1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation with Ken Hutcheson, President of U.S. Lawns, in the Franchising forum.

    Dismiss Notice

Learning the big hole excavation market

Discussion in 'Heavy Equipment & Pavement' started by ksss, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. ksss

    ksss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,151

    Having jumped deep into the large scale residential excavation market, I must make several observations that I have noted.

    1. Buy it and they will come. I have had this excavator for a month or so and I have enough holes to dig to take me well into Dec. already. Very few guys even know that I have it yet. I think that I will be as busy as I want to be atleast it appears so. My payment on the machine is $400.00 a month so atleast I wont have a gun to my head if it doesn't move.

    2. Its a tight and competetive market, making money relies on being effiecient. I know other aspects of excavation inside and out and have doing them for almost a decade and a half now, I know the drill in my sleep. This market has a learning curve from bidding to digging and there are certainly things to be aware of and things to avoid. I don't know all of them yet but I am learning. Elevations on the depth of the dig. They are critical and I try to have the GC make such decisions if not being apart of the process to establish wall height. However it doesn't always work that way. No problems yet but it makes me nervous. I am not as proficient with this big machine as I am with the TK. Before on the few holes we would dig a year I would get through it even though I wasn't as fast. I now am spending more days in the 9020 than anything else with more holes piling on the schedule. My ability to do a good clean job, and do it fast is forcing a learning curve that feels very near vertical right now. I am getting the jobs based on our reputation in other aspects of excavation. Guys are familiar with our tight tolerances and clean work and were happy to see us enter this market. That creates stress for me. I think the term is "performance anxiety".

    I can see how this market leads into needing more equipment. I have been able to keep up with onsite dirt moving with the 95XT and the 83" bucket. It moves about a yard at a time which is about the same rate as I dig it out. We dug a foundation for a 6K sf basement (the hole is easily 9K plus) and 7-8 feet in the ground I had to rent a 621 wheel loader and could have easily moved up to a 721. However for the what seems to be the normal 2-3K basement the 95XT can keep up as long as I don't have to move everything I dig with the 95XT. A wheel loader seems like a necessity if the work continues. I can also see a better dump truck on the skyline.

    I must say that I got a lot more machine for the money than I thought I would get. It is very tight and precise. A little slower than I would have hoped but not bad. I had to get the HVAC system looked at the other day as the heat did not work when I bought it. It is getting cold here. That wasn't a big deal couple hours and they had it working. It obviously hadn't worked in some time as it looked like "Pig Pen" from the peanuts was running the machine when they got the blowers working. The bucket is smaller for a machine this size (about 38"). I think if I can get a thousand or so hours on it (basicly get on my feet in this gig) without having to spend a great deal more money I will be happy.

    Outside of my comfort zone? Absolutely!

    I must admit when I am not stressing out, I do feel more invigorated by the challenge.:dizzy:
  2. DBL

    DBL LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,219

    glad to hear you being sucessful and i hope youre having fun

    btw what are you hauling it around with...contracting someone to do it?
  3. ksss

    ksss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,151

    I bought a 25 ton tag trailer to haul it behind my dump truck. Problem is I have not had time to get the dump truck plumbed for air to the trailer yet. So I have been contracting to get it moved. PINTA. As far as successful ,that remains to be seen. After a couple of months, I will know what I am spending vs making and we'll see what changes need to be made. If nothing else it should give me something to do all winter and keep one guy from going on unemployment. Plus the big thing, give me work immediately in the Spring. Early Spring has to be the worst time of the year here. If this machine can take some of that away, it will have been worth the price of admission.
  4. Digdug

    Digdug LawnSite Member
    Messages: 125

    ksss- I have a 9020 also. Just wanted to say to you that i have never had to have a loader around to remove the dirt from foundation holes. We usually take the fill and spread it around the house to gain height and for concrete trucks to back up to hole. Then when backfilling if the material is good you can use some of it for backfill. When there is alot of excess fill in the hole that cant be stockpiled within reach of the excavator or graded around the hole we would load it into trucks for removal. Just wanted to tell you how we do it before you went and made a loader purchase and found you really didnt need one yet . I see you are a Case fan. I am also , and have owned alot of Case machines. Good luck , doug
  5. bobcat9957

    bobcat9957 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 92

    I would have to agree with digdug on the loader. If you are not doing any big projects like roads etc. you can usually get by without having a loader. I think you would be better off with a small dozer for backfilling, cleanup, spreading loam, etc. But whatever you decide good luck.
  6. Construct'O

    Construct'O LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Sw Iowa
    Messages: 1,387

    Welcome to the world of stress and performance anexity !!!!!!!!!! not that i'm sure it wasn't already there,but like you say "comfort zone!"

