I need help with a dirt fill job estimate.

Here is a landscape job request you won’t get everyday. It’s from a customer who posted the job on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. She needs a hole filled in that was dug under a trampoline so that the trampoline was level with the ground. The catch on this job is that it is difficult to get around to the backyard so large equipment won’t be able to be used. A couple of interesting points came up about this job that can really effect the job price. As you are reading the job description, think about how you would handle this request and come up with your own price before you see how these other landscapers would bid this dirt fill job.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I got a call from a new customer and they are asking me to fill a hole in the ground. It’s circular and measures 14 feet across and 3 feet deep. I came up with 17 yards to fill it. Does that sound right? The dirt will be around $200 delivered. It will be dropped in the driveway and we have to haul it about 100 feet by wheelbarrow to the backyard.

The hole was dug for a trampoline that was flush with the ground. Someone stole the trampoline top and left the buried frame. The house sold and the Real Estate agent contacted me to fill up the hole.

Dirt fill job.

Dirt fill job.

There is no way into the backyard where the hole is, except through a standard chain link fence gate. That is why we will need to use of wheelbarrows. Believe me, shovels and wheelbarrows are a last resort. The gate butts up against a corner of the house and the other side of the gate butts up against the garage. There is no chain link fence, just the gate. The rest of the fence is 6 foot wood. I have looked at places to remove fencing to make it easier and there just isn’t anyway around it. If I could get access for machinery the quote would be much less, there’s just no way I can think of to do it.

I gave the customer a quote this morning for $660. I think it’s a little high for her (the Real Estate Broker), but not me. I am thinking 7 yards of fill, 8 yards of sand and 2 yards (in my truck) of soil, which would be $260. To move the dirt by hand will be $300 with a subtotal of $560 + $100 to dismantle the upper and lower trampoline frame and the metal retainer and dispose of it. I think the customer was thinking somewhere around $100 though.

Am I missing something? I don’t know. Any and all help is appreciated.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I am calculating you will need just a hair over 17 yards. Whatever is put in that hole will settle so you may want to raise the amount of material needed another 4 inches or so to allow for that. You can figure that an additional 4 inches would be 11% more and maybe go ahead with 18.5 - 19 yards total.

Using wheelbarrows, that would take you 65+ trips! Not accounting for time to pack or shovel and spread the fill. I suppose at most you will get about $4.75 per wheelbarrow loaded and rolled 100′. How long do you anticipate to fill and move each wheelbarrow? Then time to clean up and flatten out the hole?

I could have this hole filled in, packed and leveled in a half hour with my equipment and charge only $150. Of course we would use something larger and more efficient than wheelbarrows. So I would like to point out that something with tracks on it would have a much smaller compaction rate than the wheelbarrow at about 75-100 psi would have.

If the gate is at least 3′ wide, then a smaller machine would do, it would take longer but it beats the shoveling. However, It wouldn’t take 10 minutes to carefully and neatly pull that 6′ fence section back to make room for a larger piece of equipment.

I would first figure out how long it takes to move the single full wheelbarrow, multiply it by 5 and then by the number yards. You should be able to determine your time by the first three.

At my last job, I remember moving a comparable amount of materials as this. We had 3 guys and two WB’s. Two guys filling and one dumping using gravel, a few obstacles, and a ramp to go up. We moved two yards of gravel (that’s all I would put in the dump trailer) in 45 minutes or 2.25 labor hrs.

Something else you may want to look into is finding a supplier who can deliver the amount of fill needed with a rock slinger truck. It looks like a dump truck but it has a large conveyor belt on the back that can send the dirt flying into the area you need it. Such a truck can save a lot of time and ultimately bring down your price.”

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