Author Topic: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil  (Read 714 times)

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« on: September 20, 2022, 01:52:01 PM »
Hi all,

I'm trying to think through DIY options for turf removal and possibly removing soil. The grass in the back and front I think may be bermuda or crab grass and I just want to rip it out. Right now the level of the grass is actually higher than the cement. So I'd need to probably remove anywhere from 2-3" to 4-6" in places. My intention is to replace and fill with DG and mulch (where I'd plant in the mulch areas). I guess I could also cut and excavate out only the areas where we plan or want to have the DG too. Anyway, the soil is clay so it's VERY difficult to work with and a mess when it gets wet. Digging seems way too tedious and I'm wondering how effective a sod cutter would be in our case. I've gotten quotes from several contractors who do demo/excavation and they are all talking about bringing in a mini excavator to do the work. We would also more than likely need to redo our drainage and some irrigation lines as well. If there's a fairly easy way to deal with the turf removal and some excavation though, I'm all ears. I also wouldn't know where to dump the excess soil either - it seems like that's a large portion of the expense when it comes to having it hauled away and disposed of by a contractor.

lthenderson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2112
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2022, 03:06:07 AM »
I don't think there is any shortcuts except having a strong back and extra time or the proper equipment. If I were in your shoes and had your house in an urban area, I would just pay a contractor who specialized in that sort of thing and can haul in our haul out any soil as needed along with the removed sod. Assuming DG stands for decomposed granite, the only thing google could suggest, you would need someone to haul that in and spread it too unless you have the previously mentioned strong back and lots of extra time.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2022, 08:55:47 AM »
I don't think there is any shortcuts except having a strong back and extra time or the proper equipment. If I were in your shoes and had your house in an urban area, I would just pay a contractor who specialized in that sort of thing and can haul in our haul out any soil as needed along with the removed sod. Assuming DG stands for decomposed granite, the only thing google could suggest, you would need someone to haul that in and spread it too unless you have the previously mentioned strong back and lots of extra time.

I was just thinking more about this and am wondering if it would be worth it to rent one of those large dumpsters that sits in the driveway. Then just hire help for a day or two to remove the dirt/sod and load that thing up. I'm just not sure how many landscapers or demo/excavation companies would be willing to help with a smaller scale project like that where literally all they're doing is the digging labor. For the turf removal rebate, I also need to have invoices/receipts in order to get reimbursed so I can't just hire gardeners/landscapers and pay them cash etc at least if I want to get reimbursed.

One thing I forgot to mention too is that there are palm tree roots that have spread across the front lawn area so I think we'll have to deal with removing those too. We also had several ficus trees removed nad so there are roots from those even deeper down. It's a bad combination. And I think it's going to ultimately cost us a lot of $$$ to remediate.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2022, 09:27:14 AM by jeromedawg »

Sibley

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6529
  • Location: Northwest Indiana
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2022, 09:33:19 AM »
This is one of those things where you quickly go from "I'll save money doing it myself" to "I should have spent the money to have someone else do it".

affordablehousing

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 761
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2022, 09:54:42 AM »
Yeah, dirt removal in california is a FORTUNE! No way around it. A dirt and rock bin is now getting up to $1000 for 5 yards from some rental companies. No one wants clay soil, and you definitely want heavy machinery to do the work, especially for a front yard with good access. A sod cutter only works when you are removing, just the sod. Go into the project assuming you are looking at $25K or so and you may be pleased if you can save some money.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2022, 10:30:31 AM »
Yeah, dirt removal in california is a FORTUNE! No way around it. A dirt and rock bin is now getting up to $1000 for 5 yards from some rental companies. No one wants clay soil, and you definitely want heavy machinery to do the work, especially for a front yard with good access. A sod cutter only works when you are removing, just the sod. Go into the project assuming you are looking at $25K or so and you may be pleased if you can save some money.

The quotes I've gotten thus far come nowhere close to $25k. It's more like $2300-$3000 for the sod and dirt removal. This may go up a bit more if we plan to remove a lot more dirt but we're not digging a giant hole here. But yes, clay is such a PITA to deal with...

This is one of those things where you quickly go from "I'll save money doing it myself" to "I should have spent the money to have someone else do it".

Yea, I'm getting that idea just from everything we have going on. It's a mess in our yard right now. I'm just trying to figure out what we want to take care of and have the budget for currently. We already went through a huge trenching and electrical panel update and will be getting solar up on the roof soon. Also have a new HVAC system coming in probably next year. The yard work may just have to wait...
« Last Edit: September 21, 2022, 10:45:50 AM by jeromedawg »

SunnyDays

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2906
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2022, 10:49:51 AM »
I have clay soil here too and I've removed small sections of lawn for garden beds.  No way would I DIY large areas.  Clay weighs a ton, and makes a horrible mess if it ends up getting anywhere you don't want it to be.  Stripping the sod only is not going to be sufficient in your case.  If you can get it done for only a few grand, consider yourself fortunate and save yourself LOTS of time and back-break.  This house has caused you enough grief already - don't look for more.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2022, 11:30:31 AM »
I have clay soil here too and I've removed small sections of lawn for garden beds.  No way would I DIY large areas.  Clay weighs a ton, and makes a horrible mess if it ends up getting anywhere you don't want it to be.  Stripping the sod only is not going to be sufficient in your case.  If you can get it done for only a few grand, consider yourself fortunate and save yourself LOTS of time and back-break.  This house has caused you enough grief already - don't look for more.

