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Thread: Personal Backhoe?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Personal Backhoe?

    Hi all. I'm going to be building a house and shop soon. Anyone have any suggestions for a small backhoe so I can do my own excavating? Does this even make sense to attempt?

  2. #2
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    Mar 2003
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    Seems like it would be a LOT cheaper to pay someone to do it. I would love to have the backhoe attachment for my compact tractor but there's no way I can justify the cost. And if I did have it, I would take a long time to excavate a foundation with that small bucket.

    Plus from experience I can say that machine operators make it look easy. I've spent several hours on a backhoe playing in the dirt (required "training" from my first job out of college at a large equipment manufacturer) and I would have been hard pressed to get a nice level excavation. Its a blast though!


  3. #3
    Todd, I'm going to edit this out in a few minutes so there is no evidence of me saying not to buy any type of tool, but I would try to either hire someone to do this, or rent. Preferably hire someone experienced so that the footer is in the right place, at the right depth. Just my opinion, and it would be great if you prove me wrong, but a good backhoer can put the hole exactly where you want it.

  4. #4
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    Jan 2007
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    Operating a backhoe or excavator for landscpe work is one thing. For a foundation on which you house is going to sit and depend is another. If you go too deep and back fill, you end up creating a soft spot under the footer. Someone best not to have. So my suggestion would be to hire someone to dig the foundation. If you want to back fill it yourself (and install the drainage, that's another story (not as much finese required there).

  5. #5
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    Todd...a number of years ago when I built my shop, I hired a subcontractor to remove the stump left from a 75' English Walnut tree and dig the footings, foundation etc for my new shop. $500 got it done. I would get some bids before buying a tractor/backhoe unless you need it for more than this project.
    Ken

  6. #6
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    Todd, my Kubota BX-22 has a backhoe, but it would never be capable of doing the kind of excavation required for building a house and shop. I use mine for a wide variety of things around the property and it also serves as a whole lot of weight on the back which improves performance when I'm using the loader, too. But it's for light-duty work, not heavy digging. My suggestion would be to rent something larger if you truly want to do the work yourself (and understand the zoning/building code rules for said excavation and grading) or subcontract the work out to a pro, who will likely do it for not much more than the rental and in a fraction of the time it will take you if you're not already a skilled operator.
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  7. #7
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    Yes, good advice. I'm not a skilled backhoe operator. I'll probably be going the "rent-a-pro" route. I'm actually considering building an underground wine cellar. In my part of the country, there aren't too many underground rooms, but I'm on the side of a hill, so I think it's doable with the proper vented drain piping.

    So, tell me... how big a tractor would 3.5 acres justify??? It would be handy for getting the property in shape, and moving lumber around.

  8. #8
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    Something like Jim's BX22 or my John Deere 4110 would be great for that size. Jim's is a "sub-compact" while mine is at the bottom of the "compact" class. Both have been superseded by newer models.

    I'm not sure how much property Jim has but we have 10 acres. I mow about 3 of that regularly, maintain a pretty long driveway, etc. plus periodic brush-hogging of the "back 7" and its about perfect. I looked at the BX22 and it was slightly small for me--for example I can run a 5' brush hog with mine but the BX22 would have needed a 4'--on my 330' wide lot that's AT LEAST another 17 passes front to back--probably at least another 1-1/2 hours. Bigger would be nice but not necessary.

    Long term I'd love to get a zero turn for mowing--could probably cut my mowing in about half based on my dealer's (who I trust) estimate if I went with the largest Husqvarna they had at their demo day last fall. That's a lot of time over several summers.

    With my loader and a set of forks that attach to my bucket I can pick a pallet out of a semi up to about 400lbs (but wouldn't want to move very far with it that high up!)


  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Burch View Post
    Yes, good advice. I'm not a skilled backhoe operator. I'll probably be going the "rent-a-pro" route. I'm actually considering building an underground wine cellar. In my part of the country, there aren't too many underground rooms, but I'm on the side of a hill, so I think it's doable with the proper vented drain piping.

    So, tell me... how big a tractor would 3.5 acres justify??? It would be handy for getting the property in shape, and moving lumber around.

