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NEED HELP! remove mulch / put down sod

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Matts lawn care, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. Matts lawn care

    Matts lawn care LawnSite Senior Member
    from MD
    Posts: 829

    I just need help from all the pros out there how would you price this job.
    I have to remove pine bark mulch and landscape fabric to a dump area about 20' away. I need to have a price to remove the mulch and then another price for the sod. The area is 18' by 20' square (360 sq feet)and then a 16' by 14' triangle (112 sq feet). I figure when i remove the mulch i will add a thin layer of topsoil to help the sod take. 1.5 Cubic yards $110.00. Or since decaying mulch is in the soil leave it be? I have been looking for a sod provider in the central MD area but had no luck. Any help with would be appreciated. how deep will i have to dig so that the sod is level with the current lawn? I have some pictures to give you an idea of the job. Thanks in advance for all the help. The dump area is behind the white target in the first 3 pictures. In the pictures if you follow the tree and hedge line you will get a good idea of the area to remove the pine bark mulch.




  2. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 589

    is there fabric under the mulch?

    If not this will be really easy, scrape the mulch off, rake the surface, add sod. Looks like the soil is good for the most part.

    If YES, then little more difficult, fabric makes everything difficult, b/c you cant dig through it. If the soil is great then remove everything from the fabric up and add topsoil, add sod.

    Either way, Your prepared ground needs to be just a bit lower than the current lawn. Not much at all. You will be able to make this adjustment as you are laying the sod and can see how thick the sod was cut.

    Thats my opinion, and I am sure you will hear a bunch of those
  3. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    You will find me to be the devil's advocate most times. I see a few problems but then I will tell you how I woul price this job.

    Prob. 1 - The ground most likely will not be graded well enough to just rake and sod. You will most likely have to spend some quality "flat nose shovel" time on the grade before raking..

    Prob. 2 - You will almost positively have to add soil admendments with the new top soil to adjust the ph as the mulch has probably added acid to the soil. The sod will look great for a month, and then it will probably die due to the lack of this step if skipped.

    Prob. 3 - The trees are most likely going to give you trouble when you go to grade so don't dig any deeper than you see fit. The roots will be tough.

    Finally, most likely bed was probably established initially because the trees needed room for roots and water. I would advise against grass "to the trunks" of the trees.

    If I priced it....
    Removal and disposal of existing mulch - 250
    grading for sod - 150
    top soil - *whatever your cost is* x 3.5 yds. (we can get 1 cubic yd of screened top soil for $26 form a local mulch yd.) charge $47 per yd installed = $165
    sod - $.50/sq. ft. @500 ft $250

    total - $815.00

    Removal and disposal of existing mulch - 250
    sod w/ soil prep and finish grading included in price - $.1.15/sq. ft. @500 ft $575

    total - $825.00

    Don't know if this helps or hurts.
  4. jervin38

    jervin38 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 29

    I would rake all of the mulch into a pile and remove it, then come in with a tiller to lossen the ground and break up any small roots. This will make it a lot easier to grade if your doing it by hand.
  5. Matts lawn care

    Matts lawn care LawnSite Senior Member
    from MD
    Posts: 829

    That definitly helped. Can you go over #2 in more detail for me. I need to soil test the existing lawn and the new soil? Then add things to Even it out? Or will the landscape fabric trap the PH so it cant get into the soil? sorry if this is a dumb question but I'm clueless. I am not going right up to the base of the trees maybe 1.5 ft away. How deep will i need to go to compensate for the topsoil 3''? O yea how much do you pay for sod?
  6. jbailey52

    jbailey52 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,078

    I agree... Remove mulch, and Till.... then soft rake... Also.. that $850 price is anout half of what I charge.. Sod I charge .80- $1.00 sq. ft
  7. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 589

    Regular Joe,

    You are probably right, I was trying to make things too easy.

    It also looks like it might be too shady in some areas.
  8. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    The fabric and mulch will all have to be removed well. Soil ph adjustment actually takes a little time, but in most cases if there has been mulch, we add appropriate amounts of lime, rake into the soil, and then sod. You can collect a soil sample and send it off to your local agricultural extension, and they can tell you what the ph is. Then the supplier you buy your chemicals from can tell you what to use in your area for the ph you have.
    first note that all llandscaping fabric is not the same. True landscapers fabric (the thick kind that is breathable) allows gases fromt he root system of plants escape through it. The other kinds trap gases and damage root systems over time.

    2" deep @ grass and grade it to .5" deep @ tree root areas. It will slope a little, but the tree roots are more trouble than a slope.

    Sod here runs from $130/500 sq. ft. pallet - $195/500 sq. ft. pallet not installed.
    Some sod will not take shade so make sure that that is not why htere is not grass there currently.
  9. Matts lawn care

    Matts lawn care LawnSite Senior Member
    from MD
    Posts: 829

    I submited an estamate to them at $948.00 for
    1) mulch removal $280.00
    2) grading $170.00
    3) 3 cubic yards of top soil $180.00
    4) 530 sq feet of sod $318.00

    They excepted and signed for it on the spot!
    Now all i need is for the snow to go away.
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Well, I personally think the mulch removal is the worst part, to me something like that is a royal pita unless you do it a certain way, but I find your price attractive from my end of things.
    Because what I would do is rent a compact grader or loader (probably a loader, the bucket can be used to grade) for around $200, and with the bucket I would load up that crap as best I can while flattening the remaining soil and dumping the crap in a pile somewhere a bit of a ways off into the woods.
    Doing that would take the longest but since I enjoy riding those types of machines so much, it would hardly make a difference, thou I'm thinking 6 hours at say $40 / hour = 240 + 200 = 440 vs your estimate's 450 (removal + grading)... See, I like your price, the reason I work for less / hour in this case is because I don't have to worry about the cost of the machine as the rental's already figured, thou I do think I might lose out a little bit but that's just how it goes.
    Then, core aerate (this I have) and right after add about half of the topsoil to the entire area. Now dump about 200 pounds of lime, 40-50 pounds of a starter fertilizer, and likely 10-20 pounds of seed (go REAL heavy on seed, but I'm not sure on the quantity required, either way it won't be over 25 pounds) and probably some calcium dihydrate as well (gypsum, aka clay buster). Last but not least, layer the remaining topsoil over that, I think I'd come out 100-200 less than your estimate but keep in mind:
    - This is just the way I would do it, and you're using sod, which, you really can't go wrong with that method.
    > Seeding otoh has a tendency to hit and miss, especially in spring.
    >> There are times I enjoy risk, because it increases my profit, but when I am wrong it costs me, in this case I'd end up having to go back in fall and redoing the entire seeding portion if things fail to take (which the risk exists).
    - And, you want that 50-100 dollar or so buffer zone, you need the elbow room for any size project in case things don't go exactly right, you have the finances to cover a few eventuals.
    > Depending on your cost it might reduce the buffer zone towards zilch, but again I really think you bid it right to begin with so I don't foresee you going in the hole, and if you do it shouldn't be bad.

    That's just my take on things, I hope it works out for you and best of luck.

    btw, I'm surprised they said yes to that price because I don't normally get these types of jobs for that exact reason (a thousand dollars), but that is good, I'm almost jealous lol.

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