This popular manual has been updated and improved to bring it more current with modern earthmoving and trenching equipment, refined excavation techniques, stricter safety rules, and improved materials. Here you'll find how to enter and succeed in the underground utility business. Includes hands-on instructions for operating the equipment and doing the trenching, pipe laying and connecting work and answers to what causes so many skilled equipment operators and pipelayers to fail when they try to start their own business.
Learn how to find the right kind of work, read and compute quantities from the plans, figure realistic crew and equipment productivity rates, consider job variables, calculate your O & P, then estimate and bid the job, and get the bonds you need. Also, how to deal with change orders and liquidated damages, choosing the right equipment, and handling safety issues.
When it comes to doing the actual work, you'll find the combined expertise of two long-time professionals, explaining how to follow and read the surveyor's reference stakes; how to check grade and line with an optical level, transit and pipe laser, and how to use GPS systems. See the best ways to clear the site, including asphalt and rock; handle rock, steep slopes and high groundwater; meet compaction requirements; install septic tanks and drain fields; all common types of water and sewer pipe, and how to do subsurface excavation.
This new edition includes detailed coverage of the various pipe, joints and fittings now available, and is filled with photos, diagrams, charts, checklists and examples to help you build a career as a successful pipeline contractor.
Write Your Own Review
Pipe & Excavation Contracting
by Dave Roberts, revised by Dan Atcheson
1 ESTIMATING, BIDDING, BONDING, 5
- Starting at the Beginning, 5
- Nature of the Business, 8
- The Design Engineer, 9
- Knowing Your Costs, 13
- Watching Your Profit, 27
- The Estimate, 30
- Preparing & Submitting Your Bid, 36
- Controlling Costs, 42
- Getting Bonds, 44
- Contract Pitfalls to Avoid, 47
- Prequalifying for Bonds, 52
2 CREW & EQUIPMENT PRODUCTIVITY, 59
- Trench Excavation Quantities (Volume), 60
- Equipment Performance, 64
- An In-Depth Review, 69
- Comparing Crew and Equipment Costs, 95
3 READING PLANS & SURVEYING, 105
- Reading Plans, 106
- Surveying, 110
- Lasers, 121
4 SITE PREPARATION, 129
- Clearing Grass and Brush, 129
- Clearing Trees, 130
- Site Preparation and Material Layout, 137
5 OPERATING A BACKHOE, 141
- How Wheeled Backhoes and Trackhoes (Excavators) Work, 142
- Calculating Backhoe Production Rates, 146
- The Wheeled Backhoe, 149
- Working Around Crosslines, 151
- Hard Digging, 154
- Sewer System Work, 155
- Water System Work, 156
- Using the Front Bucket, 160
- The Track Excavator, 163
- Trenchless Construction, 176
6 SOIL COMPACTION, 181
- Soil Structure, 182
- Determining Soil Density, 182
- Compaction Methods, 186
7 INSTALLING WATER SYSTEMS, 195
- Water Pressure and Thrust, 196
- Pipe Materials, 198
- Selecting Equipment, 198
- Forming a Crew, 200
- Installing Service Lines, 203
- Joining New and Existing Service Lines, 206
8 INSTALLING SEWER & STORMWATER SYSTEMS, 211
- Septic Tank Systems and Drainfields, 211
- Municipal Sewer Systems, 218
- Backfill, Compaction and Surface Restoration, 251
9 ESTIMATING SURFACE EXCAVATION, 253
- Calculating Area, 254
- Calculating Volumes of Solids, 255
- Reading Contour Lines, 257
- Estimating Cut and Fill Quantities with the Cross Section Method, 259
- The Average End Area Method, 262
- The Zero (Daylight) Line, 264
- Topsoil, 266
- Cut and Fill Volumes Under Slabs and Paving, 269
- Earthwork Estimating Accuracy, 270
- Minimize the Risks, 271
10 DEALING WITH ROCK & GROUNDWATER, 275
- Rock, 275
- Ripping and Rock Work, 279
- Working in Groundwater, 290
11 PIPE MATERIALS, 297
- DWV and Pressure Pipe, 297
- Size or Material Change and Directional Fittings, 308
- Gaskets, 311
- Water Control Fittings, 313
- Joints, 314
- Repair Clamps, 318
Pipeline contracting can be a very rewarding business – if you know what you're doing and do it right. It's less plagued by the economic cycle that pushes many excavation and construction contractors to the brink of bankruptcy when the market for residential and commercial building dries up. And the profit margins are usually better because it's harder to get started in this business. You need money, manpower, skill and knowledge to get into sewer, water and drainage line contracting. That limits your competition and can fatten your margins.
