Author Topic: Earthwork Day Rates  (Read 2626 times)

Offline scottwold

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Earthwork Day Rates
« on: September 19, 2016, 04:38:20 PM »
Going to have some swales and ponds implemented next Spring.  What kind of daily rate should I expect to pay the excavator / equipment operator? 

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Earthwork Day Rates
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2016, 07:31:54 AM »
Rates are far too variable to give an accurate estimate. It depends on the size of the job, the design being implemented, the size of equipment required to do that job, the region, time of year...

I can say this:

Do it in the fall.
These are typically smaller weekend projects for equipment operators. The weather in the late fall is unpredictable, so they don't start big projects again until spring (when the rush will be on with larger contracts, and it will be difficult to schedule someone and still get a good rate). Right now, they are looking for small, cash jobs before the holidays which they know they can complete in a day or two, without risk of bad weather delaying them, forcing them to leave and come back, or worse, stranding their equipment in the mud for days on end.

Pay cash.
Depending on the state, a lot of these guys can get unemployment in the off season. Cash means extra money in their pockets without compromising that benefit. You can probably get a cash discount.

Use the right size equipment.
A small dozer takes a lot long than a large one to move the same amount of earth. When you hit that 3,000lb rock, can the equipment move it, or do you need to stop, reevaluate your design, and go around it, possibly bringing in more dirt to compensate? If an hourly rate is in play, the ability to speed through these small obstructions can pay off dramatically.

Get an experienced operator.

Have they dug ponds and swales before? Do they know how to maintain a good level, can they roll in bentonite and seal the pond without missing huge areas and causing leaks? Even a rookie operator could figure it out, but there's an order in which things are done for optimal results. An experienced operator will be a lot faster, and again, if hourly rates are involved, that's huge. You're not buying a product from them, you're buying their time. You pay whether the site is a masterpiece or catastrophe after they leave. You want someone who knows what they're doing. This isn't clearing for new roads or laying foundations in new housing developments, and that's where most of these guys have their experience. It's not complicated work, but attention to detail is very important to avoid problems down the line.

Survey the site and the soil.
If you need to bring in clay to seal a pond, have it on site before the operator arrives. Once you start, there's no stopping until it's done. If you have to stop after digging and it rains, you could end up with a mud pit for the next year, waiting for it to dry enough to finish, or you may have to pump it out, which isn't cheap.

Have extra labor at the ready.
Call friends and family, have some able bodied men standing by for small labor tasks. Bribe them with steaks and beer. Try to keep small children away from the work area. Anyone who can't lift 100lbs or more repeatedly, all day, should keep their distance from the work area, so as not to get in the way. Those who can need to be ready to pry up large stones as needed, clear any obstructions, etc.

Educate yourself first.
There's a lot of good instructional videos and reading on earthworks. Learn the terminology, the techniques (at least in principal) and make sure you're able to communicate the planned design effectively to the operator.

I'd throw out a ballpark figure of about $2k to start. Again, this depends on the size of the project, but in my area, I'd set that as a minimum for a couple days of digging. If that seems like a lot, keep in mind, I dug a ¼ Acre Pond with a shovel, in just over 4,000 hours. That's 50¢ an hour if you compare it to hand digging. Not to mention, $2k is cheaper than the doctor's visit if you pull something while trying to dig by hand.

Offline Black November

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Re: Earthwork Day Rates
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2016, 08:09:12 AM »
Get multiple quotes. Last spring we put in a half mile road and a parking lot. They did it in 4 days for $6500.

We got bids from other companies around $15k and $21k. I was amazed at how much of a variance there was between quotes.

Offline Zef_66

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Re: Earthwork Day Rates
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2016, 10:17:58 AM »
Definitely get bids and go with a smaller company. The larger ones are not going to work with you as much. Try to find someone that will just do the earthworks and let you do the rest. This will save you some cash.

Around here, $100/hour is the going rate for most medium sized equipment. And I would figure 3-5 days worth of work in what you want to do. That is a ballpark figure. But it gets you started.

Offline Marinesg1012

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Re: Earthwork Day Rates
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2016, 09:46:53 PM »
Talk to some local permies, i found a kid that is willing to do swales and pond work for 90 bucks an hour plus 500 dollars to get his equipment on site. He stays on site and should take a day or two depending on what I want him to do. I plan on having him do the work this spring.