Job Help

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by cddva, Dec 9, 2006.

  1. cddva

    cddva LawnSite Member
    Posts: 189

    I've been asked by a homeowner to give an estimate for the following work. Her backyard slopes down slightly from the house for about 20', then the slope increases significantly (I'd say about a 20 degree angle) for about 60' before leveling back out near a paved path at the back. There are about half a dozen mature trees scattered in this steep sloped section. She wants the sloped area leveled off in tiers, which means building some type of retaining walls, bringing in dirt and then I would think some plantings to prevent erosion (wooded area in general - doesn't look like grass would grow too well but maybe a shade mix would). When I first looked at it I told her it was a bigger job than what I normally do and that I don't build retaining walls and being a part-timer it would take awhile if I were to do it. She said she had gotten other estimates and would really like me to consider it and give her an estimate. She has patiently been waiting for a few weeks now. I would need to go back and get more specific measurements of the area but.....how do you pros estimate a job like this? Also, any suggestions for leveling the slope off in tiers without using srw? Part of me would like to do this job to try to expand my horizons but another part says "a man's got to know his limitations" and leave it to the hardscaping pros. I don't want to do a half-*ss job if I were to do it. With all that said, if you could tell me the proper steps/methods for estimating a job like this and offer any insight for creating the tiers (without srw) I'm sure it will go along way in helping me figure out if I should give an estimate for this job or politely decline. ( I know with the limited description of the site it's a little tough to envision). Thanks for any constructive advice you can offer.
     
  2. patpls

    patpls LawnSite Member
    from Mn
    Posts: 80

    To give an accurate estimate you need accurate specs. Is there a design for you or the other contractors to bid off? She won't be getting an apples to apples comparison for the work if the dimensions and specs are different. Truly I would advise her to have a designer or landscape arch. to supply a detailed plan of the work she wants estimates for then she will get accurate pricing. Don't bow out but do suggest that for a job this size money spent at the beginning will save money and possibly problems as construction moves foreward.
     
  3. cddva

    cddva LawnSite Member
    Posts: 189

    That's a good point you make. When she said she had gotten other estimates I asked if they were all including retaining walls, she said some were and some weren't. A week later I discussed the idea of having a landscape designer come out and provide some plans. She seemed OK with it but it was up to me to line it up. I tried one avenue and it didn't get me any where. Since then I've been busy with other work (including full time job). I should probably re-visit that approach based on what your saying.
     
  4. patpls

    patpls LawnSite Member
    from Mn
    Posts: 80

    cddva, finding a designer would be a good step to not only helping with this project but also for the future projects they may present you. It seems that when a client has paid a designer for a plan the next question they ask is "so who do you recommend for this work/". It's all about who knows who and just as important who knows you! I just do hardscapes and close to 50% of this years work was already designed and specd. so I know everyone is bidding the same criteria, but also I know I was the only contractor to bid several of these jobs because the designer recommended me. If you can find a designer that does projects of the size and scope you'd like to be doing then that could flow on to more work from them next year.
     
  5. cddva

    cddva LawnSite Member
    Posts: 189

    Thanks for the good insight/advice!
     
  6. mcclureandson

    mcclureandson LawnSite Member
    Posts: 242

    It sounds to me like she is trying to get the work done at well below acceptable rates. She's not only counting on you to do it for much less than a more experienced company...she expects you to '" line up " a meeting with a designer (who will charge for his time). Your time is worth more than she would like to believe. It's obvious she can't afford what it would take to get the work done right. Don't waste anymore time running her errands. Ask her to meet with you regarding the proposals she's already received. Find out which elements of those proposals she likes...contact those companies w/out her knowledge and see if they will subcontract the portions (walls?) you aren't comfortabel doing yourself. Get some day-laborers for the grunt work if necessary. You could make money on this job simply because YOUR expected profit is less than a larger company...mostly because of inexerience and what I assume is less overhead/operating costs.
     
  7. cddva

    cddva LawnSite Member
    Posts: 189

    mcclure - you nailed it. I know the reason she wants me to give an estimate is in the hope of getting the work done "cheap". Also, like you say, the reason I'm still interested is I do think I could make a good profit on this job but I want it to be something I'd be proud to have my name associated with if I did it. I just don't have much time for the running around trying to line up designer's, subbing work out, etc. I'll see if I can line up a designer this week and whether she is willing to pay them to come out. If not, I think it's time to move on.
     
  8. PSUturf

    PSUturf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 663

    Keep in mind that excavating or backfilling for terraces will likely damage the root systems of the mature trees on the slope. If you submit a bid for this job you should state in the contract that there is potential for the health of the trees to decline due to construction damage. If you build the terraces and the trees die 4 years down the road you can bet good money that she will bad mouth you to everyone she knows because you never told her that there was a risk of the trees dying.
     

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