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best crew size

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by DowntoEarthLLC, Sep 26, 2004.

  1. DowntoEarthLLC

    DowntoEarthLLC LawnSite Member
    from VA
    Messages: 121

    What's working for you guys?

    Currently I've been running a 6 man crew. One guy runs the pipepuller/trencher all day, the rest are connecting, backflow, valves, all that good fun stuff.

    We can get all pipes pulled & connected , valves wired and backflow hooked up in one day. The next morning...install all the heads and connect controller... test her out and good to go. For a typical residential 7 zone or so system. That is if everything goes as planned....

    How are you all running your crews?
  2. NC_Irrigator

    NC_Irrigator LawnSite Bronze Member
    from NC
    Messages: 1,444

    I just have 2 guys that help me full time. (until winter)

    I have about 300 contract customers in the the wilson / r.mount area.

    & i have a 1 van
  3. DGI

    DGI LawnSite Member
    from SE Mich
    Messages: 173

    I have two three-man crews. I do all of the layout along with most of the machine work and general macromanagement. Other than that I spend my time doing misc service calls near my location or taking care of other problems and business-related tasks.

    I've found this setup to give me the most flexibility for the type of work I do. I can keep homeowners and landscapers happy by simply having a crew on site or by finishing the whole job before they're home from work.
  4. jerryrwm

    jerryrwm LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,274

    How much are you charging for these 7 zone systems? How big are these residential lots? What kind of soil are you diging in?

    With a trencher, most 3 man crews around my area can put in a 7 zone system in one day - from first shovel in the dirt to final check out. One runs the trencher, one starts digging for the water tap, and the other digs the hole for the PVB location. When the diggers finish their holes, they start digging the laterals for the areas that are not suitable to be trenched, and cleaning out the cross ditches. By the time the trencher is done, he starts making the tap and laying the main line to the PVB. Then it's all hands laying pipe, setting heads, valves, and running wire. Then, two start covering up and water jetting the ditches while the lead man usually installs the controller. The valves are wired as the cover-up guys get to them, and the valve boxes are set. When the entire yard is covered, the system is charged and flushed, and the nozzles are installed and adjusted. Total time - 8 to10hrs. Some that run 4 man crews can get it done in about 6 or 7 hrs.

    Based on a crew average wage of $12/hr and 3 men labor runs around $350. Average system 7 zones go for around $2500 - $2800 for a standard 80 x 120 lot.

    I recently hired 2 day laborers and we hand-dug a new yard (no grass). With only me doing the technical work, and those hands doing the bulk of the digging and cover-up, we installed the entire 9 zone system in 20 hrs. They were there for 16 hrs, and I had about the same time as I was off taking care of a few other little service calls and picking up parts. Paid out $260 cash for labor, but didn't have the expense of renting a trencher which runs $130.00/day. Got the ditches dug without being banged around by the trencher, and I was able to start the tech work right from the get go. Sold the job for $3600. Materials, permits, backflow test, etc. ran about $1000.00.
    Trick is to find some good dig hands. They need to know which end of the sharpshooter goes in the ground.

  5. Critical Care

    Critical Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,654

    I've been doing all of my irrigation installs alone, as well as other work. Am I saving money? Not in this case. By the time I add up the permits, the backflow, trencher rental, parts, and then subract that from my gross profit I'm left with an amount that can be broken down to dollar per hour. Doing this work solo - at least so far - has been as profitable but not more than what I get for grounds maintenance. If I charge more, then I'd be out of the ballpark. So the answer is indeed in the efficiency of a team while minimizing expenses. In my case, the employee transistion isn't quite there.
  6. DowntoEarthLLC

    DowntoEarthLLC LawnSite Member
    from VA
    Messages: 121

    Most of the houses are in the "we are rich, retired and live in a golf course community" ... Fairly large lots. All new or recently new construction. Alot of rocks and hard clay. Thank god for Ditch Witch.

