How Much Does It Cost to Clear Land?

Before expanding a yard or building a house, the land must be cleared of trees and other vegetation. The cost to clear land ranges from $1,359 to $5,572, or $3,374 on average.

By Brionna Farney | Published Dec 27, 2022 1:28 PM

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Cost to Clear Land

Photo: depositphotos.com

  • Typical Range: $1,359 to $5,572
  • National Average: $3,374

There are many reasons a landowner would want to clear land, such as building a new home or barn, expanding a yard, or constructing a driveway. For landowners who want to clear their existing property to make way for a construction project, understanding the cost is the first step in getting the project started. Prospective homeowners or landowners who are interested in buying land to build a house will want to have a general idea of the cost to clear it out.

So just how much does it cost to clear land? According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the cost to clear land ranges from $1,359 to $5,572, with the average cost to clear land around $3,374. The exact cost will depend on the size of the lot, the density of the trees and other vegetation, and the cost of labor in the customer’s geographic location, among many other factors discussed in this cost guide. This article also covers the different types of land clearing, the numerous benefits of clearing land, and the ways landowners can hire the best professional for their land-clearing job.

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Factors in Calculating the Cost to Clear Land

There are plenty of factors that contribute to the cost of land-clearing services. These include lot size and density, labor, and geographic location. Landowners can consider how each of these factors affects their specific project to help determine the overall cost.

Lot Size and Density

The size of a lot is the main factor affecting the cost to clear land, and the average cost to clear land per acre ranges from $250 to $1,000. The lower end of the cost range encompasses properties with limited vegetation and not too many trees.

Not all properties are created equal—some have sparse vegetation, others are heavily forested, and others are somewhere in between. The cost to clear land depends on the density of the vegetation as more trees will require more time to clear, and time is money. For example, landowners can expect to pay between $500 and $2,000 to clear 1 acre of lightly wooded land and closer to $3,000 to $5,600 for a 1-acre lot that’s heavily wooded. This is because it’s much more time-consuming to clear land that’s full of trees than it is to clear land with just a few small trees or shrubs. Below are cost ranges to clear various lot sizes depending on whether they are lightly or heavily wooded.

Lot SizeLightly WoodedHeavily Wooded
⅕ acre$100 to $499$600 to $1,120
¼ acre$125 to $500$750 to $1,400
½ acre$250 to $1,000$1,500 to $2,800
1 acre$500 to $2,000$3,000 to $5,600
2 acres$1,000 to $4,000$6,000 to $11,200

Labor

Land-clearing cost per hour ranges from $110 to $245. While contractors typically won’t charge on an hourly basis for this service, these figures can help landowners estimate the total cost of a project. The labor for land clearing covers both the operators who run the heavy equipment and the landscapers who chop down and remove vegetation. Labor costs for land clearing often depend on the level of experience a company or individual has—the more experience, the higher the labor price. Contractors may also charge a higher labor cost for complex jobs, such as clearing densely wooded lots or hilly and uneven land.

Geographic Location

The cost to clear land varies from region to region. Most often, land-clearing project pricing will be more expensive in areas with a high cost of living or a high demand for services. If there are a lot of new developments in a landowner’s area, they can expect to pay more for land-clearing contractors. Additionally, some geographic locations will require a building permit for the work, which can add extra costs to the project. The exact costs associated with a building permit are discussed below.

Cost to Clear Land

Photo: depositphotos.com

Additional Costs and Considerations

In addition to the cost factors detailed above, there are a few more that apply only to specific situations, including demolition of existing structures, land surveys, soil tests, permits, and cleanup costs. Landowners will want to consider how the following costs associated with clearing land could increase the cost to build a house or expand a yard.

Existing Home Demolition and Removal

Clearing land involves more than removing trees and vegetation; often, properties will have an old house or building that needs to be demolished and removed before the landowner can repurpose the lot. The cost to demolish an existing home or building ranges from $3,000 to $25,000 or $4 to $15 per square foot. A small, worn-down house will be easier and cheaper to demolish than a large, structurally sound house.