Yea haha. All I can say is that there's definitely more grief to be had (money wise).

affordablehousing

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 761
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2022, 12:04:00 PM »
Sounds like you already got a super cheap quote. Just go with it. I don't totally know why you ask the forum about this- it seems to me in general that you already have an ability to find very inexpensive quotes on jobs, you just have to trust in yourself, go for it, and get the work done.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2022, 03:39:07 PM »
Sounds like you already got a super cheap quote. Just go with it. I don't totally know why you ask the forum about this- it seems to me in general that you already have an ability to find very inexpensive quotes on jobs, you just have to trust in yourself, go for it, and get the work done.

I'm not sure if this is considered "inexpensive" or not but either way it starts adding up quickly along with all the other work that's going on. A thousand here, a thousand there, quickly becomes tens of thousands. Perhaps not a big deal to others out there... BTW: this is a DIY forum, why wouldn't I ask?
« Last Edit: September 21, 2022, 04:03:55 PM by jeromedawg »

lthenderson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2112
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2022, 09:00:41 AM »
We already went through a huge trenching and electrical panel update

What did you end up doing on that project? Were they able to trench under the driveway, tear it up or did you move the panel?

E.T.

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 394
  • Age: 34
  • Location: U.S.A.
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2022, 02:01:31 PM »
I removed a patch of turf and heavy clay soil from my tiny front lawn (approx 15'x7') and it was a lot of work but doable as a diy. This is the basic method I used: https://www.finegardening.com/article/double-digging

I actually used all the turf grass and put it root side up as one of my layers before adding compost on top. The turf squares provided easy drainage / free organic material. Just make sure you don't go from a layer that's 100% clay to one that's 100% organic materials or the plants won't root as deeply and you may end up with a weird little mud pond. My layers probably look like 100% clay and rocks, then 50% clay, then 20% clay, with 100% compost on top which I use instead of typical wood mulch. I use leaf compost because it's cheap by me but you could probably find free compost at your local waste facility.

We got rid of many many buckets of clay and rocks but we were lucky in that our neighborhood was an active construction site and we got a nod that we could add to their dirt removal pile. Just be very careful not to work the clay when it's wet or let anyone step on it after you do all that work, clay is so easy to compact again. Once you have plants growing deep roots that won't be a big issue anymore.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2022, 02:13:17 PM »
We already went through a huge trenching and electrical panel update

What did you end up doing on that project? Were they able to trench under the driveway, tear it up or did you move the panel?

Unfortunately, boring a hole under would have likely been an even more intensive and expensive task after adding things up. We opted to have a 3' wide strip of concrete removed from the driveway - the rest of the trench was roughly the same width as well. They encountered tree roots from the large palm trees in front as well as the roots from an old ficus and carrotwood (on each side of the driveway) which added to the cost of everything. It ended up costing us just under $8000 due to how extensive the root systems were that they had to deal with. The original quote for this work was just over $4k lol. We had to live with this open trench for probably over 2 months before the cutover occurred. We're on the new panel now though, and sometime within the next week or so we should be doing the final inspection. The solar panels are going up on 10/3 after.

For the panel, we had it located in the alley/other side of the wall which is the backside of the closet and as a surface mount - this way all they had to do was drill some holes and fish the branches back through to the new panel. I suppose we could have had it flush mounted or whatever but that would have just increased the costs too. The only other thing that's back there is the HVAC unit and nobody ever really goes back there anyway, so I figured the cosmetics weren't a priority.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2022, 02:15:08 PM by jeromedawg »

lthenderson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2112
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2022, 02:49:43 PM »
Thanks for the update. You've really done a lot of work on that house going on all the posts over the last year or so.

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2022, 02:55:09 PM »
Thanks for the update. You've really done a lot of work on that house going on all the posts over the last year or so.

It feels like a whirlwind. And the bank accounts have been slowly shrinking, so we may need to try to opt for a 'recharge' period before pouring more work in. It just feels like we're slowly hemorrhaging money with all these various repairs. This is why I have been also trying to see what is viable to DIY. Unfortunately, it seems like for a majority of the work needed is not a straightforward (or recommended) DIY

The only thing I've DIYed at this point is some drywall repairs, and even with those it has taken a long time. I'm thinking drainage and DIYing some of the decomposed granite might be other things I could possibly DIY as well.

HipGnosis

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1746
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2022, 12:00:54 PM »
It's not clear where you on this decision, but...
You can rent a gas-powered sod cutter.
You can use it to cut a layer of dirt (after the sod is cut and removed) and they have (easy) adjustment of the depth of the cut (thinner cuts will be lighter to move).

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4982
  • Age: 2017
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2022, 04:55:01 PM »
It's not clear where you on this decision, but...
You can rent a gas-powered sod cutter.
You can use it to cut a layer of dirt (after the sod is cut and removed) and they have (easy) adjustment of the depth of the cut (thinner cuts will be lighter to move).

I'm getting quotes on it. For our front area, we will likely just need to have an excavation company come into remove the dirt, sod and roots. For the backyard, most of the grass is dead. The last contractor who quoted said it's St Augustine. I think there might be some Bermuda and or crab grass mixed in. Everything is DRY DRY DRY. The soil is heavily clay too. Are there any considerations before using a sod cutter in this context? Should I be watering the lawn for a period of time so that it's not so dried out at least?

HipGnosis

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1746
Re: Dead grass/sod/turf removal and clay soil
« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2022, 12:50:05 PM »
Everything is DRY DRY DRY. The soil is heavily clay too. Are there any considerations before using a sod cutter in this context? Should I be watering the lawn for a period of time so that it's not so dried out at least?
Normal practice is to water two - three days before cutting sod (unless it's raining).   If you're going to cut some dirt after removing the sod, water a little 3-4 days before and then a bit more than usual two - three days before.

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!