    As far as cost I don't know... to tell the truth this isnt my company I just started working with them part time... just to get a hang of the irrigation side of landscaping... Its a good learning experience but I would be making more $$ doing my own thing... this is just a temporary thing....

    A friend of mine recently got a bunch of bids for a commercial building he is building... This Irrigation company I'm working with was the lowest bidder... So they arent that expensive.... I should have known that by what they pay me per hour.... This is the only Full Time Irrigation company in the area... they must be doing something right.
  7. DGI

    DGI LawnSite Member
    from SE Mich
    Messages: 173

    With no grass worth saving, my 3-man crews can do 6-10 valves & all pipes fit plus 25-40 heads per day. 40+ heads if I'm getting the machine close to most of the heads and the dirt is soft, down to 25ish if they're digging. That's working 7am to 5pm or so with guy soldering on the backflow, then doing the valves & connections to the feeders, plus connections on the mainline itself, as well as the wiring and the clock with the other two splitting the load on digging/fitting labor. I do taps and sometimes external plumbing/clocks, as well as setting up the pumps and all of the electrical associated with it. They take care of the rest. They get the jobs nozzled and adjusted but I always spend at least 10 minutes per zone on average checking everything out.

    All said and done, average final costs paid in labor tend to work out to be 20-25% of the gross.

    We get into far trickier projects that slow us down, but we run really, really well on your average new install. We don't get a particularly high amount of the homeowner/commercial jobs that we bid straight up (good is 1/3rd) but the work we do for landscapers and developers combined with referral stuff offsets that.
  8. greenworldh20

    greenworldh20 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 659

    with a 'typical' residential install our crews can install 40 rotors per day. that includes pulling pipe, installing timer, rain sensor, valves, clean up, re-seed disturbed areas, test system and one lesson of system with home owner.

    we sub out plumbing and installation of backflow. makes life easier. also easier to sell the job with a licensed plumber. makes us look more 'professional'.

    the trick to getting your crews good is repetation (sp). they will become efficient and learn from you. then all you have to do is manage. trim the fat from your outfit and you will be profitable.

    also, watch your competition...there are things they are doing better than you...learn what that is...network with others...you can learn alot.

    i have.

  9. MikeK

    MikeK LawnSite Member
    Messages: 145

    If your crew is putting in 8 hour days. I come up with 72 man hours for this install. Way too much.
    Our Typical cookie cutter job is 6 Zones, Usually around 18 Rotary and 14 or So Fixed.

    Pulling takes 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
    We do very high quality work, pipe is nice and deep and all heads are nozzled for Matched Precip rate. In Sod, we take extra time to make sure the yard looks as good as possible when we are done.
    Usually, we can do one of these systems in 33 to 35 man hours, Closer to 30 if it is in Dirt.
    Our best time was 20 Man hours, still not sure how we did that one, it was in Grass and we also installed a fertlizer applicator.
    Plumber is hired out.
    We will show up on a job with up to 6 but it really just boils down to what else is going on for the day. If you are a good manager for your crews, 6 is ok, but I think 4-5 is probably most efficent.

    How in the world does it take all day to trench the pipe?
  10. greenwayirrigation

    greenwayirrigation LawnSite Member
    from ma
    Messages: 24

    I just started on my own this April and 1-2 guys and myself is good for now, considering I couldnt keep a full size crew busy all year.

    The last couple years when I was working for somebody else we had a 5 man crew.

    1 guy would flag the job, hang the clock, rain sensor and the tie in off the BF. that was already installed by the plumber. I would pull the pipe with 1 guy swinging the pipe. 2 guys digging until a good amount was dug then 1 of them would start installing the heads. when the pipe was pulled I would do the valves and the other guy would help the other 2 dig, install and clean up. while the guy hanging the clock would still be hiding in the basement. fire it up and adjust. done an average 25- 30 head job in 4 hours, start to finish. 2 residential a day 5 days a week. we were like a machine

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