it ain't no trick to get rich quick if you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
March 17, 2012 7:42 AM Subscribe
Backyard drainage/flooding issues: please help me choose an excavating contractor and get the job done right.
posted by headnsouth to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
My backyard is a swamp! It's all settled over the decades and water doesn't run off into my neighbor's yard (and through there into the city sewer) the way it was originally designed to. Neighbor and I are at the low point in our immediate area. We get about 3 weeks in July when we can walk across the backyard to the garage without workboots. It's great for the loveliest willow tree ever (my backyard) and a half-dozen happy chickens (his backyard) but not so great for dogs and kids and people who want to use the yard without needing to be hosed down afterward.
So I'm getting estimates from excavators. This is not your typical home improvement job so I have no idea what I am looking for, what I am asking for, what it should cost, and how I will know it was done right. Everyone has a plumber to recommend, but there's little word-of-mouth for residential excavating work. I'm looking at the yellow pages and craigslist.
First guy comes, looks around, and says "yeah I can bring in a truckload of dirt and build your yard up." Not inspiring confidence. A week later he drops off a hand-drawn sketch on the back of an envelope with the word "estimat" on top, wants $2,500 to run french drains from one side of the yard through the neighbor's yard to the ditch.
Second guy came last night, said I need a "dry sump" ~15-ft. deep plus a few french drains from the edges of the yard that route into the pit, is putting together 2 estimates, 1 for me alone and 1 to share with the neighbor if he wants to extend the pit into his yard to help with his drainage issues as well. His off-the-cuff estimate was $3,500 depending on the cost of gravel on the day of the job. Labor=1 day to dig/fill, 1 day to fill low spots around the yard using the dirt from the dig.
This is a lot of money. And like I said, I have no idea how even to evaluate the estimates or the quality of the work. Second guy sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but then he also wanted to know who else I was seeking bids from and proceeded to tell me not to hire guy x and guy y because they'll give me lowball bids and then bury me with add-ons outside the contract ("oh we didn't expect tree roots" or "gas prices went up" or whatever). So I've got that added scare (what good is a contract if they can change it?) but also it's a red flag to me when someone puts down a competitor in order to build himself up. I get that contractors do it all the time but it makes me question their integrity.
So if you are in the business, or if you have had this kind of work done, what should I be looking for/asking for/paying? What should I be looking out for/wary of?
I'm in Roanoke VA, property is less than 1/4 acre and it's only the backyard, the area has some limestone but there's no expectation of them hitting bedrock or anything like that, 1 overhead power line to clear but otherwise nothing above or below to worry about (but we'll have Miss Utility out to mark lines). Guy2 said we wouldn't need a city permit due to the property size.