seed we installed per day, how many plants we planted per day etc., and we got paid accordingly to what we installed. So,once I became a foreman, I started keeping track for myself of what each man did, and built my own data base. After about 4 years,
    I went into contracting for myself. With the information
    I had accumulated,I was able to bid my jobs quite cmfortably and one of the main things that I did, was have my foreman do nothing but guide the men and keep track of everything they installed with a time clock in order to find out how long it took to do a task. Yes, keeping track of installation is very time consuming "and very costly", but well worth the reward of knowing that you can bid a job comfortably for.

    Over the years, I have read everything I could find on installing from manufactures guides, as well as talking with every contractor that I come in touch with to see what they could install a product for.

    But, most of all, I used my own employees for when I bid something.

    I would consult with them and my foreman to see if they thought, for example, that they were going to be able to install 4.34 - 1804 Pop-ups per hour. So, for the past
    "4 decades", I have kept track of everything by time cards. And, double-checked it by using mark-ups percentages
    on cost of material. Then to check that cost by what pentage I wanted to pay of my gross income for labor.
    I found that if I marked up material 45% for labor and used a 28% figure of my gross income for labor and then compared that with my hourly rates on an installed item, I felt very
    comfortable with my bid and in the amount of time we had allowed our employees to install a product.

    A 4" Pop-up with all the necessary fittings, pipe, etc. maycost you, as a hole unit, $7.86.
    $7.86 X 45% = $3.54 for labor
    Let's say the head installed price is $17.50
    So, by taking 17.50 X 28%= $4.90 for labor is the most
    I will want to pay out for labor...
    I knew from my time keeping and from contractors that I've worked with,that the average 4" pop-up could be installed at 4.34 per man hour.
    Labor rates do vary, but if you were to pay a man, say, $12.50 an hour and he did install the 4.34 heads per hour, that comes out to be $2.88 per head.

    As you can see from the above, the head installation cost would fall well within the budget, plus the 4.34 heads per hour a man could install would be about right on.

    I do not recommend that anyone bid their task hours at their hourly labor rate without having quite a lead-way for labor cost. For you know, one of the hardest things to do is to figure labor. How many times have you bid say, for example, 4" pop-ups and you had 100 of them to be nstalled, and you set your labor rate say at, $7.50 an hour and got the job, but by the time you started it all those $7.50 hour men wages increased to $8.50 an hour and your labor go's way over what you had bid.

    There goes the profit and over-head!!

    Documented case studies: I think that I have more than anyone in the business when it comes to Landscape and Irrigation installation. I have saved every job that I have done for myself, as well as, the hundreds of contractors that we have helped put together bids for the over the past
    15 years. With their help on task hours, we feel that we have it down pretty sound for units per hour.

    We're always looking for contractors that are willing to give their opinions to us on installations and welcome any that you might have so we can put that in our data..

    Again, keeping time on units per hour a man can install is very time consuming and very costly. I highly recommend that any contractor, old or new, set their time cards up based on units per hour and keep track of what your men are doing in the field. You can't beat a good track record.

    We have over 3,500 irrigation units per hour in our data plus helpful information on dealing with profits, gross margins, and many good charts to help us/you with our/your Take-offs for Landscape and Irrigation.

    Is this the concrete evidence that you are looking for??
    "I don't know" But it is working for us and the many
    contractors that use us for take-offs....
    "After 4 decades", what more can I say?

    This is not intended to replace any personal skills or information you may be using now. It is only intended to help you with your judgement.
  7. diginahole

    diginahole LawnSite Member
    Posts: 249

    Thanks Clinton,
    It seems that I should get a better time card system and start building my data base. We do our estimating based on time required to complete a job. Our time/unit data has been written based partly on gut feeling. Although I do feel qualified to reasonably estimate the tasks that I perform on a daily basis, I would sleep better knowing that my guesses were based on accuratly recorded data. That said I will get to work on new time cards and database today.

    By the way, I glanced over your website and I will go back when I have a little more time, seems like there might be some pertinant info there.

    Blair D.

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