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Old 09/14/09, 09:50 AM
Baroness of TisaWee Farm
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: flatlands of Ohio - sigh
Posts: 2,129
pond digging question

I had a fellow quote me a price of $500 for a week's labor to dig a pond. I told him I wanted 1/4-1/2 acre pond, maybe 6-8 foot deep. Basically, I want the dirt so I can bank my house...the pond is a bonus byproduct.

I'm on TOTALLY flat, open ground, if that matters. The soil is rock-free, but has lots of heavy clay. I assume that would be good for a pond?

First of big would 1/2 acre pond be?
Second, would it take a week to dig that? What kind of equipment would I need to rent?
Lastly, is $500 a good price to dig that size?

Thanks so much for your input!
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Old 09/14/09, 10:05 AM
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 7,154
If you can get 1/4 acre dug out and moved to your house for $500 you have the bargain of the year. An acre covers over 43,000 square feet. There are 27 cubic feet in one cubic yard. A single axel dump truck can haul 5 or 6 cubic yards. I think you and your man better do a little more pencil work before you start. <>UNK
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Old 09/14/09, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: SE Oklahoma
Posts: 2,005
You are looking at an excavation that if square in shape would be 105 feet (appx) on each side.

If your land if flat as a table top, most likely all the water that it catches and holds would be from precipitation. Evaporation could remove more water than what enters the pond. It could become a pit or mud hole on your property.
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Old 09/14/09, 10:29 AM
Brenda Groth
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7,817
ok those are the downsides..

we did the same thinig as you are suggesting..when we moved in our new home..we had a lower area of the property dug out to get the fill dirt..and we made a pond..

the excavation equipment you need is a large backhoe with a front end loader (to move the dirt to where you want it)..without a backhoe you cannot dig deep enough for a pond..a dragline would also work.

yes you can dig that amount in a week..but remember a lot of backhoe rentals will charge you not only by the week but by the hour..and if they are suggesting that they'll charge you that for might also be looking for at least $1500 for machine rental.

ours was dug so far in 3 sessions..first was done with a bulldozer removing only about 2 to 3 feet max of soil and it made a very shallow filled up over winter nicely but in summer droughts it went almost completely dry..filling in again when it rained or snowed..

then the next year our son rented a backhoe and had just an hour or so to work on our pond and dug out a deep hole in the pond..the hole never has gone is about 6 to 8 ' deep and about 10 to 12 ' across..but the shallow areas still dried out.

well this year he got about another hours use of a backhoe..he doubled the size of our pond digging the new area MUCH deeper..but there were still some shallow areas there..he also scooped out some of the shallower areas the pond still had some dry areas this year..but fewer.

the deeper you dig the if you dig deep..your pond may not cover as many square feet of area..but it will stay wetter longer..i'd suggest at least 5' deep in most areas if you are only counting on recip and ground water to keep it wet.

now our neighbors doubled the size of their pond with a backhoe and it is huge..about 2 acres..and they did it in less than a week with a large backhoe/front end loader..and it is really nice..but it has freshwater inlet.
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Old 09/14/09, 10:36 AM
Baroness of TisaWee Farm
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: flatlands of Ohio - sigh
Posts: 2,129
I just walked outside and looked at my property in town. It's 1/3 of an acre. That seems plenty big for a pond.

UncleWill. The $500 is just the labor, but you are right...that's cheap probably.
OMG. 110X130 (about 1/3 acre) and 6 foot deep would be about 3000 cubic yards! Did I figure that right?? I suppose I could have him just take the top soil and put around the house, and shove the rest of the dirt along the edges of the pond. I've got about 2-1/2 acres to "play with", so there is room.

OneOkie - If I would put the pond at the lowest part of the property (there's maybe a 5 foot drop or so over the 3.6 acre parcel), would that help? There is one corner that stays wet longer than the rest, and it's the lowest spot. I *could* put the eave spouts from the 30X50 barn going out that-a-way, too, to keep it filled. Would that help?

Hmm... I wonder what it would cost to just have a few loads of GOOD soil brought in and spread around the house? I envision clay-ey lumps if I use "pond" dirt.

