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New Tools Help Ideal Landscaping 'Make the Grade'

Thu June 10, 2021 - Southeast Edition #12

Cody Byrd (L), install supervisor of Ideal Landscaping, and Bob Hendrick of SITECH Precision in Raleigh.
Cody Byrd (L), install supervisor of Ideal Landscaping, and Bob Hendrick of SITECH Precision in Raleigh.
Cody Byrd (L), install supervisor of Ideal Landscaping, and Bob Hendrick of SITECH Precision in Raleigh. Cody Byrd, the install supervisor of Ideal Landscaping, works the Trimble operating screen inside the Caterpillar 299D3 compact track loader. Ideal Landscaping’s new Caterpillar 299D3 with a Cat BB124 box blade on the front end of the loader is designed for grading and leveling.

One thing is certain about Ideal Landscaping's project at Hoover Road Park in Durham, N.C.: The Triangle company employs some of the best tools on the market to perform its grading project at the 50-acre soccer park.

The 30-year-old commercial landscape contracting firm is based in nearby Holly Springs, southwest of Raleigh.

Currently, Ideal Landscaping is working in Durham to install irrigation systems underneath four soccer fields. The family-owned landscaper is a subcontractor to Skanska USA, along with Raleigh-based Fred Smith Construction, the provider of the project's subgrade. Skanska is the prime contractor for the $9.5 million upgrade to the park with the goal of making it a tournament level facility.

"What we had to do was bring in all our underground irrigation, 6-inch mainline running into 2.5-inch valves, from which run various size lines ranging from 2.5-inch pipes down to one-inch lines," said Cody Byrd, the install supervisor of Ideal Landscaping. "And when digging up subgrade, we must also maintain the subgrades because there's so much drainage on this field. That means that we are using all our machines to slope everything back down to where we started after the pipes are installed. Eventually, after the irrigation and drainage is in place, I have to add 6 inches to that subgrade for the playing surface."

He added that besides installing the irrigation system, the drainage has been engineered to where a 12-in. trunk line has been positioned around the soccer fields, along with 2-in. pipes placed every 10 ft. on center.

"We're putting engineered soil on top of it that also drains very well, about 8 inches of water an hour," Byrd said. "The idea is to allow the teams to be able to play on these field after a heavy rain."

According to the city of Durham website, the Hoover Road Park improvement project should be completed this fall.

Combo of Systems Makes Byrd's Job Easier

With an eye toward precision grading at the site, Ideal Landscaping's prime piece of equipment is a Caterpillar 299D3, the manufacturer's newest compact track loader featuring a high-flow XPS hydraulics system. The contracting firm acquired the Cat loader via its long-standing partnership with Raleigh's Gregory Poole Cat distributorship.

Byrd's new machine also is fitted with a Cat BB124 box blade on the front end of the loader designed for grading and leveling. Operators can use the box blade both manually and automatically with the use of laser or GPS grading systems.

That last option is key to Ideal Landscaping's entire operation at Hoover Road Park, Byrd said, because he also enlisted the services of the Raleigh office of SITECH Precision to equip him with the kind of technology that all but guarantees total accuracy in his crews' irrigation installation effort.

SITECH is a leading construction technology provider in North Carolina. Its experts can assist contractors using GPS systems in solving many of their issues on site with Trimble Heavy Industry machine control solutions. As an authorized Trimble distributor, SITECH offers Trimble products that can establish accurate grade control and site positioning systems, machine monitoring, construction software and wireless and Internet-based infrastructure.

"I have a Trimble Zephyr 3 base station that we placed near the gate coming into the job site," said Byrd. "The single mast on the Cat's box blade is equipped with Trimble's GCS900 3D system, and it is also used to get my grade back to subgrade."

The Zephyr base station receives GPS data from satellites in orbit and transmits to Byrd's equipment in the field. The Trimble kit he purchased from SITECH also gives him a lightweight SPS986 Zephyr rover mounted on a pole so that he can walk the site to check the grades and do his field layouts for the irrigation and the drainage. In addition, the Trimble T7 field computer Byrd carries with him, about the size of an iPad, but much thicker, he said, is connected to each of the other Trimble systems on site.

"The mast on the Cat loader's box blade works in tandem with the Trimble Zephyr GPS system to guide the orientation of the machine while a slope sensor mounted on the box blade dictates the slope of the blade," said Bob Hendrick, Byrd's point man with SITECH Precision in Raleigh.

Once the Cat 299D3 is in the field and the human operator gets close to the grade, usually within 4-to-6 in., he or she will then engage the automatic Trimble machine control to override their control and allow the technology to guide the loader to complete an exact grade.

"The operator is still driving the machine but is not in control of the pitch and the depth of the blade," Byrd said. "At that point, they are just letting the machine do its thing."

Trimble System Reduces Re-Working Grade

After shopping around and talking with SITECH and other companies, Ideal Landscaping decided that the technology package that it got from SITECH would best fit its needs.

"We didn't need a huge system as we are not building major highways," Byrd said. "For us as landscapers, SITECH and Trimble were the right people to work with."

According to Byrd, Hendrick has been invaluable in guiding Ideal Landscaping on how to get the best use out of the Trimble system.

"Although I am still learning how to use it, I have seen how easy it is to understand," Byrd said. "Bob has been with me from the beginning, from the sales to teaching me how to set it up and calibrate my site, my base station and my machine."

He added that before he had access to the Trimble technology, "while doing my as-builts for the irrigation systems, I was out here with a set of plans, a pen and my memory. With it, I know precisely where everything is, and I can just record my points without going into CAD. Making sure my subgrade is exactly where it needs to be is going to save me a lot of money because the sand we put down is expensive."

The big advantage of having the Trimble technology and for Byrd's company is that they likely only need to touch the dirt one time and they can get the irrigation system installed as efficiently as possible.

"Normally, when we have a subgrade that's close and we do irrigation, there are a lot of spoils, so we backfill and do tamping — all the while hoping it doesn't rain because if it ruts up, then we must come back and do our final lift of sand and put turf on it," Byrd said. "We would be out here for two or three days trying to fine grade and it is still not going to be as perfect as it needs to be.

"With the Trimble system, I am swiping this field just one time. Going up and down the site, by myself, I can do it all in one day. I am not employing multiple machines and guys on site trying to get it perfect again."

Landscaper Loves What Gregory Poole Cat Offers

It appears that Byrd and Ideal Landscaping, owned by his father, Larry R. Byrd, have formed a tight working relationship with SITECH Precision and Trimble, and they hope that those affiliations will remain as fruitful as the partnership Ideal Landscaping has had with Gregory Poole Cat, the Raleigh-based construction equipment distributor and exclusive dealer for Caterpillar equipment in eastern North Carolina.

Ideal Landscaping has several Cat machines close at hand, including six skid steers, ranging from a 246C up to its new 299D3. Cody Byrd also listed a Cat 304CR mini-excavator, a D3 dozer and a 320 excavator among its hardware, too.

"We have dealt with Cat for more than 20 years," Cody Byrd said. "We tried other machines in the past, but we keep returning to Cat. Plus, we prefer Gregory Poole's great service department and the convenience of it being near us in Raleigh. If one of these machines breaks down, I can call them, and they will quickly come out and make the needed repairs.

Ideal Landscaping Inc. is known throughout the Triangle for its commercial, design-build and large home projects. For more information, call 919/567-3325, or visit

For more information on Gregory Poole Cat in Raleigh, call 800/451-7278, or visit

For more information on SITECH Precision, call 919/876-3666, or visit CEG

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