Win a copy of Straw Bale Building Details this week in the Straw Bale House forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Mike Barkley
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
  • Pearl Sutton

Bulldozers... ponds... etc  RSS feed

 
Posts: 57
Location: nemo, 5a/b
14
building fungi kids cooking trees foraging
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi everyone,
My neighbors are getting quotes for a pond that seem kinda outrageous, especially compared to what we paid for our pond about 6 years ago. This got us thinking why don't we just rent, or possibly even purchase our own bulldozer and figure it out?

Does anyone have experience operating dozers or have any feedback or ideas about this?

Thanks,
-WY
 
pollinator
Posts: 2200
333
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The operational part could be figured out if you bought one. Rental might exceed what you think as you learn your way through it and take longer than you think. As its dug, clay patches are separated from dirt, then built up where needed for dam. It's not just about digging a hole(unless its all clay)

I would add a different perspective though. A bulldozer operator may not be a pond builder. Unless you know your soil will hold water,  the high bid may be the best option. Especially if you can get a guarantee. Fixing a pond that doesn't hold water can be a bigger mess and expense than the original dig.
 
pollinator
Posts: 782
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
169
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am a certified heavy equipment operator.

I doubt you will find a dozer rental. Most places wont rent them as they tend to need too much knowledge and skill to operate and in experienced operators can damage a dozer very easily. Most places wont even rent a skid steer with a dozer blade. Blade work tends to have a high probability of damage by inexperienced users.

Now your neighbor could opt for buying a used dozer and then selling it back off after you finished. Just remember shipping costs, since most dozers weigh over typical truck tow limits you will need to get a professional to transport it. That can add a $1000 or so to a purchase price if you have a long distance to haul it to get to you.

For a pond you might suggest an excavator to your neighbor, which is typically rentable. A decent sized excavator will be able to dig out a pond pretty quickly, and is actually better suited to digging a deep hole.  Only draw back is then moving the dirt dug out if it needs to be placed any distance from the potential pond site. You might have an option for a backhoe front loader rental (though not every area rents these), and that would be the best option. As it would allow the pond hole to be dug and have a bucket to move the dirt away from the site to where wanted. A backhoe front loader might take a little longer to dig the pond but makes up for it with the ability to move the dirt displaced.

Hope this helps.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3006
592
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mike Patterson wrote:Hi everyone,
My neighbors are getting quotes for a pond that seem kinda outrageous, especially compared to what we paid for our pond about 6 years ago. This got us thinking why don't we just rent, or possibly even purchase our own bulldozer and figure it out?

Does anyone have experience operating dozers or have any feedback or ideas about this?

Thanks,
-WY



I would discourage you from buying a bulldozer, only because they are very expensive to maintain, and they can be even more expensive if you buy a cheap one. There is a saying in the bulldozer world, "There is no such thing as a cheap bulldozer", and for good reason. Once you buy a bulldozer that has poor tracks, and you try to put one on, you will understand what I mean...best to rent.

You are right in that a rental makes sense for your situation, but keep in mind two criteria have to be met on a rental unit; hours and time period. Often times a person renting will run out of days long before they run out of hours. By that i mean, say you rent a bulldozer for a week. That is 7 days, of which you can use 40 hours. It would seem (4) 10 hour days would be easy to burn up, but that is not always so. Between rain days, figuring, looking, deciding, etc, 10 hours of engine time on a machine is a lot of time. More than likely that means the week will be up before you run out of actual hours. Of course you can keep renting, but it might eat into your pond budget. But if you can pound out the hours on a rental machine, they are actually a cheap way to get things done.

Another thing to consider is insurance. My rental place does not require rental insurance, but some might. You are not responsible for breakdowns, but you are for mishaps and abuse.

Transportation. Depending on the machine there will be a transport fee to your pond location. On small bulldozers like a John Deere 450 or so, mine charges only $85 an hour, but for the bigger bulldozers like the John Deere 850, they charge $120 an hour. Considering they must come out and back to drop it off, then out and back to pick it up, transportation costs can be more than predicted.

