Lawn installation..... my worst headache

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Peach, Jan 23, 2004.

  1. Peach

    Peach LawnSite Member
    Messages: 86

    I'm very happy with the hydroseeding thread... there's a lot of info there.

    But I just am weak at lawn installation.

    I dunno how to price it for one thing.

    Now don't think I haven't had experience... I have. And all my lawns look very good with very few resprays or reseeds. But we work FAR too hard at these monsters. We even have a development .. (from which we got replaced for a $100 per yard undercut from another firm. CHEAP trees and shrubs .. the developer's forman doesn't care ) Those yards are mostly great..a bit weedy for the very few homeowners who don't do follow up care... or follow advice for new lawns. I'm sure I get blamed for those

    Brief as possible. I rent equipment. Do what's necessary (don't you just love those temp driveways the concrete boys spread out all over the front lawn 3 days before you arrive) Usually harley rake 2". I have never bought in quality dirt. I don't recommend it but tell me if I'm wrong here.

    I bought a 1000 gal. home built jet spray hydroseeder... it broke a shaft the second season and I haven't okayed the 500 dollar repair. Currently I rent a Finn at $175/day. I also sod and seed & straw.

    I'm at 13 cents a sq ft including prep for hydroseed. Sod $2.85 /sq yd . The prep kills us. I'm doing something wrong I know. WAY too much handraking. Haven't tried the rockhound yet but next year if it's rocky I'm upcharging for the extra machine and they can get another landscaper if they don't like it. Otherwise rocks on a normal lot will be raked in or minimal removal.

    I don't know what else to do. Should I sub this out since I'm just clumsy at it? Whaddya think? Where can I turn for help?

  2. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    I know the problem well and I think came up with a solution last yr that really helped. Buy a pulverizer and throw the teeth away becuase there only going into the dirt/clay about 3 inches. I had a machine shop make up some that dig in 4 1/2 to 5 inches deep that will make a world of difference. After you pulverize the yd. which will only take 15-20 min. then harly rake it, all the rocks are loose and the only hand raking is right against the house. The addition of the pulverizer decreased our prep time in half, it now take 3 of us approx. 3 hrs to prep 18k sq.ft. The only other thing I would suggest is to raise your prices, 13 cent is fine for hydro but that should not include the prep work. I can get that with just seed & straw you should be around at least 20 cents.
    Hope this helps you as much as it did us.

  3. ckf

    ckf LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    For hydroseeding, I am getting 22 to 26 cents per sq ft with prep included. If there is no prep, I charge 16 cents per sq ft. As for sod, I could be wrong on my calculations, but doesn't 2.85 per sq yd equate to about 31 cents per sq ft? (1 sq yd = 9 sq ft) I currently charge a minimum of 65 cents per sq ft for sod. If there is a decent amount of prep work involved, it could get as high as 90 cents per sq ft. Take into account though the different areas we are in. Your market area might not tolerate those prices.
  4. sidebuz

    sidebuz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 54

    Peach- Don't feel bad. I have a harley rake (skid steer model) too. Homeowners "whine/complain" because I keep leaving behind 1/2-3/4 inch size or smaller stones (I tell them right up front too). I have tried everything that could be adjusted on the rake. Same result. I like Olderthandirt's idea with the pulverizer. If I keep going on lawn installs, I'll be switching to something different. What? Not sure yet. As for subbing it out- if you can find someone that does a good job and won't steal the seeding part from you, sure. Do what you good at and leave the rest to somebody else. Prices: you would be in the upper-med price range (not the most expensive, but far from the cheapest) for this area (Elkhart County). Just price it so you make money...

    As for the weeds- tell them right up front that weeds are part of a newly seeded lawn. Especially spring seeded. Fall seeded lawns should have less weeds.
  5. Peach

    Peach LawnSite Member
    Messages: 86

    ty for the replies
  6. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    Get rid of the tooth roller on the harley and get the scrolled roller that will take out everything down to the size of a grain of sand if you adjust the fence that tight but thats why you need to pulverize the soil first and you need a deeper seed bed than just 2 inches.

  7. kootoomootoo

    kootoomootoo LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,369

    Mate..GET RID OF THE THE HARLEY RAKE! We rented one for a month (power tilt/angle etc) to try it out based on the recommendations of some guys on here.....Did about 15 lawns. NEVER AGAIN!

    Rockhound and an eliminator rake wins hands down.

    I hear you about the never seemed to end with the harley. With a rockhound I could literally do a job by myself.

    Straw hides a lot of imperfections but with the hydro you have to be "pretty" Not ideal for harley...imo

    ps. see plenty of quotes from homeowners with hydro and prep for 5c - 10c a sq ft. (10000k - 40000k) Like mowing every man and his dog is getting into the business.
  8. KenH

    KenH LawnSite Bronze Member
    from CT
    Messages: 1,622

    Im really surprised no one has picked up on this. You can have all the fancy equipment in the world, but if you start with crap soil you will get crap results. Around here, the developer, before he sells the land, will scrape off the topsoil. The builder, before he starts building, will scrape off what is left. That usually leaves the landscaper left to perform miracles. This might not be the problem in your case, but next time, do me a favor. Send a sample out for a soil test and look at the results/recommendations. The test is cheap, and will be a good piece of mind as we;ll as a great starting point.
  9. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898

    I think we were charging about $1.10/sq. ft. last year for grading and seeding. Tractor with pulverizer, hand raking where needed, and seed and EnCap mulch. Erosion blanket was extra.

    We had too many headaches with spring installs last year, probably came close to going to court over one of them.:( We would have won it but it still left a BAD taste in our mouths. I think if we do any more lawn installs, they will be fall only. Too many things go wrong in the spring. And we probably won't use the EnCap mulch again, will probably go back to regular Penn Mulch.

    If I were you, I'd look at subbing it out. Let someone else deal with it and that will leave time for you to do what you are good/better at.

  10. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    Don't want to argue your point but I have had it sampled and its crap they leave you with clay and rocks but when your doing residentials people won't pay to have enough top-soil brought in to help. The method I came up with works really well. You just need to have a deep enough seed bed to work with and 2 inches are not enough. Grass will grow in any soil if you prepare it right.


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