Although a pond would LOOK cool and raise the property value, I would think.
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Old 09/14/09, 10:55 AM
Baroness of TisaWee Farm
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: flatlands of Ohio - sigh
Posts: 2,129
I can rent a JD 310 G for $678 a week (40 hours). Supposedly it has a front end loader on it, too. I can't find any information about whether this is considered a "big" backhoe, or if this is just a wimpy baby one.

Would it do the job in a week?

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Old 09/14/09, 11:09 AM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: SE Oklahoma
Posts: 2,005
How high up on the sides of your house are you wanting to bank the dirt? How far out from the wall are you wanting the banked up dirt? You need to figure appx. how much dirt will be required to do this. 1/2 height x width x length will give you a ball park number. Doing this for each wall separately will be close and make the math easier.

You also need to consider whether or not you want to be able to mow the banked up dirt. If with a rider, no steeper than 4-1 slope, IMO. 4 feet out from the wall for each foot of height against the wall. (if 4' high against the wall, you would need 16' out from the wall)

OneOkie - If I would put the pond at the lowest part of the property (there's maybe a 5 foot drop or so over the 3.6 acre parcel), would that help? There is one corner that stays wet longer than the rest, and it's the lowest spot. I *could* put the eave spouts from the 30X50 barn going out that-a-way, too, to keep it filled. Would that help?
Yes, that would help, but it raises more issues. You would need to set back from the property line to allow for maintence of the area around the pond, and to avoid issues of causing harm to the adjoining property. You would need to research what the local, state, and federal laws are concerning modifying surface water flow.

Does the runoff from the barn roof flow in that direction now?

The JD loader/backhoe should have about a 1 cu. yd. bucket on it. Ask the rental place or check with a JD dealer. Whether or not you could move enough dirt in a week depends on how much dirt you will need to move, how far you need to move it, and the weather. A loader bucket full of dirt is quite heavy. If the soil is wet, you can create quite a mess. (don't ask)

ETA, locally, topsoil fill costs about $20.00 cu. yd. delivered.

Last edited by oneokie; 09/14/09 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 09/14/09, 11:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: MN
Posts: 8,101
You raise a lot of issues on soil quality & use.

A new pile of dirt is _very_ difficult to build on if you are building a new house. You need to get the foundation down into solid, undisturbed soil. Takes real effort & skill to properly pack new soil so it doesn't settle. move, or mess up the building.

If you are placing soil around the house, that stresses the foundation & walls & basement or foundation. Be careful you don't bow things inward. Soil settles & flows over time when it is freshly moved, be careful. It is easy to do harm.

Ponds. They need to have clay to seal up the bottom. A natural pond happens because it is a low spot, the right soil to hold water, and the right set of drainage to put the water table above the soil level.

Creating a fake pond means you need to create these conditions.

A pond isn't just a hole in the ground.

And - Rep Oberstar again is pushing his bill to make all waters of the USA under fedral control - not just navigable waters as we currently have. There is much debate on what happens to a private pond if that comes to be. Are we sure we want a pond on our property????

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Old 09/14/09, 11:46 AM
Baroness of TisaWee Farm
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: flatlands of Ohio - sigh
Posts: 2,129
Thanks for the info, OneOkie. I called our local topsoil place and it is $30/yd delivered, but the guy is going to do some checking since I don't need the best grade dirt. The way I figured it, I'll need about 50 cubic yards to finish it. (I had some already from when the basement was dug). The basement is built 4 or 5 foot out of ground, and the back (south) has a lot of windows. I only want to bank the front and 24' on each side. So that's 24' x 3 sides, times about 2' high (it's already banked considerable)...and I want to spread it about 20' out. So if my calculations are right.... about 50 cubic yards. That's still a lot of dirt!
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Old 09/14/09, 01:04 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 964
The JD 310 G is a decent sized tractor loader backhoe. (TLB) People sometimes call the larger excavators with tracks backhoes as well.

Typical bucket size on a tlb is 3/4 to 1 yard. That means you will be making at least 50 trips from the hole, to the house. Home many yards away is it? Travel time is going to be the killer for you. For 50 yards of dirt, you might be able to do it in one long day. Probably not, however, if you have a decent distance to travel.