Fuel. Bulldozers are backwards than most equipment in that they have decelerator pedals and thus run wide open on the throttle all day. For a John Deere 450 they might only burn 30 gallons of fuel a day, but a John Deere 850 will consum nearly 100 gallons. At $3 a gallon even for off-road diesel, fuel costs must be accounted for.

Nothing works in the mud, so watch for good weather. If given the chance, rent a dozer with cabs and not canopy's as you can work in light rain. Unfortunately availability can be tough. I waited a month once for a John Deere 700 that was tied up on another jobsite. By the time I got it, my landclearing job was in December, and I live in Maine.

Finally, rent the biggest bulldozer you can get. A John Deere 450 might only cost $450 a day, but the silly thing will only push 1 cubic yard of material. A John Deere 850 will cost $800 a day to rent, but that brute can push 6 cubic yards. So while you are doing the 6 times the work, you are not paying 6 times more in rental costs. And on that same theme beware of model numbers. I rented a John Deere 700 one time, a modle number below the 850, but it was junk. It could only push 3 cubic yards instead of 6 like my John Deere 850, and had only 110 hp instead of 185 hp. So it was a size smaller, but could barely do any work.


 
pollinator
Posts: 797
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
136
bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur hunting
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travis and Devin,

Maybe you can weigh in on this. I also am getting close to pond approval through all the various Departments of Making You Sad. Both are under 1/2 acre (one more like 1/4 acre), relatively flat with small inconstant watersheds. These are basically meant to be big water tanks for the herbivores (maybe 20 sheep, but I would love to have a fish population if I can get a good seal. Soil is about 30% nonexpansive clay down as far as I have dug, but the 4' auger can sometimes hit a sand layer. I was thinking of using a small excavator since I expect the clay needs to be carefully installed in the key, which is going to be long (shallow "valley" to work with) and I'm trying to get at least 8' depth so 10'H x 20' W key. The key is unfortunately going to be ~100' long. I don't think anyone really seals the bottom around here, clay works in from the sides, but I honestly think most people here who install them don't really understand sealing anyhow. I would rather do it right, so I am reading all the articles on here.    

For a pond that small would a small excavator be preferable to better sequester clay in a nice pile and get a good seal, or a bulldozer since the terrain is pretty flat with a long key? I have a neighbor with a backhoe I could probably hire, but I think that might take forever.

I know Travis is going to say bulldozer, he uses his to brush his teeth! I am assuming I would hire this out, I have many skills but heavy equipment is absolutely not on the list. Just trying to figure out best practice.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3006
592
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You NEED a bulldozer and here is why.

An excavator is a wonderful machine that is versatile, but lacks a wide blade and deep grousers. It is really great at moving material quickly from the center of the pond, down deep, and then back out to the sides. However, it does not do a great job of shaping the bottom of the ponds side slopes.

For this you really need a bulldozer. It has a wide blade, with deep grousers and a low center of gravity. With it you can push and smooth the bottom of the pond as you make the sides. This really seals the pond nicely and is not rough and pockmarked like an excavator will do. because of the low center of gravity, it is almost impossible to flop a bulldozer over so they can really form a nice sloping pond bottom and sides. Yet what is really needed from a bulldozer is its deep grousers. A bulldozer has 1 grouser per track pad, where as an excavator has 3 short ones. By traversing over the pond, these grousers help shift the rocks and stuff into place and compacts the soil much better than an excavator. By using the bulldozer to put in layers of soil called "lifts" you get a very stable, smooth and sealed pond.

Now in your case TJ, where you are having it done for you by a contractor, an excavator/bulldozer approach is best. One pulls the material out of the pond in the center, and the other shapes it. However in the case of Mike (the original poster) or anyone who rents their equipment and does it themselves, because of the cost of the machine and transportation to get the two machines to the pond site two machines are cost prohibitive. I mean one big machine is going to cost $500...two will cost $1000...just to get the machines to the site!!

The other aspect is running two machines at once. Ponds suck because if a person hits a spring (the equivalent of a pondgasm because that is every pond builders dream), or rains come while building it, the pond will start filling with water. It can often be a rush to get a pond dug, so using one machine, then another, is not feasible. They must be used in tandem. Now if Mike (or any other person renting machines has the budget for two rental units, AND has a buddy who can run the other machine, by all means this is okay. But a bulldozer is needed, so it is often better to just rent a bulldozer because it can do the job whereas the excavator cannot.