Land Survey

For those purchasing a new property, a land survey is essential. Land surveys cost around $500, and they help define property boundary lines and easements. This information is essential for landowners who are planning the location of a new home or the placement of utilities. During the land survey, a surveyor will typically stake out the property lines and research available documents for the land. A land survey can also provide insight into any unique legal information pertaining to a property.

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Soil Test

In some localities, a soil or geotechnical test may be required before the land can be cleared; this can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,800. A soil test will determine if the soil on the site is suitable to build upon. Some soil is too soft or moist to support a building’s foundation; therefore, the soil will have to be removed and replaced before a new structure can be built. Even if a soil test isn’t required, a landowner may choose to have one completed anyway to make sure soil on which they’re building the home or barn will support the structure.

Permits

In most cases, clearing land will require pulling a permit. The cost of a land-clearing permit can be as much as $200, while a building permit ranges from $400 to $2,300, depending on the locality and complexity of the project. Since clearing and grading land can significantly impact a property and surrounding properties, the plan often needs to be approved by local building officials. Landowners can contact their local building department and work with their contractor to determine if a permit is indeed necessary for their land-clearing project.

Yard Waste Removal

Once trees are downed and brush is cut back, all of that yard waste must be removed from a property before any grading or building can begin. Yard waste can be removed by a landscaping contractor with a dumpster or by a separate junk removal company. Average dumpster prices are as follows:

  • 10-yard dumpster: $200 to $600
  • 20-yard dumpster: $300 to $700
  • 40-yard dumpster: $350 to $800

Most junk removal companies charge anywhere from $125 to $350 for their services, but depending on the amount of yard waste, this amount can increase significantly.

Cost to Clear Land by Type of Project 

Land-clearing prices ultimately depend on the type of project or item that must be removed. People who are looking at buying land will come across lots with trees, brush, stumps, and other objects that must be cleared out. Each of these land-clearing projects comes with its own cost ranges, as outlined below.

Tree Clearing

The cost to clear land of trees depends on the density of trees being removed. For example, the cost to clear a wooded lot is between $500 and $2,000 per acre for a lightly wooded lot. If the land is heavily forested, that cost increases significantly to between $3,000 and $5,600 per acre. To clear just a few trees, landowners can expect to pay around $700 per tree. For trees that are already fallen, the cost to remove them will be anywhere from $75 to $150 per tree.

Brush Removal

Brush removal cost ranges from $20 to $200 per acre. The term “brush” can refer to anything from shrubs to small vegetation located in between trees. If a landowner needs to remove both brush and trees, they can expect to pay the cost of tree clearing and brush removal combined. Depending on the final use of the land, brush removal could involve just clearing out overgrown vegetation, or it could be a more in-depth process of removing the brush all the way down to the roots to prevent regrowth.

Stump Removal

Removing tree stumps from a property costs around $345 per stump. Stumps are the portion of a tree that remains embedded in the ground after the main portion of the tree has been cut down and removed. Stump removal can be a pretty extensive process if the tree was large, since it will leave behind an equally large root system beneath the ground. The cost to remove large tree stumps is likely much higher, so landowners will want to check with their land-clearing contractor to get a more specific pricing estimate.

Rock Removal

While rock removal is often included in the base cost of clearing land, it can be a separate cost if rock removal is the only required service or if there are multiple large rocks embedded in the ground that need to be removed. Landowners can expect to pay anywhere from $5.53 to $9.15 per linear foot to remove rocks from their property. If removing the rocks requires extra force, such as a pneumatic truck-mounted wagon drill, the cost of the project will be a minimum of $2,500 and could be much higher if the job is especially tricky.

