Is this going to be as bad as I think it is?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mcclureandson, Oct 8, 2004.

  1. mcclureandson

    mcclureandson LawnSite Member
    Messages: 242

    I've got a maintenance client hounding me to get him some hard numbers on quite a few things...a few raised beds, massive plantings, some irrigation...all of which I'm comfortable doing. The problem is this eighty foot big-block retaining wall (he did about sixty feet of it himself three years ago then had a landscaper come in and add ten more feet to each end) that is leaking backfill like there's no tommorow. The center section seems to have been constructed properly. I can see the compacted gravel base, the vesa-grid etc...but there's no backing or vesa-grid on either end and the entire thing was backfilled with sand. The sand is steadily leaving with each rainstorm and now there's a sink-hole of collapsed sod ten feet across at either end. Access is fine on TOP of the wall, but at the base it is very tight and no chance for any type of equipment down there. To make matters worse, when the other landscape company 'finished' the ends, they buried two sweet-gum trees (sixty footers) beneath five feet of backfill! The trees have pretty much died now and will have to be removed. Here's what I'm thinking without going into too much detail...scaffolding at base to take out the end courses by hand, excavate with backhoe to make room for drainage, gravel backfill, geo-grid etc...get trees out, grind stumps...reset base course, rebuild with drainage, backfill with gravel etc...HERE'S THE QUESTION - how do I price this? Per foot on a normal install, but this is my first big deconstruction and (for me) there are alot of unknowns, that leaves t&m...but at what rate? I solo-operate maintenance and run a two man crew for installs. Any help or directions to useful threads would be appreciated.
  2. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    There are companies that specialize in debris removal. They can do the same job in a fraction of the time it would take you.
    I would get a couple of quotes for what you need done and mark it up 20 percent or so. That way your just pricing the wall from scratch.

  3. mcclureandson

    mcclureandson LawnSite Member
    Messages: 242

    Thanks for the advice, but I don't follow...if the end sections of the wall have to be dismantled by hand, how can another company do it for less/faster than I can, especially when I mark it up 20%? I sub out DEBRIS removal with a junk company, but this is something else, isn't it? The wall is structurally sound in the sense it isn't bowing, leaning etc. It just has it's backfill running out from behind it on either end. Basically, it's not retaining what it's supposed to but it also doesn't have the increased risk of falling that a badly/improperly built wall does. I've got the equipment (minus the scaffolding) and manpower, but any suggestions on techinique would be greatly appreciated as I'm always willing to learn new methods in order to become more efficient. Also, has anyone else 'added' on to a homeowner's or other company's work? I'm not certain how to address quality of workmanship/warranty issues in this regard, as I cannot say for certain how well built the portion of wall I did not build will be...
  4. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    Sorry about that, I was under the impression you were doing a complete tear out and removal of the existing wall.

    The first thing I would do is get in touch with a geo-products rep. They know their products and deal with situations like your wall every day. I use Price and Company , out of MI, they may be able to help you find someone in your area. The rep. came down, for free, and helped me find a much better solution to the problem than I had planned, since what I planned wouldn't have worked anyway. :help:
    I was doing storm flumes for 12 to 16" sump discharge's, 80K worth, and the guy really saved my bacon. payup

    With regards to the contract, you are only responsible for the work you spell out in the contract. Guarantee only your work and avoid any terminology that could be interpreted to the contrary. When referencing the wall use the term " existing SRT wall " and spell out your repair parameters using a reference point, like the center of the existing wall. I would also put in that you are not responsible for any repair failure which might stem from the existing soil retention wall, or soils loading existing wall. I would not use the words " construction or build " in the contract at all.

    I charge the following rates for service:

    80/man hr
    150 Transport for equip under 10K lbs
    350 transport for equip over 10K lbs
    Compact equip 275 first hour 120/ machine hr thereafter, does not include aforementioned labor rate.

    If a customer insists on a bid I usually figure my maximum time @ above rates and add 25%. This may seem like a lot, but the fact is you can starve to death while working 75 hrs/wk.

    If you get a chance post a pic of the job, after you get the contract of course.

    Good luck,
  5. mcclureandson

    mcclureandson LawnSite Member
    Messages: 242

    Thanks for the reply. What you've said makes good sense. I've gotten accustomed to eye-balling certain types of jobs and giving a flat rate, pricing by the foot, square foot etc. or giving a total price broken out by labor/ many unknowns with this type of project (for me, like I've said before)...I may be overly cautious, but who know's how badly put together that wall could be. T&M seems to be the only way to safely do the job...I would probably walk away, but in order to get the beds, intalls etc (25K or so) that I have more experience with, I have to take the wall repair on as well. I have a feeling it all may be too rich for this particular client's blood...his wife called me today and said the monthly maintenance check ($330.00) won't be coming until Monday because they have to wait for him to get his can you live in a 4800 sq/ft house, drive an Excursion and not have $330 in your checking account? Prior relationship or not - I will ensure a sufficient deposit in advance to cover my intitial costs + a considerable amount for planning/pre-lim work. Thanks again.
  6. hosejockey2002

