Calculating landscaping: how long to clear the turf and bricks?

At the centre of our back garden is a roughly elliptical lawn. It’s perhaps 9×7m in size, and edged by about 15m of bricks:


Our proposed re-landscaping will slice off and flatten the nearest two metres of this lawn, then cover the rest of it to a depth of up to 50cm. This seems a waste, though, because good turf (stacked and rotted down) makes great compost; also, we’ll need bricks for one of our retaining walls, and anyway they’re too useful (and expensive to buy) to just bury.

How long will it take to dismantle the edging, and to dig up and stack the turf? Now, there’s a question, which I hoped to estimate with the following, much smaller-scale, experiment.

Yesterday I spent about twenty-five minutes (not including interruptions) cutting out a rough quarter-circle of turf, of radius 1.3m:


During that time I also chiselled out (using wrecking tools, not a proper chisel) perhaps 2m of bricks, which turned out to be 20 of them.

I then stacked bricks and turf up as neatly as I could, and here’s the result after my beautiful assistant knocked over the turf and then ran up the tree:


She looks quite proud of her own contribution, doesn’t she? First lesson learned, I re-stacked the turf, two spits deep:


Along the way, I had a few complications which I’ll need to go back and fix: I lost at least one brick to dismantlement, as it just cracked apart; and other bricks were very hard to separate, including the two still stuck under the carrot bed you can see in the first picture. While I hope to buy a chisel to improve this part of the work, I need to factor in tidying time at the end.

So how long will the job eventually take? Let’s calculate the two simultaneous jobs—cutting and stacking turf, chiselling and stacking bricks—and take the higher of the two measurements.

  • Amount of turf cut: pi * (1.3)2 / 4 = 1.3m2
    Remaining time to finish = (48.7/1.3) × (25mins/60mins per hour) = 15.6hrs.
  • Amount of brickwork removed: 2m
    Remaining time to finish = (13m/2m) × (25mins/60mins per hour) = 2.7hrs.

The turf-cutting is easily the longer job, and is therefore likely to take perhaps two working days. Because all the work was simultaneous then it’s hard to get a better estimate than that, but that gives us a good working value.

One interesting consequence from measuring the pile of turf (before Indie knocked it over) is that I’m likely to end up with a good 0.7m2 of stacked turves—that’s a pile with base 1×1m, height 0.7m, which is obvious but gives you an idea of the volume—that I’m going to need to store somewhere: preferably somewhere that will suffer the least from any landscaping, and preferably not too far away or downhill from where they’ll eventually end up (I’ll probably use them as topsoil where needed, fairly high up.)

Once the turf is cut, I can start laying walls and looking at removing privet. But I now know, given other commitments, that that’s going to be at least a couple of weeks away, and can plan a bit more. Mostly I’m just planning to start yoga early, as I think I’m going to need it.



  1. Julieanne · May 3, 2016

    Indie looks very proud. Looks like a lot of work – be careful of your back; I guess that’s what the yoga is for. Any luck with finding a landscaper yet?


    • jpstacey · May 5, 2016

      We’ve had one quote and one estimate. The main stumbling-block as far as cost is concerned is getting the privet out by the roots, which sounds like it’s going to be quite a *manual* job (we can’t use a mini JCB at the back because of its short ledge.) That alone is adding a good couple of grand to what people are saying.

      My current thought is to do the “scrappy landscaping” (including getting the privet out) myself, possibly hiring a labourer, I dunno. All the stuff I can’t screw up too badly because it’s not about getting lines or levels precise. Then, to finish the retaining walls and do the fencing and paving, get someone in.


      • Julieanne · May 10, 2016

        Getting in a labourer might be a good idea. Or even an everyday gardener might be willing. I came across this person a while ago but it was after I already found Chris. But he did actually call me back, which was a start. His card, which is listed at the shops around the corner from us, is: plumbing, electrics, painting, tiling, gardening – no job too small. 07505 361 810.

        Sounds like an odd job person and might be a cheaper option?


      • jpstacey · May 13, 2016

        Thanks so much for the contact point. It’s a possibility, although I wonder about my skills as a manager when it comes to tradespeople!

        One problem is that there’s both job-title inflation AND deflation among them. For example, one of the landscapers who came round said it was a comparatively big job for them (really?) whereas when you get a “gardener” they can be a solo worker, and don’t see themselves as a labourer (you’d be amazed at what a fib “no job to small” can sometimes be…!) So that’s probably something I need to ask them on the phone.


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