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Need input: Clearing your own house site


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Pete's Forum Posts: 21

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By Pete in Centreville, VA on 6/18/2006


I have a lot on a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. The area available for building is densly wooded. This is a mixed forest with pine up to a few at 10 to 12", oak [several over 6"], and other species - native cherry, holly, popular, etc. I'm thinking about trying to clear out as much of the small stuff as possible to save $$. Does this make sense? Anyone used a skid steer (Bobcat) for this task? Any other suggestions on "how to"
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By Matt in Effingham, IL on 6/19/2006


I have been working to clear a building site in our heavily wooded ground.  I have had time to work at it slowly cutting down the trees and having some help with the larger oak, hickory, and cherry trees.  From this I have plenty of firewood which I will use myself as well as give to my father and brother in-laws for their upcoming assistance.  (We also have some logs that will be used to make lumber that we hope to use in the house.)  In your case, if you cannot use the wood yourself, I imagine you could likely sell it as firewood.

For the first time last Wednesday, my brother-in-law brought out his skid steer for clearing out some of the smaller stumps and moving off the larger logs.  In 3 hours I was amazed at how much he got done.  In addition to moving 18 logs all of ~20" or greater diameter, he was also able to pull out a good number of stumps ups to maybe 8" diameter.

Are you planning to cut the trees down first, or are you thinking of pushing them down with the skid steer?  In my case of cutting the trees down first and cleaning them up, the skid steer seems to work well.  One piece of advice is to cut the trees off maybe 3' from the ground.  This gives some leverage for the skid steer to push them over.

As you said you have some trees in the 10" - 12" range, you may need a 'dozer to get them out (unless they make even larger sizes of skid steers than what my bro-in-law has).  I know we will need a bulldozer or backhoe for our larger stumps.  Also, I don't know how difficult they are to operate as I never ran it.

I have not checked into costs for hiring someone to clear a woods versus the cost of renting equipment and doing it yourself.

Hope that helps a little.

 

 

 

 


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By Pete in Centreville, VA on 6/22/2006


Matt - thanks for the input. I had thought about cutting everything less than ~ 1 - 2" diameter close to the ground and everything from that size to ~ 6" diameter at about 3-4' as you suggest. I've got a pretty good mulcher for anything 3 1/2" or smaller so would turn that into mulch for paths, etc. Save the bigger stuff for firewood. Here in Virginia, you can rent the skid-steers. So I thought I might be able to use one to clean out the roots/stumps. From there I'd hire a local excavation company to finish up getting rid of everything bigger than 6" as well as bringing in fill and grading. Your email would indicate this plan is doable. Thanks again Pete
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By Matt in Effingham, IL on 6/22/2006


Pete

Sounds like a plan.  I wish I had a chipper / shredder for the smallish stuff.  I could have had a bunch of mulch.  Instead, I've just had a bunch of burn piles.

Good luck

 


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By Tiffany in Conway, AR on 6/24/2006


Anyone ever tried using a landman to get your lot cleared?  We have some very valuable lumber on our site...  I had thought of calling up a landman and seeing if they'd be interested in the lumber.  Then they could pay ME to clear my lot or, at worst, at least they'd maybe clear it for free in exchange for getting the lumber.
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By Matt in Effingham, IL on 6/26/2006


Tiffany,

I did not look into finding someone to clear my woods and harvest the lumber, but I have heard a few things about that. 

You will likely want to have an idea of what you have on your ground and maybe a ballpark estimate of what trees may be worth.  I have heard that there are people around who will place values on trees to provide an estimate (before the loggers quote on it.)

If you hire someone to clear ground, make certain they know if there are trees you want to keep.  You may also want to protect thiose trees from equipment getting too close to their roots and causing damage that may not be apparent until later. 

Be prepared to have the ground pretty torn up when they are done.  They may come in looking for just the large diameter trees that are of value and rip apart the rest of the woods.

I don't want to shed too bad of a light, but I've seen a few lots pretty torn up afterwards and hear people comment on others.

I also had some trees of value on our lot.  Fortunately, my wife's brothers had means to load and transport the logs, and her father recently purchased a portable sawmill for rough cutting the lumber.  We hope to use some of it (oak) for a staircase and need to find a use for the other lumber (cherry and hickory).

