Pricing retaining walls

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by DanG, Jan 31, 2001.

  1. DanG

    DanG LawnSite Member
    Messages: 234

    I've had a few people come up to me for doing block retaining walls on their propertys this year.

    I've never done them before but if the price is right I might do these two to get the experience.

    How do you guys price them out?

    By the total Sq. footage or height etc..

    Type of material etc..

    What kind of hourly rate should i be getting since this is harder work then mowing.

    I've got one friend of my wifes who wants to even out her flower beds since they tend to wash the mulch out whenever it rains.

    Most likely it would be about two stones high on one end and 6-8 on the other. and about 100' total in lenght.

    Also at another job one wall that needs to be removed and redone since it has buckled( 10 yr old wooded one)Most likely 10 blocks high and 150' long split into two sections

    And the owner wants to have gravel put in and drainage behind them so the don't shift again.


  2. Lanelle

    Lanelle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,361

    Check the links listed in the current Patio Pricing thread. This is the time of year that many suppliers offer training seminars. From the sounds of the size of these walls, you should definitely get some training before starting. Also, in some areas, these size walls would require a building permit. There is a little more to this than meets the eye. But it is something that can be accomplished at a profit.
  3. EarthTech Landscapes

    EarthTech Landscapes Guest
    Messages: 0

    I usually charge for a smaller wall between 20 to 22 dollars a square foot, This covers labor, materials, and backfill material. on larger commercial jobs I usually bid it by the job.
  4. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    You're right - it is harder work than mowing. Much more required in technical skills, as well.

    As for pricing, you probably don't want to limit yourself to a set price/sqft. Just like the patio pricing thread lanelle talked about. Same kind of variance here.

    Paul may weigh in on this subject, and if he does, he'll tell you that he charges strictly by the square foot. He's a smart guy and does volumes more of this than I do.

    That being said, I do a fair amount of this myself, and I always break it down into three components:

    Base Course
    Additional Courses
    cap Course

    The base course takes the most amount of time, and so I price it much higher than the others. Once the base ocurse is up the other courses go up lickety split. If you priced them all the same, a 10'x10' wall would cost the same as a 1'x100' wall. The 100' wall is going to take all kinds more time than the 10' one.

    And the caps cost more/sqft than the standard block. And they require their own special work, with cutting, gluing.
  5. BRL

    BRL LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,211

    Another factor is the type of material. Wood, field stone, and concrete block would all add to the variables also. To that end, if you're talking fieldstone walls, here are 2 links with the basics for doing them. The links in the other thread will have help for the concrete type. Had a bookmark for directions on timber walls but can't seem to find it. A good way to get the training might be to find another contractor in your area that does this kind of work & sub it out to them, with the stipulation that you work with them to learn. Good luck.

  6. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    We charge by the sq. ft. of total wall, reason is all jobs we get are bid out that way, our pricing is different depending on the job and how high the walls are, lower walls cost more per sq. ft. than higher walls.
    There is a lot of work that goes into the base course, excavating, compacting sub base, base stone installation, leveling and setting the base block, this area is where most of your labor is.

    My company uses equipment to install this and we can keep our prices below 90% of our competition, I'm not saying that our prices are going to be lower :) but they are right in line with most in our area or just a bit lower(we just make more money at it than most).

    Once you start getting walls over 4' high (with 6" high block 8 units) you are going to need a structural engineer to ok your walls and might have to get approval from your village or town or county.this is going to cost you money, get to know your local dealer for help in getting this done.
    They can help you design the walls and do a lot of leg work for you.

    If I went on any more I would need to write a book.
  7. DanG

    DanG LawnSite Member
    Messages: 234

    Thanks for all the info.

    I have one friend who does strictly Landscaping and the idea of subbing it out to him and working for him might not be a bad idea.


    D.G. Enterprises
  8. capital

    capital LawnSite Member
    Messages: 118

    Based on the info you provided, IE never having done a wall, you have a couple of things to think about.
    1) Do you have the correct insurance?
    2) Do you have the correct equipment?
    Also, the 2nd wall, you stated it is 10 blocks high by 150 feet long. Based on that you are prob around 6 feet high-so per engineering specs, type block you use, you are going to be required to run geo grid behind the wall. Atleast one block is going to be buried with drain tile and correct file for base and back course. If you have never done a wall I would not suggest starting on one that size. Check with your friend and check out the block suppliers in your area, most will do the engineering work for you. Also don't worry about being the lower bidder. If you build the wall correctly you will not be the guy with the low bid, that is usually the guy who cuts corners or use block that is not right for that job. Best of luck.
  9. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    Capital, We are offen the lower bidder, other wise I wouldn't get the work that I do on this (public works jobs) I just know how to build them faster than most guys, my equipment is geared for wall installs. Not all low bidders cut corners. Your base is the hardest part of a wall install but with the right equipment you can build your base in one hr (40') so on a 150' long wall 4 hrs for base prep is all that is needed(with a three man crew). After that 3 men could build that wall he describes in two days.
  10. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    Definitely a difference between commercial/public work and residential.

    Low bidder most always gets the comm/pub jobs (I'd assume). But not always true with residential.

    I've known people whose formula to pick a co includes eliminating the lo and the hi, pick from the middle.

    That's a good part about commercial - I would think that your competition shrinks in numbers. If you're a corner-cutting landscape co, you might fool a few residentials indefinitely, but I'd think commercial contractors would figure you out pretty quick.

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