How to bid a sod cutting & removal job.

Have you ever found your lawn care business in a situation where you were asked to bid on a sod cutting and removal job, but you weren’t quite sure what was really involved in doing such a job? That is the situation that was brought up on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. One of our members asked “I got a job to quote, about 4,000 sf of bahia sod to remove. The client wants just dirt left there. Later on a separate bid will be trees, mulch, rock etc. & that I’ve done before but I’ve never cut sod out & removed it. I haven’t a clue how long it may take as far as man hours go or how many cubic yards of waste I need to expect to have to haul away?”

Sod cutting & removal

Sod cutting & removal

Another lawn care business owner said “I recently bid a similar job and bid high so I didn’t shoot myself in the foot. It’s a 1,806 sq ft sod removal job. The customer had the place 60% cleared of sod already. The rest had been cut with a sod cutter in places and piled in 2 sq foot mounds in others. Also what was completely removed had been put into bags and he wanted them hauled away.

I figured I’d need to cover the bare soil with 2.5 inches of topsoil. At 144 sq feet of coverage per yard I would need 12.5 yards total. Well I didn’t want to be short so I call it 13 cu yards. I called for a price and was looking at $425 to have it delivered and dumped. Well we need a markup so I figured $425 x 2 is $850. Sounds good to start. Next I need to guess on man hours without getting screwed. I went a bit high at 20 man hours at $65 an hour. I figure 2 guys can knock it out in 8 hours but I want a cushion. We are not using equipment, just shovels and rakes to spread and rough grade. That’s 1,300 for labor. Let’s say another $300 to haul everything away and pay to dump it. I called it $2,450. Well when I present the bill the customer’s jaw just dropped and he said ‘you must not understand what I am looking for.’ I recapped what my understanding of the job was and he still declined it.

13 cu yards delivered = $425
Markup = $425
Labor 20 man hours x 65 an hour = $1,300
Removal from site = $300
Total = $2,450

Did I bit too high? Possibly. I didn’t really want to move all that fresh top soil and remove the old soil for cheap. I don’t think it was unreasonable but who knows. Maybe next time I’ll ask $1.00 per sq foot and see where that gets me. Try that number and see how it suits you. Of course you aren’t looking at adding topsoil so maybe you can cut it back to $0.50 or $0.65 per sq foot. I have found that when I guess how long a job will take me it takes double the time. I now go in guessing how long it will take and double it so I am more accurate.

Hope that helped a bit. Maybe it is at least good for some insight.

I don’t regret not having to do all that work but I do regret not getting a bite and a hefty profit. I pay the guy I work with $7 an hour and told him if we get the job the hourly will go out the window. He will get a $200-$300 depending on how long it takes. He is my first helper so I am winging it a bit.”

The original lawn care business owner shared with us “I ended up getting this job though I discounted the price (it was kinda high) during negotiations. All in all it was still a good day financially but man, is that hard work! I’m pretty damn sure I was bordering on heat stroke when we removed the lawn from this back yard. The next time I will rent a skid steer rather than picking it up with shovels, rakes & pitch forks. Never Again. Lesson learned. The ridiculously hard way.

About 3:30pm in the afternoon I was dying (not literally but close) & my employee looks about the same. I started calling for back up to get a brother & another friend on the job. The customer over heard me on the phone, saying ‘I need help to get this job done if we’re gonna finish it today, I’m already into a second days rental on the sod cutter as I didn’t get it back in time…. it’s a lot of work & we’re exhausted… Can you come help us out?’

The customer came out about an hour later & asked if I would be ok (financially) with the extra labor & rental fees. I said I should be ok but thanks for asking. You know you take the good with the bad in any business. He laughed…. When we finished as he handed me the final check he said “I added $200 bucks for you so please adjust your bill.” I tried to decline & he insisted after watching us bust our butts all day.

What a great guy huh? I also picked him up as an annual lawn mowing account & have a great chance of closing the deal on the landscaping too.

Using the sod cutter was not too difficult to figure out but tiring. I got it all cut up in about 45 minutes but it takes a lot out of you. It vibrates like a jack hammer. If I were to do it all over again I would probably bid it similarly & I would use less labor to do it. I’d definitely rent a skid steer and save my back. I would shoot for about $0.50 cents per square foot on the bid, I suppose.

This time of year (May) most landscaping is from new customers. I always try to pick up the maintenence from them. I will start making suggestions & talking to existing customers in the late fall when the grass slows down again. If a regular customer asks about a new project I tell them I can surely do it for them & would be happy to, though they would probably save a few dollars if they can wait til the weather is cooler & we aren’t so busy with maintenence.”

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