    Todd, it all comes down to budget, the amount of work that you want to do, and your turning radius. On my farm I have several tractors ranging from 22hp up to 115 hp, plus a skid steer, backhoe, and some dozers and other earth moving equipment.

    I started with a 39 hp, 4WD Kubota with a front end loader and a 3 point hitch in back. It was a great size for general purpose work, the FEL was capable of lifting around 1200 lbs or so, it was small enough to be maneuverable in the woods, and there are a lot of attachments available for a 3 point hitch. I would not want to use the Kubota as a backhoe platform, primarily because it would take forever. Definitely go 4WD if you plan on using a front end loader; the front axle's are much heavier as is the steering (important when you're trying to maneuver with a load on the front). The higher HP machines provide you with a lot more capability than the 22 hp models too.

    For excavating, you can often pick up a pretty good deal on an older Ford backhoe for 5K or so; use it for your construction projects and then sell it when you're done.

    If $ are not an issue and you want an "all in one" machine, check out the Toolcat from Bobcat. It offers a skid steer front end, a UTV bed and maneuverability, and a 3 point hitch option in the rear.

    If you end up with tractor in the 45 - 75 HP range, try to get one that uses skid steer implements (universal Skid Steer Attachment system on the FEL), as well as remote hydraulics for the front end. There are a ton of skid steer attachments available, both new and used, that are practical around your acreage.

    A tracked skid steer loader with some accessories is probably the most versatile piece of equipment for your construction phase; a 4wd farm type tractor is probably your best machine for long term maintenance and operations.

  10. #10
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    Well, it just wouldn't be right if someone didn't recommend that you go all out here. Do it. Buy, not a BACKhoe, but a TRACKhoe. With those, you can tear through just about anything, be it your house or underground utilities and feel not a thing.

    All kidding aside, I'm on the side of hire it out. I have less than 100 hours in a tracked skidsteer, mostly pushing snow around, and I'm pretty comfortable in it, but the guy I do it for (I usually drive a truck instead) can run circles around me in his sleep. I saw him lose traction on a steep driveway while plowing. Problem? No--he just plowed with the side of the bucket as he slid sideways down the driveway. That was in his Bobcat (standard levers and pedals to operate). In his Caterpillar skidsteer, with only hand controls, he's even better.

    To sum up, it'll take a pro hours to do what would probably end up taking you days to mess up (and then have to hire the pro anyway).
    Jason

    "Don't get stuck on stupid." --Lt. Gen. Russel Honore


  11. #11
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    My wife and I once watched as my brother dug an 8' deep hole to "park" the Gehl skidsteer in. Took him about 20 minutes.

    Jason nailed it. My 'bro has been running this type of equipment since he was 18---he's now in his 50's.

    Bruce
    Epilog TT 35W, 2 LMI SE225CV's
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Burch View Post
    Anyone have any suggestions for a small backhoe so I can do my own excavating? Does this even make sense to attempt?
    Like any of us are gonna' tell you not to buy a backhoe. Can I come play with the backhoe when you buy it?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Northern Michigan
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    Twice I have done as Scott suggested, buying a backhoe and selling when done with the work I wanted accomplished. I bought a nasty 4x4 580 Case for 12K, did my job, cleaned it up and sold it for 14.5K.

    I used to dig for the gas company, but really, backhoes are not that hard to operate if you are at all accordinated. When I started they had six levers and two pedals. I did demos for a JCB/Cat dealer and taught new customers how to be fluid. Most could get it.

    I have a 45 hp tractor on my 10 acres, probably a bit much, but I need the size for the 2000# lift capasity. I have been thinking of getting a smaller one in the 22 hp range so I don't tear up the yard as much and can have a mower on it as well. more of a garden tractor on steriods kind of thing.

    Larry

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Highland Mi
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    Just beware once it starts.
    Once you have a backhoe you will need a dozer then a skid steer + attachments, then you will think you need a bigger backhoe and bigger dozer, and you thought woodworking was expensive?
    Thank You
    Ed

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cary, NC
    Posts
    269
    I have a JD 4310 with a FEL and 4wd. I also have agri tires. It works quite well on my 11 acres. I also have a bush hog and flail mower.

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