Site Prep Considerations

By Greg Sitek | September 28, 2010

Site prep is one of the most common construction activities and has the greatest number of definitions.

What is it? Really?

Site prep is getting a job site ready, any job site, for the actual construction activity that will ultimately be put in place on the site. This can be for a new building, factory, school, warehouse, or any other type of structure. It could be a new road, a bridge, marina, or anything you can imagine.

The "getting ready" process is often the most challenging aspect of a construction project. This is the phase of the project that is all too often taken for granted. At the pre-bid stage you need to know and understand what you're going to be up against and factor the costs to accomplish these tasks into the bid.

Always look for the most effective and efficient way of getting the job site ready. Make certain you are using the right pieces of equipment or machine combinations to get you through this phase of the process as economically as possible. Don't make do. If in your analysis of what equipment or combinations thereof would deliver the best results you find that you don't own them, make arrangements to rent what you will need.

Surprisingly, rental costs, on a national average, have not increased as dramatically as have other construction-related costs. Let's take a look at the current rental rates on a couple of pieces of equipment commonly rented for site prep jobs. For example, according to RSMeans, the weekly rental for a 300-horsepower tractor dozer will be around $4,000, up 3.75 percent over 2006. The average weekly rental has increased only 9.625 percent since 2003. When you compare this to other construction material and supply costs it's on the low side, especially if you compared it to fuel costs.

As another example, let's look at 150-horsepower log skidders. Quite often site prep work will entail land clearing and tree removal. If there are a large number of trees on the property renting a log skidder could be a smart move. Handling long, heavy awkward trees is a lot easier, especially on operators and equipment, with a log skidder than other machines you might try to use.

Again, according to RSMeans, the national average weekly rental rate for the log skidder is around $2,500 per week. It is only 1.2-percent higher than last year's national average rate and compared to 2003, only 10.4-percent higher.

Since we're looking at site prep job that includes cleaning, grubbing and stump removal, let's consider the national average per-acre O & P cost, with crew to do this in today's dollars — $5,225 per acre. The cost has risen 1.9 percent when compared to 2006 and 6.22 percent compared to 2003.

The right size dozer, a log skidder, a chipper shredder, and tub grinders along with other similar pieces of equipment are viable rental portions for a large number of site prep jobs.

Match the equipment to the job. In today's world of high fuel costs bigger may not be better. It could end up being a bigger bite of the profits.