Author Topic: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?  (Read 1198 times)

surfer349

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« on: April 26, 2018, 02:55:40 PM »
So I live in Central Texas and am looking to change my 1/3 acre lot into a more permaculture and vegetable growing landscape, rather than just a water-sucking grass lawn.

I've found a guy that I like and he's given me a proposal but it seems outrageously high.  I'm a young guy (31) that can do a lot of this work in my free time (around my full time job), but trying to get some input or advice on what's realistically DIY and what I should hire out....what other Mustachians would do.

I'm looking to install rainwater tanks, berms/swales, lots and lots of mulch, a beehive area, and lots of landscaping changes around the perimeter of the house.  See attached.

Rainwater catchment $3285
-  doesn't count the actual cost of tank...I won that in a raffle.  I have a 1600gallon tank being made currently.
-  building the base
-  adjusting gutters
-  trenching pipe
-  connecting everything for drip lines for garden.

Berm/Swale $4315
-  lots of digging, lots of mulch and compost, lots of plantings
-  I found materials to only be ~$1000 w/o plants...wtf is with this proposed price?

single tree in backyard w/ sucker problem $335
-  need to laydown geotextile and lots of mulch

Front yard landscaping $3645
-  my front yard already has a well defined planting beds along w/ sprinkler irrigation....its just empty and devoid of anything interesting
-  lots of mulch
-  lots of herbs and flowers and veggies
-  I found materials to be about $360 w/o plants....wtf is with this proposed price?

fence conversion $1450
-  i've got a side fence that I want to take down and replace w/ a shorter one w/ a gate to walk through.  It's maybe 15' total length.
-  I don't know fence prices, but this seems really high.

Jasmine beds, bee area, compost bays $880
-  clearing out jasmine ground cover beds around all my live oak trees
-  putting down a lot of compost
-  building a composing bay
-  clearing out a space to put a bee hive.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2018, 03:05:23 PM by surfer349 »

surfer349

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2018, 03:06:40 PM »
SO really, i'm new to this landscaping stuff, but I'm young and capable.  I don't really want to spend days and days digging and trenching (something I could hire help for)....but I also think I could do a lot of this myself.  What's the MMM opinion? 

I am reminded of the Adam Smith quote from Wealth of Nation, something like: 'a wise head of household never should attempt to make at home what will cost him more to make than to buy."
« Last Edit: April 26, 2018, 03:10:07 PM by surfer349 »

Abe

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 977
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2018, 08:21:32 PM »
My experience with home improvement projects: it will always take much longer than you anticipate. If you enjoy it and count it as exercise, then maybe that's not a bad thing. It sounds like most of this stuff is hard manual labor, but not very technical. Do the proposed prices include the plants? They can get quite expensive, unless you grown them from seeds (then they are cheap but labor intensive).

I'd recommend doing whatever you deem to be the easiest two projects, complete it, and then determine if you're willing to proceed with the rest. I think the backyard tree issue and fence you can clearly do yourself. Make sure you have concrete foundations for the fence posts otherwise they'll fall over. After finishing those two, determine if you honestly think the quality is comparable to what the contractor would do and if it was worth it in the end to save x amount of money.


lthenderson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1038
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2018, 07:01:31 AM »
You have a lot of small jobs, and individually (and sometimes even grouped together) they are going to be rather high priced getting someone to do them for you. Many of those jobs require completely different tools, supplies and perhaps manpower to complete and probably over several days time. For this reason, they tend to be more expensive than one large single project. In other words, I'm not surprised about the prices for some of the various quoted jobs.

To answer your question, like the other person above, I suggest tackling what you feel is the easiest project and see how it goes. If you get to a point where you think you are over your head or don't have the time and energy, then you simply stop and hire the rest done. If not, continue on with the next easiest thing on your list. The big advantage you have is that none of those things on your list are something that is time sensitive to complete. I keep a master list of projects that I want to do around my house/land and some of the items on there are a decade old so don't feel bad if they aren't all completed by this year.

surfer349

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2018, 07:10:57 AM »
good points.  Yea, yea I was thinking I could fire a few ppl off craigslist to help with manual labor and digging and stuff.

I understand that everyone has a goal of making a reasonable profit on their work, but I think the thing I'm most concerned with is the materials cost this person quoted me.  This is new to me, but a lot of items are readily priced from local lawn & garden centers.  After adding it up, some of the jobs still have $2000 in cost for materials that is just buying some plants.

I don't know if this is a good way to think about this, but when you take your car in for some work, the cost of parts is a set thing, the same everywhere...They make their profit on their labor charges and/or a general few % points over market on the parts.

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2902
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2018, 09:37:07 AM »
Um, have you actually priced plants lately? Before you complain about the price of plants, go do that.

Re materials - you could actually just buy them yourself and store onsite. It's a hassle and time consuming to make all the arrangements for transportation, pick stuff out, etc. So you're also buying his time to do all that stuff. Ask what the price would be if you provided all materials. Of course, then you need to actually do that yourself.

phred

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 502
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2018, 11:11:51 AM »
These prices do seem a little unreal.  Have you priced out everything by going to Home Depot/Loews?

Contacting the Master Gardeners at the county agricultural agent's office would be a good first move.  They may know the cheaper and better workers in your area.

You don't have to get everything done all the same week. 

lthenderson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1038
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2018, 06:18:27 PM »
I don't know if this is a good way to think about this, but when you take your car in for some work, the cost of parts is a set thing, the same everywhere...They make their profit on their labor charges and/or a general few % points over market on the parts.