    As you get more jobs and a time schedule the anexity level will go even high! but also with more experience on your machine and what it will do and not do will help.

    I had to grin when i heard you say those words " I need " after 31 years in the dirt moving business ,i still say it also.I need! I need !!!!!!! There will always be something you need.

    Unless you just have to be 7 or 8 feet in the ground for a reason, try digging 6 ft in the ground and using the extra dirt to backfill up around the basement walls and to spread around to landscape the yard with.

    I realize every hole has a different lay of the ground or maybe close area between two house and no place to waste the dirt on the job. I'm sure you have already thought of that ,but if not,something to think about.

    With your size machine i would think it would be nice to have a wider bucket ,not so much more for yardage ,but more surface graded with each pass.Fewer passes less time finishing to grade.At one time i had 225 ex with 72 inch bucket.

    So are you using you skid on the floors of your holes to do the finish grading and clean up the loose dirt???????

    Good Luck ! and just remember those two words.I need! I need! It is on going as long as your working in the dirt!
  7. ksss

    ksss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,151

    On grading the floor. I have been ramping down in and grading with a skid steer or mini ex with a 50" clean out bucket. It would be much easier to grade with a larger bucket not to mention move more material. This machine came out of the highlands and the digging is much more difficult up there, hence the smaller bucket.

    As far as the depth I don't have much to say about that. The reason I was 7-8 feet in the ground was the walls are 10' in height. The elevations are what they are, either set by the neighboring houses or the height of the road. The ten footers are rare most are nine. I have been laying the pit run around the perimeter of the hole and separating the topsoil. The topsoil is usually what I end up moving with the 95XT. What I don't like is coming into this time of year, the material gets driven on around the hole by the concrete guys and the cement trucks and then it freezes and is a pain to pull up to back fill with.

    I know there is never an end to what a guy "needs" or thinks he does. I am done buying anything for a while and certainly not a wheel loader. I can see the value in one if things continue more so for backfilling and loading material than for use when digging (the monster holes being the exception) I want to see this thing pay and go on from there. My goal is to bring the precision that we use to complete our other jobs (concrete grades/grading and smaller excavation jobs) into this market. I think that will bring more work. Most guys don't spend that kind of time. I just need to get my skill level up to where I don't have to spend as much time making things look the way I want them to. Contruct'o your right more time on the machine, learning its abilities will help a bunch. Prior to this machine I was renting a CASE 225 from a neighbor. He had a huge bucket on it and of course the machine is about a third larger. It was not only larger but faster so I am now learning this ins and outs of this 160. It will take more hours behind the sticks. I appreciate everyone response and assistance.
  8. minimax

    minimax LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 734

    Rember wide buckets are great uhon till the digging gets tough, most guys here are running 36" dig buckets and 5' cleanouts on 160's and 42"digs and 6' cleanouts on 200's.I would keep the 38" dig and buy a 5' cleanout and QC and you will be set,PS a thumb would help:rolleyes:

  9. Dig Doug

    Dig Doug LawnSite Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 12

    Do you have any pictures of your equipment or work? Glad to see your sharing your experiences with everyone so everyone can learn what you have encountered so far. Good luck & keep up the hard work.
  10. RockSet N' Grade

    RockSet N' Grade LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,454

    KSSS...I know we have talked about this, and your soil condition may not be conducive to this......in our area, from the valley floor here to the mtn.'s by the ski resorts, 90% of the machines that are digging holes are set up with a razor ( butter blade or straight edge ) to do the work.
    I talked to one of the excavating contractors that I work for who specializes in sub-division holes ( I set all his rock retaining and porch wraps ). He is running 19 guys full time, 5 track hoes, skids and dump trucks and he only occasionally rents a loader. Uses most of the material for backfill or loads it directly into one of his trucks and carts it away. One of the "keys" he shared with me is what to do with the extra dirt.....he tries to find a home for it before the job starts, trys to sell it, trys to get the developer to pay 1/2 the trucking cost......anything so he does not have to stack the excess and move it twice. Another thing, he has the developer/owner sign a foundation height verification letter stating the finish depth from t.o.c. so there are no miscommunications ( or convenient memories ).

Share This Page