Just owning a backhoe doesn't make you a pipeline contractor. There's far more to it than simply digging a hole and filling it up. If you've considered pipeline work but have never done any, keep reading. This book is for you. If you've bid some pipeline work but aren't satisfied with the results, the tips and suggestions in this manual may be just what you need to succeed where others are striking out.
True, every pipeline contractor (or utility contractor, as we're sometimes called) needs special skills, know-how and expensive equipment. But if you can estimate accurately, pay close attention to your costs, keep your overhead low, do nothing but quality work and eliminate wasted time and materials, you've got a good chance of making it in this demanding business.
Understand from the beginning that Rome wasn't built in a day. No one jumps into this field and makes big money handling multi-million-dollar jobs right from the start. You're going to have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. But if you've got the determination to work hard, and if you’re willing to take the time to study and understand what I've written here, you're well on your way to a good professional career.
Nearly all utility line work is awarded by competitive bid. If your bid is too high, you won't get the job. If your bid is too low, you'll get the job but lose your shirt. A few jobs like that and your company will go belly up.
Every year, hundreds of men and women set out to become underground utility line contractors. Many were making good wages as tradesmen, equipment operators or supervisors in the business, and decided to try their hand at bidding and contracting for the work they did formerly as wage earners. Unfortunately, most don’t survive more than a few years in the business.
But don't let the failure of others discourage you. The fact that you're reading this book shows that you plan on going into the business as an informed entrepreneur. And if you're already in the business, it shows you plan on finding out what to avoid by studying my mistakes instead of making your own. Work with care, both at your estimating table, and on the jobsite. With the information in this book, and, I can't deny, with a little bit of luck, you can have a successful and profitable underground utility contracting business.
There's plenty of work available if you're willing to move, be flexible, work long hours and accept challenges. The private developers of residential and commercial projects need utility contractors. Governing bodies – the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Soil Conservation Service, military bases – all are regular customers. And many government contracts require that a percentage of the contract be let to small businesses or minority-owned businesses.
While this book is primarily aimed at the underground utility contractor, be aware that you can get a wider scope of work if you're willing to compile bids and manage contracts that contain other kinds of work, such as mechanical, electrical, and building work. As a small contractor, you'll get a lot more business if you're willing to take on contracts that are more complex than a simple pipe job. Move into unfamiliar areas very cautiously, however. Use reliable subcontractors and beware of getting into fields that are too far beyond your experience and knowledge.
In this book, I'll describe all the common pitfalls and how to avoid them. We'll take a detailed look at the practical know-how you'll use on the job every day – estimating and bidding, equipment and crew performance, practical work methods and techniques, equipment operation, surveying, site clearance, compaction, water systems, and sewer systems. In short, I'll cover everything a utility line contractor needs to know to thrive in this business.
You'll need a working knowledge of the skills of the four important professionals on every utility line team: the pipe layer, the equipment operator, the foreman and the contractor. The success of your company depends on how well each of these four works together toward a common goal.
As an underground utility contractor, most work will come from either private developers or publicly-funded municipal projects.
Land developers usually let subcontracts for street construction and utility installation. Some branch of city government will require that your work meet their standards. They'll inspect what you've done. That makes sense because, when you're finished, the city will accept responsibility for maintaining what you installed.
Public projects include work like installing new utilities and replacing old utilities in existing cities or developments. This type of work is funded by selling bonds to the public, or by federal loans and grants. A small city, for example, may borrow federal money to pay for a replacement water or sewer system. This money will be repaid by water users over a period of years.
It's in the owner's best interest to get bids from several contractors. And on publicly-funded jobs, no qualified contractor can be excluded. You'll see upcoming projects advertised in newspapers, on the Internet, and listed in local and regional bid call magazines. Some magazines, websites and newsletters list projects being put out for bid and report the prices submitted by successful bidders.
Some large projects are divided into several small projects because smaller jobs attract more bidders. Most contractors can't handle a $10 million project. So don't be surprised to see a job that large divided into several smaller contracts. The more bidders there are, the stiffer your competition will be.