Forestry Mulching

Forestry mulching costs anywhere from $400 to $600 per acre. During forestry mulching, a large piece of equipment known as a mulcher is used to grind up fallen trees and brush into mulch. This mulch can be repurposed for landscaping around a home or property. The cost of mulching is in addition to any costs for tree or brush clearing. Landowners may choose to skip the mulching process to save money on the overall land-clearing cost.

Land Grading or Leveling

After land has been cleared, in most cases it must be graded or leveled in order to build a house. Grading or leveling land costs between $500 and $7,700, depending on the complexity and duration of the process. The contractor will use heavy equipment to clear land, such as an excavator and loader to move the dirt around, ensuring that the land is level or sloped properly. A home built on an improperly graded surface will be more likely to suffer from draining problems such as flooding or puddling in the basement and in the yard.

Soil Erosion Mitigation

Soil erosion occurs when the top layers of soil begin to move over time, typically due to an environmental factor such as water or wind. Long-term soil erosion can wash away soil near a house or create unsightly crests and valleys in a yard. Landowners whose properties are subject to soil erosion will want to strongly consider soil erosion mitigation measures, which cost anywhere from $1 to $5 per square foot. Anything from strategically planted trees to stone cover to drainage pipes can provide erosion control.

Excavation

Once a lot is cleared of trees and brush, it may need to be excavated to level out the land, remove hills, fill in valleys, or perform other types of surface prep. Excavation typically costs between $1,500 and $5,100, depending on the size of the area. Landowners can expect to pay from $40 to $150 per hour for excavation. In most cases, customers will hire a landscaping contractor to complete all excavation and tree-clearing services.

Benefits of Land Clearing

Land clearing has benefits beyond clearing a spot for a house or a driveway. Clearing out trees and brush from a property can improve the conditions of the land and make it more hospitable for building. Below are some of the main benefits of land clearing that landowners will want to be aware of.

Environmental Stability

Across an overgrown property, plants must fight for nutrients within the soil, stagnating their growth. Removing the overgrowth of vegetation from the land allows the remaining plants to thrive rather than just survive. Additionally, the soil will become nutrient dense once again, which can support the health of nearby crops.

Improved Safety

Trekking through a heavily wooded site can be dangerous. Exposed roots, sharp rocks, and decaying stumps pose a significant safety hazard to those walking throughout the property. Clearing out this overgrowth opens up natural paths to walk through and removes any tripping hazards.

Reduced Fire Risk

If a piece of land hasn’t been managed or cleared out in some time, there will likely be plenty of dry wood and leaves spread throughout it. This dry material creates a significant fire risk for the area, especially when it exists in a warm, dry climate. Removing the decayed material reduces any fire risk for the property. In areas at high risk of wildfires, clearing land could be the difference between a home surviving a wildfire or being destroyed by one.

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Improved Soil and Plant Health

Overgrown vegetation causes plants to fight for nutrients in the soil regardless of whether they’re desirable trees and shrubs or less-desirable weeds and invasive species. Removing excess vegetation allows desirable plants to survive and thrive as the nutrients are redistributed evenly.

Disease Prevention

Forests overrun with vegetation are prone to environmental diseases. These diseases can spread across plant populations and destroy native species. Once a property is cleared out, there is less likelihood of a disease spreading from plant to plant and destroying a habitat, which can be beneficial to the environment in the area.

Fewer Pests

While insects and rodents have an honorable role in shaping an ecosystem, no one wants these pests in or near their home. Pests are known to hide out and make a habitat in areas with considerable overgrowth. Removing this overgrowth will likely cause pests to pack their bags and move somewhere else.

Enhanced Land Usability

Clearing a lot opens up the potential for what the lot can be used for. What was once an uninhabitable piece of land overrun by dense vegetation can become the perfect site for a new home, building, or business, which can in turn benefit the local economy.

Improved Aesthetics

Clearing land and removing any overgrown trees and brush certainly improves the aesthetics of a piece of land. This can be a necessary step before selling a property to make it more appealing to buyers or before planning a new house build.

