Shangri La

Shangri La

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And We're Off!

The bids have been rolling in over the last 2 weeks. Here’s the score:

Land Clearing:

Way back in November, I got a land-clearing estimate of $3,500 to $5,000 per acre via phone, but didn’t actually meet anyone on-site until 2 Saturdays ago. Over the course of an afternoon, I met with 3 excavators and gained the following info:

  • 3 of the 40 – 60’ pine trees near the foundation should be pulled down or I’ll risk obliterating The Dream during a wind or ice storm. A 30’ pine fallen over the well site since the last visit was all the evidence I needed.

  • Most of the remaining trees were small (less than 8” in diameter, and would be pretty easy to clear.

  • The land is sloped at 15-20 degrees, and it will have to be cut back significantly to ensure the water drains away from the foundation.

  • The grading of the driveway will need to be continued to the well site so the drilling rig can get to it and level itself. The land can be returned to it’s original slope after drilling is done.

  • One of the contractors lived in the neighborhood, and he suggested a small culvert to channel water under the driveway where is meets the road. “There’s a lot of run off on this road during a storm.”

  • Another contractor noted that I might need a ‘cut approval’ from the down to join the driveway to the road. A quick check with the road commissioner confirmed that there was no such requirement in Shangri-La. This place is a libertarian paradise.

  • If the stumps can be buried on the property, it will be cheaper. As soon as they leave the property, they become garbage and must be disposed ‘appropriately’ – which will cost.

  • Final finishing of the driveway should wait until both the foundation and septic work is done, due to the size of the equipment that will be on the property. Until then , the drive can be surface with rough stone.

Estimates? Low of $2,000 from the neighbor, mid of $2,810, and high of $4,500 (from someone who obviously thinks that ‘from Connecticut’ means monied and stupid). All estimates included the crushed stone for the driveway.

The neighbor - who does excavating as a second business - got the job last Wednesday, and the land was cleared by Sunday. We’re heading back up next weekend to see the work and settle up.


I didn’t realize when I started this that excavating and foundation-pouring were separate activities, but apparently they are. The concrete guys I talked to all had excavators they work with. Consequently, I had no line item in the budget for excavating. Oops. The same guys bidding on the land clearing also bid on the excavating, and the scores were similar: $2,000 from the neighbor, a little more from the middle guy, and another $4,500 for the one who mistakes me for a [former] derivatives broker. All included trenches for the forms, preparation for the rat slab, installation of foundation drainage pipe, installation of pipe/conduit for power and septic (to 10’ beyond the foundation), and backfilling.

I’m planning on giving the job to the neighbor, but I’ll wait until I see his land clearing work next weekend.


The foundation is going to be a simple 16’ x 28’ crawlspace with a “rat slab”. The footings will be laid at 4’ below grade (to prevent frost-heave), and will be topped with 8” wide walls. There will be two vents and a 4’ access opening. All concrete will be rated at 3,000 lbs, and the work will take 3 days.

In this case, the low bid also came from my neighbor: $2,200. This from a contact of his in the neighboring town who does concrete work ‘on the side’. This sounded good until the next two estimates came in: $5,160 and $5,800. Some further research revealed the concrete cost alone to be about 2,100, never mind the rebar, bolts, oil for the forms, labor, and rat slab mesh. Suddenly the low guy was suspect, and I reverted to a piece of advice I’ve heard over and over again: Be cautious of the lowest and highest bids. Today I confirmed with the $5,160 guy, who also agreed to throw in the concrete for 7 frost-line piers for a deck, given that there will probably be more on the truck than he’ll actually need.

Total anticipated bill for land clearing and foundation: $9,160 – about $4,000 more than I budgeted for. Say it with me: Twice as expensive as you expected, and three times as long.

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