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Can a backhoe do all this?

Discussion in 'General Industry Questions' started by zeek89, Jan 19, 2020.

  1. zeek89

    zeek89 Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Ontario Canada
    Hey everyone. I just wanted to say thanks in advance for all of you who take the time to read this thread and offer your insights.

    ...Where to start? *takes deep breath*

    I'm a residential developer and builder. I've hired my brother to work with me next year. He is an experienced gradesman and he will be attending heavy equipment training over the winter (2 weeks in the seat for excavator & backhoe along with 1 week for dozer). He does have some limited experience operating backhoes, excavators and track loaders. His background is large scale civil construction (highways, dams, overpasses).

    I've always subbed out my excavation and site works (completely hands off - price for the job complete) but intend to do the bulk of it in house now. When I say site works, I mean:

    - driveways & culverts
    - foundation excavation
    - sewer/water trenching
    - backfilling
    - utility trenching
    - rough grading
    - top soil/final grade

    For 2020, this involves site works for two semi-detached dwellings located beside each other. In addition to this, we will be installing a private road (230ft) at another site along with utilities, sewer/water and a catch basin. This road will be for 12 new condo units (6 row houses on each side of the road) with construction of the first 6 starting in 2021. The focus of this thread has to do with the construction of the two semi-detached dwellings. I mention the condo project to help clarify the scope of work we will have in the near future. I should also mention that I own all of these units and will be keeping them as long term rentals. The backhoes secondary use would be snow removal. The condo lot already has 12 driveways and a 230ft road. Once complete there will be a 460ft street with 24 driveways to do on that site alone.

    Okay, back to the semi-detached dwellings.

    I've uploaded 3 photos showing the site along with an edited site plan (HESP.jpg) showing both buildings side by side.

    I've got two game plans in mind and would love to hear your thoughts.

    Plan A

    Hire operator and machine on an hourly basis. My brother will do all layout, grading, hand raking while the operator digs. We would hire a backhoe and operator for the remaining 2 driveways & culverts and a shovel and operator to dig both foundations and trench the sewer/water. Once the foundation forms are removed and concrete cured, we'd get the shovel and operator back to backfill (native soil outside foundation & probably around 200 tonnes of granular A inside foundation and for underside of exterior porch/patios). For utility trenching, rough grading and spreading of topsoil/final grade, we'd get the backhoe and operator back or rent a mini ex & track loader.

    Hourly rate for a backhoe and operator in our area = $85-95
    Hourly rate for excavator (20-25 tonne) and operator = $130-140

    Initially I thought this was the best gameplan as my brother could watch the operators and learn the specifics relating to residential construction. It would also be less for us to manage (we don't have to worry about the equipment or operating them).

    Plan B

    Rent / Lease to own / Purchase a backhoe

    My brother would essentially do everything listed above in Gameplan A with our backhoe. Yes, it would go slower excavating the basements vs using an excavator but we would also not have to deal with booking guys and their equipment, dealing with floats, no-shows, etc. I also like the idea of keeping him in the seat and letting him gain more experience, especially since he will be fresh out of his training course. Once backfill is complete and the framers take over, we can use the backhoe at the condo project site. My plumbing sub is also always looking for trenching work to be completed on their other jobs. All sites are a short drive from each other as well as the shop. We'd put a snow pusher on it in the winter and use it for snow clearing.

    I'm now strongly leaning towards Plan B. But I want to make sure a backhoe is capable of doing the scope of work I described above for the semis. The excavation for the footings & stem wall are only 4'6" below grade. We scrape the topsoil off the top down to undisturbed soil inside the foundation and backfill with compacted granular A. Looking at the pictures I've attached and the site plan, is it reasonable to use a backhoe for this? If yes, what would be the workflow you would recommend to get the foundation trenches dug? The picture of the foundation trench dug is from last years semi which is the same footprint and directly south of the two new semis going up.

    Does Plan B make sense or do I just want a new toy?

    If you made it this far, I owe you a steak dinner and all the beer you can drink.


    Cheers

    HEP1.jpg
    HEP2.jpg HEP3.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
  2. AzIron

    AzIron Senior Member

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    Go read my thread a recent job most of it is backhoe work if your curious about backhoe capabilities

    Some guys will tell you a backhoe is ok at everything while it's not great for anything I disagree you can do anything in its category well when handed correctly but that takes hours lots of hours like 100s of hours to be great

    So digging your footings is totally within a backhoe wheel house basements ate not terrible if they are under 10 feet deep if they are over 12 feet it gets painful to dig but possible

    In reality I have seen some custom builders do this and its hurt them more than it helps them it takes there focus off of other things like actually running the job and there lack of knowledge of dirt moving costs them more in material handling but mainly time is the killer

    If your under 6 properties a year that's a lot of money tied up in a machine that wont be busy if your planning on hired work to offset costs you guys better learn fast

    Dont let me discourage you but most guys are backhoe operators just ask them you will not do this anywhere as easily as you think take that from a guy that started when he couldn't reach pedals
     
  3. skata

    skata Senior Member

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    midwest
    Looks like you're not digging deep at all for your foundation. A backhoe is just too big and awkward when it comes time to backfill and spread fill and whatnot. You'd be better off with a compact track loader and a mini excavator.
     
  4. Welder Dave

    Welder Dave Senior Member

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    If you want to do rough grading and even final grading a skid steer or CTL is the way to go. I agree a mini/midi excavator and skid steer/CTL would be a better combination. 360 deg. swing is a huge advantage as you can put the material behind you.
     
    Buckethead likes this.
  5. zeek89

    zeek89 Member

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    Thanks for your response AzIron. I checked out your thread ‘a recent job’. Very cool. Looks like some very tough digging and lots of slope where you’re located.