 

 


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By Stan in Pilesgrove, NJ on 7/8/2006


Reading this thread is giving me flashbacks to my time in conn. The first house I built was on a fully treed lot, and I had my brothers, father, and grandfather along with several friends working the chainsaws clearing a house site. after a couple of weekends I got a skid steerer with a backhoe attachment, worked that for a weekend with a bunch more to do. then an other friend suggested hiring a excavator.

When I hired the excavator came in with a bulldozer, in 2 days he stacked all the logs we had cut, pushed out the remaining trees and stacked them so I could cut off the stumps, dug a hole buried the stumps, and dug the cellar hole.

I guess my point is if you can find the right guy with a dozer you can have your cake and eat it. it may be cheaper to have the machine do the big work and stack it off to the side, so your project can move forward, and you can work at the pile over time.

 


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By Pete in Centreville, VA on 7/8/2006


Stan,

you have a great point regarding the excavator. I have had one excavator company out, but I thought the price he wanted was a little steep ~ $8-10K for clearing a site that is 90' x 70' with three or four trees in that area larger than 10" diameter. What I'm trying to figure out is, if I can cut the cost by dealing with the smaller stuff myself and have the excavator come in for the big trees stumps and grading.

Because of the land-disturbance regulations around the Chesapeake Bay, the fill material and final grading are something I will have to hire out. I've got one of these MacKissic chippers that happily devours anything up to 3 1/2" in diameter, so I'm searching for how I might quickly and cheaply get the stumps out for disposal. This Old House has an article by Roger Cook indicating they use a skid steer and I know you can rent them. This sounds like what you did. Before you went with the excavator, how did using the skid steer go? Any do's or don'ts to watch out for?


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By Lori in Reno, NV on 7/10/2006


Pete,

You should call and get more bids for the job. Just because one guys price is high doesn't mean everyone will bid that high.

Lori


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By Mark in Seattle, WA on 7/11/2006


I've done land clearing a few times and I'd now go with the excavator.  My first clearing was the septic drain field.  We are building in a temperate rain forrest with 150' Douglas Firs and dense underbrush that most people can't even imagine.  My wife and I spent several weekends cutting, burning, and chipping the small stuff.  A chipper can't keep up with the amount you're going to cut.  Burning is a pain and you may need a permit. Whether burning, chipping, or hauling off in a pickup, you'll handle everything that you cut two or three times before it's gone.  Actually cutting the stuff down is the fast part.

We cut the large trees and gave them to the neighbors for firewood, since we won't have a wood stove until we build the house.   We ended up stacking the brush in piles, wrapping a chain around it, and dragging it onto the back acreage with the 4x4 truck, where we spread it around.  Still a lot of work, but faster than chipping or burning.

When the excavator finally came, he cleaned out the remainder of the brush and small trees in less than 40 minutes.  He left a little less brush stacked up around the edges, but not much.  After this experience, we were uncertain as to whether it had been worth the effort for us to cut down the little stuff. 

Our next experience was the clearing the site for the shop/garage.  I hired an excavator who included hauling the trees and brush off as part of the bid.  He hauls them into town (45 minutes away) to a commercial chipping operation.  I'll probably buy my own material back as topsoil when I landscape the house. 

This time, I had only removed the firewood size trees and taken them to the neighbors.  No chipping and burning on my part.  I don't know exactly what I paid for the excavator to haul the material off, but even if it was $1,000, it was money well spent.

I now believe that chippers are fine for the branches and clearing that needs to be done as part of routine maintenance.  Same with a burn barrel/brush fire.  Leave the big clearing projects to the men with big toys.  Just make it known to them that you don't want them to leave a giant pile of brush, broken limbs, and stumps.

Mark in Seattle


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By Lori in Reno, NV on 7/11/2006


Hey Guys,

Even with all you are going through to clear your lots I would love to have that as a project. We don't have any trees, I can say that unless it was recently planted by a neighbor there any trees in the whole valley. I would die for just one tree to shade the home we are building. We just started looking at large trees to plant this fall most were in the $250 range.

Good Luck with the clearing everyone. Lori


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