A better analogy would be if you have to take your car to a dozen or more places to get all the parts needed for the repairs, some that possibly don't come in the quantities actually needed so you have to buy extra so you don't have to make extra trips while you are on the clock. You are then responsible for ensuring all the parts are the correct one, if they don't work after installation you have to fix them, and then finally you have to return all the extra parts you didn't use (if you can return them) when the projects were done.  Having been on both sides of this coin many times in my life, it is really easy to underestimate how much prep work has to be done before you even reach the job site and only then does the client see the hours that you have on the invoice under labor.

SweatingInAZ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2018, 12:12:01 PM »
I recommend asking your landscaping guy if the pricing is contingent on him doing all of the jobs.

Personally, the only yard work that I hire out are things that I do not have the equipment or training to do safely (tree removal), or things that have a hard deadline that I cannot meet (HOA or city complaint for tree trimming). I probably should hire out a few more things, but I do enjoy the work (even the digging). I would never pay someone to pick out vegetable plants and plant them, it is my second favorite part of gardening! (the best part is eating something that you grew)

Are you planning to get mulch for free? Local tree trimming companies are always looking for places to dump wood chips and will happily dump a truckload anywhere that they can maneuver their truck. It looks like you can use a whole truckload, but you can also post your leftovers on craigslist or give it to your neighbors.

Anyway, are there jobs in that list that you would enjoy and could do over the course of one week? The geotextile tree and jasmine beds both look manageable once you have a mulch pile.

fixie

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2018, 02:55:55 PM »
Cool design!  I'd recommend having the excavator(or your homies) do all of the digging and swale making for you.  A good operator will take your instructions(though they are not always versed in permaculture design methods), and can move more soil in one bucket than 5 people can move in an hour.  And s/he can do it all day!  IMO, that is where a lot of your costs are...in labor, and that is where your money is best spent.  However, given the size of your plot, my next recommendation is homies over excavator.
2nd, set up a permaculture blitz, where folks from the neighborhood and friends all come in at one time and perform a single task, or a bunch of easily achievable tasks, all in one day.  You make friends and bang out the work in no time.
Good plants can be expensive.  If you are willing to wait, get smaller plants on forums of plant enthusiasts.  Plant trees as bare root, in the late fall/early winter.  They'll be cheaper, healthier and not pot-bound.  One resource I highly recommend is Mike McGroarty, a neat guy from Ohio that has tons of youtube vids up about getting your own plants via cuttings.  Find plants you like, identify them, take cuttings, root them in sand under a mist system on a timer, and literally save thousands of $$.  In Texas those plants will grow very quickly.
Start small if you are worried about costs.  As they say, water, access, and structures come first, then cover crops so that weeds do not take over...especially if your progress will be slow...a good cover crop for your area would be something that establishes quickly, beats out the weeds, yet is easy to dig up or incorporate as yuo fill spaces with edible/fiber crops or trees.  To start you off...get yourself some goji plants!  They will do great in Texas.
Fence price seems crazy...THAT is a great DIY project.  Low material costs and you and your buddies can bang it out in a weekend.
Beehive nucs and hive boxes can be expensive to set up.  Maybe local bee enthusiasts could help point you to cheaper options to get started.
Keep us posted on your progress!
-fixie

Prairie Stash

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1424
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2018, 08:57:44 AM »
If you don't have the time or energy to tackle a few of these jobs yourself, are you going to have the time in the future for the maintenance?

Lets breakdown an easy project.

Front yard landscaping $3645
-  my front yard already has a well defined planting beds along w/ sprinkler irrigation....its just empty and devoid of anything interesting
-  lots of mulch
-  lots of herbs and flowers and veggies
-  I found materials to be about $360 w/o plants....wtf is with this proposed price?

Are you going to add mulch as necessary, plant the veggies next year, or hire it again? You can get some stuff outsourced and insource the parts you will have to do in the future. Part of your plan seemed to involve self sustaining options, its not self sustaining if you outsource everything.

bacchi

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2678
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2018, 09:50:06 AM »
Rainwater catchment $3285
-  doesn't count the actual cost of tank...I won that in a raffle.  I have a 1600gallon tank being made currently.
-  building the base
-  adjusting gutters
-  trenching pipe
-  connecting everything for drip lines for garden.

Ask what the cost is without the trenching.

Then rent a trencher from Big Box and do the trenching yourself. I had a plumber bid $1000 to trench a water line; it cost me $70, some bags of sand, and 6 hours of manual labor.

For the mulch, get a truckload dumped and spread it out. Your front yard can be done in a weekend with 2 people. Then go to a nursery and buy $500 of plants and plant them.


Quote
fence conversion $1450
-  i've got a side fence that I want to take down and replace w/ a shorter one w/ a gate to walk through.  It's maybe 15' total length.
-  I don't know fence prices, but this seems really high.

Use a recip saw on the top of the pickets?



Isn't it too late to be planting in your climate anyway? You might want to just plan on prepping everything for the fall, which gives you time to do some of these projects yourself.

crimwell

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 87
Re: landscaping, rainwater tanks: when to DIY, when to pay?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2018, 11:52:15 PM »
^^don't use a reciprocating saw to trim down fence pickets if you can help it! Unless you are cutting right next to the rails they will likely bounce around and you'll have a jagged line.

If you use a circular saw you'll get a nice smooth cut. It will still be  hard to cut all the way across  in a level, straight line unless you have previously marked it carefully, so you might consider just removing individual pickets, cutting to length, and then reinstall