How to estimate a top soil installation job.

Have you been asked by any of your lawn care customers to give them a bid on adding some topsoil to their property? Did you find you were at a loss as to how to estimate such a job? A lawn care business owner had this issue and asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum “I need help on an estimate for a top soil job. The area is 40ft x 50ft. Screened top soil in my area will cost me $20.00 a ton. What should I charge to perform this job?”

One lawn care business owner suggested “around here a cubic yard of top soil is about $25 wholesale. It runs about $50 bucks a cu.yd. to deliver it within 9 miles if I don’t pick it up myself. I recently bid on a property that came to 1,806 sq feet. I figured I would need 13 cubic yards or about 5.5 tons of topsoil. The cost for the topsoil came to about $425 after delivery.

This job required me to remove the old sod, haul it away, pay for disposal etc etc. I double the costs of the materials to $850 then I needed to add 20 man hours at $65 an hour. Keep in mind this is some back breaking work, to remove sod then spread the top soil. I figured $300 to remove the sod from the site and dispose of it. It came to a total of $2,400 for the bid.”

Another lawn care business owner said “as a topsoil supplier, I found most customers want to do the job themselves. They just need materials. Larger jobs requiring a tractor rather than shovel and rake are bid between $65-$125 hour plus soil. I always bid or estimate jobs, portal to portal. This means include the total cost of your time to get there and back to your place of business as well as materials used.

Almost without exception if I deliver topsoil or mulch on a street and dump it in the front yard, shortly after wards I will get calls from neighbors for more work. I leave at least two business cards with every invoice, so the customer can hand them to neighbors. Short loads of 1 to 3 yards are always delivered in a pick-up style dump. During the planting season I am constantly on the road delivering top soil.

Quite a few times I have seen lawn care business owners simply don’t know how to calculate the cubic yards required for the job. The simple formula is:
square feet x inches of thickness needed x .0033 = cubic yards

Using the example of a job requiring 40′ X 50′ of top soil, that is 2,000 sq.ft.
If I assume a 2″ topdressing depth, I get the following equation:
2,000 X 2 X 0.0033= 13.2 cubic yards.

The formula gets really simple for 1″ depth. Just multiply the square footage by 0.0033. In his case it would look like this:
2000 X 0.0033= 6.6 yards

If you’re in the business of topsoil & mulch you can create a cheat sheet based on depth. Then you can just plug in the square footage. This is handy for your secretary to use when a customer calls and doesn’t know how much they need.

1″: SF X .0033
2″: SF X .0066
3″: SF X .0099
4″: SF X .0132
….and so on….”

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