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Monday, August 24, 2015

The Yardwork Excavation Contractor Blues


I spoke to the excavation contractor early today.  I'd been patient.  They (Della & Son) said on August 14 that they would be out to do the work "next week" (Aug 17-21) with a day's notice "because some jobs go way faster than others and some way slower, and to keep the crews busy they have to juggle the schedule".  OK.  Well, it isn't exactly urgent, like plumbing or roof repair work.

But when I didn't hear from them all last week, I called.  It seems they are no longer interested in doing my work.  They are "busy".  Good for them.  I suggested keeping me on their list, but they said they probably wouldn't get aroubd to my little job this year.

Stunned silence on my part...

I asked if they had decided their job estimate was too low; they said it wasn't, they just weren't going to be able to schedule the job.  And didn't want to keep my job on their list.  So, like "goodbye, and don't call us again".

Wow!  I was disappointed that they wouldn't do the work, but worse, it left me kind of out of options.  There are 2 kinds of businesses who do yard grading work.  One is excavators, the other is landscapers.  And all the others of both types had not been very interested. 

Excavators want to move around a lot more soil in open areas.  Landscapers are more used to residential grading, but their main thing is to plant the new area.  My job doesn't quite fit either.

The Della & Son proposal was perfect.  They would scrape off the plants (English Ivy, Poison Ivy, vines, and 3' tree saplings) from the surface of the ridge and dispose of the material.  Then depending on the quality of soil beneath that, they would either move it to the sunken front lawn, or haul it away as "fill dirt" (used to fill up ravines or to level under parking lots, etc).  If required, they would bring in topsoil to raise the front lawn above the height of the drainage easement.

No one else I talked to was willing to do that.  I was so pleased, I accepted their proposal on the spot, and we shook hands on it.  I am considering trying to shame them into doing the work anyway.

But I found another residential excavator today (Cornerstone Excavations).  His ratings are "A" in all categories and no one who wrote a review has been displeased.  Unfortunately, I am on the far edge of where he will travel to for work.  He won't travel to provide a firm quote.  He won't do the entire job (the spreading of soil on the sunken lawn isn't stuff he does).  But he does have the light equipment sufficient to scrape the ridge level and dispose of the unusable ivy and saplings without tearing the entire backyard up and he does the work himself.

The Della & Son proposal for the whole job was $3500.  While Cornerstone can't give me a firm price ahead of time, he estimates $1000 to scrape the ridge and $350 per truckload (estimate 2 truckloads) to dispose of the material.  He said I would get a much better deal having the topsoil to raise the sunken lawn done locally, and I think he is right.

Hoping that his estimate of $1700 doesn't suddenly become $3000 when it is done, I've agreed to send him pictures of the worksite and schedule the work.

Now, back to "shaming" Della & Son...  They gave me a written proposal and I accepted it, pending only a one-day notice for them to show up.  And they backed out.  I got their name off Angie's List (an independent contractor rating site).  Contractors care about their ratings there.  Della & Son have a straight "A" rating (price, quality, professionalism, punctuality, etc).  I'm going to give them a negative review.  Contractors often respond to reviews there.  I would still like them to do the whole project, because they had seen the work to be done onsite, described the work to be done perfectly, and given a firm quote.

We'll see what happens...


Emily Smith said...

Dang, it is a bummer that you haven't been able to have a business come out and take care of your yard yet. My husband and I are in a similar situation. We want to get some yard work done but what we want done is more of a job for an excavation service. Hopefully we can find a company to help us out soon!

Megan said...

I'll be interested to hear what response - if any - you get to your review.

Sydney, Australia