(8) Clump River Birch Install Bid

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by snow4me, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. snow4me

    snow4me LawnSite Member
    Male, from Barrington IL
    Messages: 119

    Am I on the right track with my bid?


    I'm proposing a project that involves planting eight 14' river birch trees. My cost per tree is $124.20 tax included, so $993.60 total cost for the trees.

    I have a 14' dump trailer so I was planning on taking 4 trees x 2 trips so I don't damage the trees. The distance is 15 miles from the nursery to customer at around 30 minute drive time.

    I can rent a compact loader for $255 per day with auger and bucket attachments.

    Trees $993.60
    Compact loader rental $255
    Labor (2 laborers $12/hr @ 8 hours) $192
    Gas $125
    Mulch $35
    Disposal of Soil Clay mixture: $100
    TOTAL: $ 1,700.60

    I am thinking bid price of $2,200 for the job so I stand to make roughly $500 on the job if my cost estimates are good.


    The auger will make 24" holes and I need at least 28" to fit the root balls into the ground. Suggestions on how to do this are welcome. I was planning on using the auger and then having my laborers use shovels to widen the holes.

    The ground is somewhat wet and according to my customer has a lot of clay below the first 3-4" of topsoil.


    Should I make the holes wider than 28" to allow the roots rooms to spread out and not stunt the trees growth?

    Should I add some kind of organic soil amendment? NOTE: The area is low lying next to a drainage swale between properties so there will be plenty of moisture for the trees.

    What would you guys figure for labor hours to install these 8 trees?

    I was also planning on mulching on top...how many inches? I figured 2.5" so a couple yards with 3' radius rings.
  2. Dr.NewEarth

    Dr.NewEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Hey, you need a hole that is at least twice as wide as the root ball, if not wider considering that you have clay soil. Can you not do that with the excavator?
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  3. agrostis

    agrostis LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,545

    I don't think river birch tree's are a good choice. That's a weak tree. They are alway's dropping limb's and leave's. They also die young naturally and you will get the blame. The time to plant tree's is in the dead of winter so you have that working against you. I know this is all negative but i repeat. - I don't think river birch is a good tree.

    Some info - http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/howtos/ht_birch/ht_birch.htm
  4. snow4me

    snow4me LawnSite Member
    Male, from Barrington IL
    Messages: 119

    That's what I'm wondering. Can I widen the original hole with the auger attachment? The bucket is too wide...

    The nursery told me I don't need to go wider than the root ball if the soil is not compacted.
  5. Dr.NewEarth

    Dr.NewEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    I guess you could double auger and fine tune with a shovel. The nursery is wrong about the hole size.

    Standard is two times the width of the root ball, but no deeper than the rootball. Because clay doesn't drain very well you can even go wider and I recommend scarating the sides of the walls and tapering them too. Some-times you even have to dig drainage canals in the clay.

    We can't use Birches up here with much luck lately. There is a beetle called the bronze birch borer that is devastating many of ours.
    Preventing drought stress helps to control this problem.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2012
  6. Brown & Co.

    Brown & Co. LawnSite Member
    Messages: 134

    Your original cost of (124.20) minus tax (102.46) +150% markup (153.69ea)

    153.69 per tree x 8 trees for a total of 1229.52

    2 trips at 15 mile commute...60 miles...2.00 per mile...$120 Delivery charge. Every place that delivers it will charge around 150 or More for the delivery...so you can charge more in this area.

    Rented equipment 255/day + 150%...382.50

    Labor (2 laborers $12/hr @ 8 hours) $192

    $12 hr per person for a two man team...kinda steep. Good genuine day labor is only $10 But whats the $10 a day difference in the end anyways.

    Gas $125

    8 bags of Mulch $25

    Bagged mulch for this job is the best bet...youll lose your profitablity having to dish around that mulch with shovel and wheel barrow.

    Disposal of Soil Clay mixture: $75

    I dont know about you but this stuff is reusable if you have a place to keep it...and I wouldnt charge more for this than your local dump would. For me its 5 per cubic yard to get rid of. So just used an imaginary number since yours was so high.