    I’d love to hear how you’d tackle the siteworks for the two semis using only a backhoe. I’ve got a few ideas in mind but nowhere near the experience you’ve got. The part that’s giving me a hard time would be the two foundation trenches that will be beside each other (North wall for 1 semi and south wall for the other). Finished wall will be 4ft from property line so there will be 8ft between buildings (I tried to demonstrate this in the attached pictures). But the trenches will be even wider leaving probably a 4ft strip of soil in between both until backfill.


    I hear you guys, I would love that setup. But AzIron touched on it. We don’t do enough earthworks in a year currently to justify 2 machines (while only having 1 new operator), a float trailer and possibly a bigger truck. Not to mention having them sit in the shop over the winter. I’m still debating if 1 machine is worth investing which won’t require a trailer, bigger truck and can also be used for our snow removal applications in the winter.

    Curious how you guys would handle the earthworks for the above semis as well if you were stuck with just a backhoe? If you could then do the same job with a CTR and shovel (assuming you still only have 1 operator), how much faster could you get it done?

    Thanks guys!

    cheers
     
  6. AzIron

    AzIron Senior Member

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    On a 4000 square foot lot or smaller wit a backhoe for grading your going to do a lot of the actual finish grading with the hoe not the loader a ctl would beat the pants off a backhoe for that

    Bigger lots open different challenges backhoes were not designed to finish grade (plus or minus a 10th of a foot from subgrade) they are capable of doing it but the amount of time required puts them at a disadvantage I dont own a ctl and when I learned to do all this I never heard of a ctl so I used what I had and it has taken lots of practice and I am still learning little tricks

    Around here we wont use Ctl most guys use a deere 210 Gannon tractor I think deere calls them tractor loaders

    It sounds like your a home builder and your goal is to become an excavating contractor it could really put the strain on your current business to support your hobby business.

    Just my 2 cents
     
  7. zeek89

    zeek89 Member

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    I don’t think you’ve got that quite right. The fault lies with me though, I should have been more specific in my OP. With that said, I’m not so much looking for general business advice (although I appreciate any and all advice you guys are willing to share).

    I’m more specifically looking for advice on does it make sense to try and tackle the two semi projects I’ve got this spring with a backhoe and if so, how would you guys go about doing that?

    I included the additional context and details of future works we’ve got coming up to help explain why it’s a backhoe I’m considering. It’s really the only machine I could use year around.

    I know an excavator and CTL would be better suited, but for the reasons I’ve listed above, it wouldn’t make sense for us to invest in those machines at this time.

    Thanks again for your response AzIron.

    If/when you’ve got the time, I’d love to hear how you (or anyone) would tackle the earthworks for the two semis. Mainly the foundation digs and backfill of stone inside the buildings. I do have a smaller Kubota TLB that I can use for finish grading / spreading of top soil in the yard. Potentially even lift or ramp it into the building (approx 50x40 ft) to spread the crushed stone that’s stockpiled in there by the full size backhoe.

    Appreciate you guys!

    Cheers
     
  8. Tinkerer

    Tinkerer Senior Member

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    Just my 02 cents.
    Why leave a 4 foot strip between the two excavations ?
    I could remove the entire area and have it on grade with a 953 track loader in an hour. No track loader ? Use the excavator and a truck. If time is not a problem use just the excavator and track each bucket out of the concrete trucks way.
    With those tight quarters a concrete pump or belt placer would be the way to go.
     
  9. NepeanGC

    NepeanGC Well-Known Member

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    I wouldnt waste my time trying to use a backhoe for that. A mini and CTL would be a much more productive in that scenario, and could be used for final grading and finishing.

    If you're near Ottawa though, you should probably just hire me to make your headache go away ;)
     
  10. zeek89

    zeek89 Member

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    What size mini-ex do you think could handle that excavation job?

    No love for the ol’ backhoes lol.
     
  11. AzIron

    AzIron Senior Member

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    I would agree with the above statement about just dig them both together an operator should be capable to leave a 4 foot wide strip between both footings if not dip out the 4ft wide strip to grade and form up that side of the footing then backfill if your filling the inside with stone I would see what it cost to shoot it in

    A company here local has a bunch of stone shooters they have some that you can dump a super 16 into directly they can place 30 to 40 tons an hour with that setup no extra machine required and they can shoot it in to grade

    Inside a house gets tight wit a backhoe when they get smaller than 1300 sq feet I dont use a backhoe it's to tight a 2000 sq foot house tho I can backfill inside the stem walls and compact to sub grade with about 200 to 230 yards of dirt in 8hrs by myself

    As far as your site grading goes if you cant figure out how to do that with a machine dont even go down this road cause that's the most basic part of the job your trying to tackle maybe it might be the largest volume of work on the job but it's the most basic and least skill dependent.

    If your having a hard time finding subs you can count on to do this you might just need to look harder they exist in every market but they are a well kept secret a lot of home builders wont pass my number out cause they want me on there job not the neighbors
     
  12. John Canfield

    John Canfield Senior Member

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    Rent a 6,000 to 8,000 pound mini-ex and have your brother run it for a week or so in a play area, you can evaluate if it will work for your requirements. A CTL and a mini-ex covers all of the bases as others have recommended. You can also do long term leases in lieu of purchase. In the winter use the CTL for snow removal to keep it busy.
     
  13. NepeanGC

    NepeanGC Well-Known Member

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    Agreed - a 3-4 ton mini will do this easily. CTL will easily do a 500ft rd and a few driveways for winter maintenance.
     
  14. zeek89

    zeek89 Member

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    Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I hear you all loud and clear. Don’t bother with a backhoe and consider a mini ex / CTL combo instead.

    Cheers