How can I say this with authority? I redug my own farm pond using an excavator and it was the worst thing I ever did to it. Ever since the pond cannot hold water, whereas years ago it did, but was constructed using a bulldozer.

On compaction I saw this as well. I was building a heavy haul road with my grandfather in really wet weather and the trucks kept getting stuck. I was using an excavator to flatten off the gravel and then packing it down with the excavator, but my Grandfather told me to use the bulldozer. "Flatten it off, then steer a lot, lock those rocks in like a jigsaw puzzle. I did not believe him, but did as he said because "he had been building roads since 1954". The very next truckload, he backed the truck right over the gravel I had spread. If I had not seen it, I would not have believed it either. Today, the sections of road built using an excavator are breaking up after 10 years time, but the roads he built here some 30 years ago are still holding up. Over time you just note trends.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 3006
592
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This was reply was originally for mulch, but I will put it here because it is VERY pertinent to what is being discussed.

Tim Kivi wrote:Luckily then that I dug out a lot of the heavy clay soil beforehand, and what's left is fluffed up already and a bit below ground level. When I initially dug up the soil the volume more than tripled, it had been so compacted!



All soil and rock does this, which is known as "bucket swell." Every type of material "fluffs up" or "swells" at different rates, so calculating this means knowing what is to be dug up.

This is well known in the mining and earth moving business. For instance I have a gravel pit that is 8 acres in area, and has an average depth of 32 feet. That is 407,000 cubic yards. BUT because gravel has a 25% bucket swell percentage, I will actually have 500,000 cubic yards of gravel to sell. That is an additional 100,000 cubic yards, but at $2 a cubic yard, this phenomenon really adds up.

For earthwork contractors, that must be accounted for because it costs a lot of money to move that much more material...and having to know where to move it too. Granite for instance has almost 95% bucket swell so it really must be accounted for.

In Permicultural Applications, this must be calculated in for digging ponds if a person wants to calculate in how long they should rent a particular machine for. Taking how many cubic yards of material the pond will remove from the earth INCLUDING bucket swell, basing it on average cycle times of the machine, and the machines capacity; a time frame can be calculated. So can fuel consumption and other averages for the machine. For instance a 34,000 pound excavator can move 3/4 of a cubic yard per bucketful, and move it from point A to point b in an average of 30 seconds. So in an hour it can move 90 cubic yards, or 900 cubic yards per day. So a 1/4 acre pond, 10 feet deep should take about 2 days of machine rental of a 32,000 pound excavator, figuring in a little time for final shaping.

This is backed by an actual experience two years ago. The 32,000 pound excavator dug out the bulk of the material in 2 days time for a 1/4 acre pond, with a second operator working the banks to perfection with a bulldozer. Total cost to make this pond was around $1100. The excavator was rented by the month (28 days) for $6500, or $232 per day, I was paid $12 an hour to run the machine, and fuel was around 50 gallons per day. This is why I say, equipment rental can make a lot of sense fiscally.
 
Mike Patterson
Posts: 57
Location: nemo, 5a/b
14
building fungi kids cooking trees foraging
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I really appreciate all the responses, and I'll take the time later to give a longer reply.

Just quickly... the pond we had dug back in 2012 was all done with a good sized dozer by a local operator and it took him 18.5 hours and cost us around $2800, including a frost free hydrant under the dam wall. The pond is just under 1/2 acre.

I believe our neighbor's pond will be larger.. maybe closer to 1 acre? And it has quite a bit more trees that would need to be removed. They are getting quotes from $6-12,000. I'm 99% that renting a dozer is indeed an option around here, we're in rural NE Missouri... pretty much anything goes around here.

Also, it is indeed heavy clay soil, so any sized hole quickly becomes a pond with no added inputs or effort.

Thanks again everyone!
-WY
 
The glass is neither half full or half empty. It is too big. But this tiny ad is just right:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
http://permaculture-design-course.com/
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!