    TOTAL: $ 2198.52+Tax. Now you can negotiate if needed because you can knock off as much as 50% or so and still make a profit. This will give you the maximum profitability that your client will accept and not lose a potential lead because you can flex it with a discount. Id say a good 15-20% off should seal the deal and will put it just about where you priced it but your numbers in my opinion look better this way...more accurate...and now negotiable.
  7. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    The twice the root ball size for the hole is a crock. The hole needs to be big enough so that you have room to pack around it without leaving air pockets. I figure on 4" ring around the tree. The tree is going to have to learn how to live with clay at some point, so use a mix of local soil and potting soil for the transition.

    The single day rental on the loader is suspect. If you are doing two trips with the dump truck, you are going to need the loader just for them at the destination site. You have to auger the holes, but you don't want to swap back and forth between the auger and the bucket (or forks) for moving the trees.

    You may end up renting the loader for 2 days.

    We have an outfit here that will rent, and you can pick the unit up near closing time the night before, and return it the morning the day after, and still pay for 1 day's rent. If you have the right people, you can have one member work during the evening and get your holes in. The next day, you can move to a bucket, and move a tree by each hole. As the crew finishes each tree, you can pick up the grunge, and deliver mulch for the next tree.

    What size root ball are you talking about. Up to about a #20 pot you won't need the loader to plant the tree. Certainly you *will* want it if it's a #35 for #50 pot.

    For what it's worth: I recently did a job with #10 growbag birch. The holes were pre-dug. Stripping the bag and planting the tree: 6/hour. Pulling excess soil into heaps away from the tree, ready for pickup. 12/hour. Weed barrier and mulch. 15 per hour. Net: ~3 trees per hour. Working solo. Would have wanted a partner working with larger trees. Even a #10 bag with field soil is about 80 lbs.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I wouldn't bother with a loader that only augers 24" holes... start with the pickaxes and do the hole right... clay soil becomes a waterproof clay pot, that will rot your roots in one season or so, depending on rainfalls... I always break through the clay layer in hopes of getting to the gravel below, this will accomplish drainage...
  9. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,290

    Ummm, a couple things.

    #1 In the north, most of the time anyways, you can't plant trees in the "dead of winter". There's this thing called frost. It gets in the ground. Sometimes really deep. As in feet deep. Even if it isn't, you end up with frozen chunks of soil that cannot be used to backfill. Not to mention labor is going to kill the pricing.

    #2 Trees are only dug at certain times of the year and are only available then.

    Not to mention river birch like wet areas, and grow naturally in wet soil.
  10. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    Glazing is an issue with augured holes in heavy clay. Definitely you want to scar the edges of the hole after augering if you have heavy clay.

    But starting with an auger is still a win. After you have the hole, you can attack the sides iwth your tool of choice. (Scraping with the claw end of a crowbar works well.)

    I ended up with a contract once where I was digging holes by hand. After 2 hours for one hole, I gave it up and hired a bobcat and auger to do the rest.

    I've seen guys who welded a few teeth to the flutes of the auger to make a corregated side to the hole. Since the teeth don't go over and over a spot, the tooth scars aren't glazed. They also give some purchase for knocking glazed bits off.

    Here, clay often IS the subsoil. There is no 'punch thorugh the clay to the gravel' it's solid clay down to bedrock.

    One of the things I do when recommending trees for people is to ask them to do a percolation test. Dig a hole two shovels (16") deep. Fill with water, wait an hour, refill with water. Measure the water level after another 2 hours. If there is more than 8" of water in the hole, they have very heavy soil, and their choice of trees is restricted, or they have to put the trees on a mound.

    Most of the time, clay soils aren't as heavy as you think. Watch for the color shifts (blue grey, green-gray) that indicate a majority of time spent in anerobic conditions. Sniff for rotten eggs, which tells you that the organic matter is decomposing in anerobic conditions. These say, "don't plant the wrong tree here."

    My own farm is wildly variable. We had glaciers here a few thousand years ago. I have zones of nearly pure sand, to silty sand, to sandy clay to pure clay to pure peatmoss on top of clay. Sometimes holes augered 15 feet apart will show entirely different looking spoil piles.

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