Sod Installation:Prep,Install,Man Hour Help

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mcw615, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. mcw615

    mcw615 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 473

    My company focuses on Commercial Maintenance, Design and Installing Landscapes-Hardscapes. Looking to begin to diversify in the next year and expand our services, as we have currently met a very successful size in what we have focused on achieving.

    I received a call yesterday asking for an estimate to redo the front lawn with sod. It is approximately 2,500 s.f [35'x75'] It again is relatively rectangular with really no obstructions, only a 3' sidewalk running through the middle of the front lawn.

    I would really appreciate a mentor or two, and not anyone to bash with negativity; keep that to yourself.

    Will be using Fescue sod, operating here in Central to Southwest Virginia we are at about 100% clay soil.

    Prep-Work: Power rake the site, apply 1.00" of compost, re rake and cultivate with clay, roll. Apply organic starter fertilizer to stimulate root growth then install lay the sod?

    Sounds like a two-man crew job. How many total man hours would it take from start to finish for the job on average?

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  2. BrendonTW

    BrendonTW LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Oklahoma City
    Posts: 547

    To lay sod I charge around $300 per pallet. A pallet is 500 SQ feet. A pallet of fescue costs me $135.00. The $300 includes deliver, soil prep (no major dirt work, just minimum shovel-rake type stuff), fertilizing, and laying.

    With that high mount of clay you might consider tilling in your compost and some sand as well. Probably an 1" of sand and 1" of compost, tilled into about 3 inches. Smooth that out and compact it with a roller or plate compactor. (Rent - Plate compacter 28" is about $60/day and a ride-on roller is usually 3-5 feet wide and around here about $150/day). When it is all hard and flat, put down your starter fertilizer and then rake the flat soil with a heavy steel rake to score up the surface. Make sure it's damp, then lay your sod.

    I have no idea what compost goes for where you're at, but say it's $25 per yard. Washed sand usually runs around $25 per yard here.
    You will need 7.7 cubic yards of media to cover 2500 SQFT at 1" depth.

    So you're looking (cost) at
    Sod: $135/pallet @ 5 pallets = $675.00
    Compost: $25/yard @ 7.7 cubic yards = $192.50
    Sand: $25/yard @ 7.7 cubic yards = $192.50
    Rental: Compactor = $150
    Delivery Fees (If you're having sod, sand, and compost delivered)

    Then you need to add your man-hour rate to that for an estimated amount of time. My rate with one employee on the job site is $75/hour + $10 per hour for every extra man present and working. So if you think it would take you and one other guy 12 hours and your two-man-hour rate was $85.00 then labor would be $1020.00.

    Hope this method helps. You really need to figure up your own pricing and get an operating cost per hour for your business so that you can have a consistent pricing method. You'll never ask how to price a job again if you get this down.
     
  3. mcw615

    mcw615 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 473

    Thank you for your detailed response. I was able to calculate the costs from the products in my area, I was looking for someone to help give me an estimate on how many total man hours to complete this. I believe I am going to go use my skid-steer with the power rake to prep the soil instead of a tiller, and use the bucket to help maneuver the compost.
     
  4. BrendonTW

    BrendonTW LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Oklahoma City
    Posts: 547

    With two guys, if you're super efficient, probably 20 man hours. Being a first time, probably 30 man hours.
     
  5. andyslawncare

    andyslawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 812

    I wouldn't recommend tilling sand in with the compost (sand will actually bond to the clay, and won't improve drainage; it will make drainage worse. The best way to improve drainage & airflow in clay is by adding organic matter), but yes till in the compost. If you lay the compost on top of the clay then the sod, the roots will not grow very deep since all the nutrients will be right under them-yielding in a lawn that is not drought tollerant. Also a good rule of thumb is to till in 25% by volume of the root zone with compost... say 6'' root zone, add 1.5'' compost, or 11.57 cubic yards of compost tilled to 6''. You will need 5 pallets, and won't have much room for error when you are cutting in edges, as the 2500 sq. ft. given tells you that you need 4.96 504 sq. ft. pallets. Try to get 150/pallet for labor for sod install and tilling (maybe more if you don't own a tiller) + all of your materials + labor for spreading the compost. How will you be moving the compost; by hand or machine? By hand it will take quite a while, with a machine very quickly.

    With 2 people, it will take 5 or 6 hours for laying the sod (maybe faster if you have good help), ~30 mins to roll the sod, 1 hr to till (depending on your equipment), how ever long it takes you to power rake before tilling, and some time to move and spread the compost (depends on your equipment). I usually charge sodding and stone work higher than other services, but if you already do stone work you should know what you will need to bring in for the time.

    I recommend killing the existing vegetation at least 7 days before installation with round up. Its a good idea to prep for the sod the day before it goes down, you can then have 2 people on prep day, and 3 people on day 2 = 2 half days instead of maybe 2 days of the sod not going down... the sod should be laid, watered, and rolled within 48 hours of it being harvested from the farm, or you are pushing the buttons on disease and fungus next year.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2010
  6. andyslawncare

    andyslawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 812

    Don't use sand! Please! I just read a few of the posts before mine... I'm not sure of a source to use at this time, but I work in Atlanta, and we have 100% clay soil also. People think that sand mixed with clay helps with drainage, but the sand only bonds to the clay! I think one of them has negative charge, and one positive... something like that. Either way, you will spend the same amount by applying 100% compost instead of a 50/50 mix, and the results 5 years from now will be prime! I am college educated in horticulture (will have my degree after I pass 2 more core classes...English 2 and speech), and I have studied soil composition. Please hear my experience through! Clay needs organics, and ONLY ORGANICS to improve soil quality!
     
  7. MDLawn

    MDLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    I did a 1100sqft job that took me alone about 15hrs. I had very poor site access and there was a lot of moving stuff by hand :dizzy: Easier site access could have shaved of a lot of that time though. What i did was

    Sod Cut
    Amend soil
    Starter Fert
    Lay Sod
    + all the minor headaches in between

    I Know thats not the figure you may have been looking for but that was my time frame on a job with poor access. I'd say with help I may be around 18-20 hrs (no power rakes, tillers just sod cutting)? But since I havent done that size yet hard to say, sorry.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2010
  8. juststartin

    juststartin LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 341

    good estimate
     
  9. SDLandscapes VT

    SDLandscapes VT LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 582

    Agreed--do not add sand. Sand + clay = concrete and not a good growth environment for grass. Also, I would not use a plate compactor as sod doesn t particularly care for compacted soils. I have a tracked machine and the machine + a harley rake leaves the soil firm enough for walking/mowing/etc but not too hard to inhibit growth. Always add organics they will improve all ends of the spectrum too sandy--add organic too much clay add organics. I have seen some awful sod work that turned into a maintenance fiasco due to poor installation.
     
  10. dtriv89

    dtriv89 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 110

    Plate compactor? Come on guys.
     

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