Why do you want a 1/4 acre pond? If you really want one that size, you need someone with a dozer to move the dirt. Much faster. If you only need the fill for the house, then get it from the hole, and make a water feature. Could even be around the house, since it will be smallish. 20' x 20' x 6' deep center. If you buy fill, not all of it has to be top soil. Clean fill, covered with topsoil will do. It should save a lot, since top soil costs more, if I'm not mistaken.

Do you have clay soil? If not, you'll have to have some hauled in to seal the bottom. I guess you have to decide if you want to just berm the house, or make a pond. It sounds like its two mostly separate projects.

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Old 09/14/09, 04:01 PM
highlands's Avatar
Walter Jeffries
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Mountains of Vermont, Zone 3
Posts: 9,499
"JD 310 G" looks like what I rented for a while when our tractor was in the shop. I found it under powered on the lift arms and wobbly. On my tractor I have the rear wheels set out to 8' wide and I greatly missed that when using the rental tractor. Even on flat ground, of which we have little, it felt tippy. That was $500/wk.

A bulldozer would be the most appropriate machine. I used a nice Cat last year with a 12' blade that really let me move the earth around and around. Loved it. Big equipment runs $100 to $150 per hour around here with an operator. A lot less for just the machine. Delivery is generally $200 to $300 per trip (one to deliver, one to leave).

I live on the side of the mountain so I don't quite recon the idea of flat land. We have water running down hill. Not sure how you would get your water. Evaporation is a big issue.

The ponds I have made are much smaller, about 30' to 50' long ovals. If you are above a certain size there may be taxes and regulations you have to deal with. Below that size not. Find out. Getting taxed an extra $100 a year per pond mounts up over the years.

Berming the house is a great idea. Clay is bad. Make a good layer of gravel around the building for drainage and expansion. Insulate around the building - remember that the earth is not good insulation, just a flywheel. Build on original soil, not fill if you want to keep level.


Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
__________________ -- Pastured Pigs, Poultry, Sheep, Dogs and Kids
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Old 09/14/09, 05:30 PM
Baroness of TisaWee Farm
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: flatlands of Ohio - sigh
Posts: 2,129
Thanks for all the good advice. Some background.... when I built, I had a 9' basement dug (well....5', with 4' out of ground). So I really built on undisturbed soil. I put about 4' of stone around the perimeter before I backfilled it to ground level. Now I'm berming up so that there is only about 1-1/2 foot of basement showing above "ground". Or where the new ground level will be, I should say.

Now I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better to just scrape off some top soil from the rest of the property (it's all overgrown farm ground....weedy, but no trees or rocks) and pile that around the house. A bulldozer wouldn't work for that, though, because I can't move the dirt far enough, can I? I've got to move it probably 100-200 foot or so, I'd guess?

I put an ad on Craigs list for someone to do the pond, and do my soffitt/fascia/window wrapping and siding. Listed them very late last night, and have had over 24 responses so far!!!! I met with someone earlier today to get an estimate, and meeting with someone else in an hour. Wow! It's sad that so many REALLY talented people are needing work! (Good for me...sad for them!)
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Old 09/14/09, 07:05 PM
Brenda Groth
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7,817
too bad you aren't closer my son would love to do it..he has done a couple now..but yes the larger backhoe would would have to have a loader on it to move the dirt once dug..the clay will break down..any weeds and roots buried deep enough will just rot..and you can till the soil you use as backfill and pull out the weed the spring..we really went through the entire process that you are discussing and it worked well for us..pond and all
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Old 09/15/09, 10:42 AM
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Udderly Happy!
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Oklahoma
Posts: 2,835
If you want to get the most "bang for the buck" rent an excavator and a small 5-6 cu. yd. dump truck. Have the fellow dig the dirt out and put it in the truck, then you can haul it to the dump site. The excavator is heavy enough and has enough downdraft in the hydraulics to do it much quicker and with using the truck you'll move more dirt at one time with less travel back and forth.
I've operated heavy equipment for years. And yes, a 1/4 acre pond will produce a lot of dirt. Most folks don't realize that when dirt is excavated it actually swells in size do to losing it's earthen compaction. Ever wondered why you dig a trench for a water line and there's more dirt than needed to backfill the hole? (Until it settles back out and then you need to find dirt to fill the void)

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" James 5:16
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