    hosejockey2002 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,195

    If you've got nothing but sand behind the wall and no geogrid, it sounds like the whole thing will have to come down and be completely rebuilt. With the sinkholes that have opened up there are obviously some drainage issues. You should have geogrid and washed rock behind the wall. I would bid roughly twice what your normal price for wall installation would be, less the cost of the blocks if you reuse them. On top of that I would figure in the costs of additional materials that need to be imported like the geogrid, new base material, washed rock for behind the wall, drain tile if necessary, any costs for removing and disposing of any excavated material, and any reconstruction costs for sod, etc that is disturbed by the reconstruction. Sounds EXPENSIVE! payup
  7. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    One thing that would concern me, on a project like the one that you are describing, is the hight issue. If you need a scaffolding to reach the top then you almost certainly need a design produced by a Civil Engineer. Depending on the wall hight code/ordinance may reqire that the Engineer inspect and certify, at various stages of construction, that the design specifications have been followed. Since you are technically only " repairing the existing wall " I don't know what requirements, if any, might apply to you. If the customer decides to sell, and can't get inspection approval, or the SRW fails completly at some pointe in the future you can bet your name will come up. Could end up being a giant PITA.

    Best of luck,
  8. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    Just one more thing, I meant to add it above but it was getting late. I wouldn't let the lack of " cash on hand " be of any great concern, except to realize that this customer won't be able to afford a dime of cost overrun. Like many people and businesses he is probably leveraged to the hilt, but there is still a bank out there willing to lend him more. :drinkup:
    I arrange any contract over 5K to be paid in draws, T&M is payment at the end of the day for any work performed that day. I usually do 3 draws, with a 5 percent hold back. 1/3 up front; 1/3 when the job is 2/3rd's complete; the final payment, less hold back, to payed when the " primary obligations of the contract are met ". The customer must present a punch list within 48 hours of any items in discrepancy. Upon resolving the punch list discrepancies the remaining 5 percent will be paid, the punch list get's signed and I am off to da bank.

  9. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898


    Sounds familiar.:) See my thread at: For the project we're currently working on. It's somewhat similiar. On towards the end of the thread is a couple of posts I've made on what we've done so far.

    Basically what I would recommend:
    -Contact a manufacturer rep for that particular type of wall, have them come out and document the current condition of the wall. Get recommedations from them on what needs to be done to fix the wall
    Based on the recommendations:
    -Use a mini-excavator with a hydraulic thumb attachment to dismantle the wall from the top. You could do it from the bottom, but since your space is limited, it's easier to do it from the top anyway. On the Keystone wall that we just dismantled, I used the thumb and a 13" bucket to take off the blocks. I used a piece of tire tread that we picked up off of the roadside to cover the teeth of the bucket. Not only does that help to avoid scratches, it gives more grip to the bucket and thumb combination. Wire the tread on, using holes that you drill to match teeth locations.
    -Dig out backfill behind the walls before dismantling. On our project, the Keystones were installed vertically, which made it easy to dig out all of the backfill before dismantling. If the wall has any set back, you may need to dig out 2-4 courses, then dismantle, dig out another 2-4 courses, dismantle, etc, etc, etc. Get two different buckets, have the tread wired on one, use the other for excavation.
    -Palletize the block as you go, and wrap the block on the pallets with plastic wrapping.

    As for pricing, sit down and figure out what you think it's gonna take to dismantle the walls. Then figure out what you think it's going to take to re-build them. Don't forget equipment rentals, and dump fees. On our project, we gave them a good faith estimate and we are doing it on a T&M basis. For yours, since it doesn't sound like they will agree to that, give them a quote, but spell out EXACTLY what you will do, and state that anything you run into that is beyond expected will be charged at $XX/hour, plus equipment and materials.

    Oh, and lastly, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!! Take lots of pictures, make lots of notes, get anything extra signed off on, any major decisions the homeowner makes needs to be in writing. Not only for your sake, but theirs. Make them understand that last part.

    Hope it helps, and good luck with it!

  10. mcclureandson

    mcclureandson LawnSite Member
    Messages: 242

    Thanks to's nice to hear I'm not being overly cautious. I'm going to get ahold of the Keystone rep in the morning and talk it through. My philosophy on these 'unknown' type of jobs has become to price them at a much, much higher rate than what I normally would charge. If they go for it at the inflated rate - great, if not then I always have something else to do. I'm leaning more heavily toward walking away but will wait to hear what the rep has to say. I'll see if I can remember to bring my digital camera the next time I'm on site. Whether I do the job or not, it would be good to hear what you all think of the wall/possible repair scenarios. Thanks.

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