Cost to Clear Land

Photo: depositphotos.com

Land Clearing: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Clearing a small patch of land that only has small shrubs and brush is a suitable DIY project for many landowners. A project of that scale is relatively safe, and the landowner likely has the tools they need on hand to get the job done. Land-clearing projects on a larger scale that require tree removal or land grading, however, are best left to the professionals.

Downing trees is a dangerous task that can be fatal if not done properly. The best way to clear land is by hiring a professional landscaping contractor. A tree removal professional will have the right equipment and expertise to get the job done safely and efficiently. A professional crew can clear large properties in just a few days, a project which could take an amateur crew 1 to 2 weeks or even more.

Additionally, a landscaping contractor can complete all of the work required to ready a property for building a home, including leveling the land and installing utilities. The contractor will know the proper steps required before any work can commence, such as pulling a building permit or completing a soil test. By hiring a professional, a landowner can be confident their land will be cleared properly.

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How to Save Money on the Cost to Clear Land

The cost of clearing land can be rather expensive, especially if it is a large plot of land. While it is recommended to hire a professional for the project, there are ways to save money, both by getting your own hands dirty or with proper planning, including the following.

  • Be flexible in your timeline. The more flexibility in your timeline to clear land, the better. Many people will request a landscaping contractor clear out their property immediately—this is the most costly option. By having more flexibility in your timeline, you can often expect to pay less for the project even though it might take longer to complete.
  • Separate out the services. To better manage your budget for the land-clearing project, consider separating out the services over time. Start by having the large trees and vegetation specifically near the site of your new house removed. Then, have the remaining brush and stumps removed at a later date.
  • Remove the brush yourself. The cheapest way to clear land is to remove the brush and smaller vegetation yourself while leaving the larger vegetation and trees to the professionals. Grab a partner or two and spend a weekend removing any small shrubs, brush, or vegetation you can get your hands on. Make sure to use gardening gloves and wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect your skin if you choose to tackle this yourself.

Questions to Ask About Land Clearing

Whether a landowner is building a house on a new lot or clearing out their current property, hiring the right professional for the job can make or break the project. Since it takes a long time to build a home, it is in a landowner’s best interest to find a qualified landscape contractor as soon as possible. This list of questions can help landowners vet potential contractors for the job.

  • Do you offer free estimates?
  • Will you provide a written quote and contract?
  • Are you licensed and insured to complete this type of work?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What kind of training do you offer for your employees?
  • Will the work be completed by an employee of your business or by a subcontractor?
  • Can you provide references from similar projects?
  • What kind of safety precautions will you take to complete the work?
  • Have you completed a land-clearing project like this before?
  • Will a building permit or soil test be necessary?
  • Can you clear the property and prepare it for building a new home?
  • Can you demolish an existing building on the property?
  • Do you require a down payment, and if so, how much?
  • What is the payment schedule, and do you offer payment plans?
  • How soon can you schedule the work?
  • How long do you expect the land-clearing project to take?
  • How can I get in touch with you while the project is in progress?
  • How do you handle disputes or disagreements?

FAQs

Before beginning a land-clearing project, it is important for landowners to know as much as possible about the subject. These frequently asked questions about the cost to clear land can help ensure landowners have a complete understanding of everything the project entails.

Q. How long does it take to clear an acre of land?

It could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to clear an acre of land. The exact duration depends on the density of vegetation, the experience of the crew, and the type of equipment being used. Clearing a heavily wooded property will take much longer than clearing a lightly wooded property.

Q. Can I keep specific trees intact when clearing land?

Yes, landowners can choose to keep specific trees intact while clearing land. They’ll want to make sure they discuss this with their land-clearing contractor prior to work commencing to prevent the trees from being removed unintentionally. It is best for the landowner to walk through the property and point these trees out to the contractor, and they may even consider marking the trees with spray paint or another type of marker to make sure it’s clear exactly which trees need to stay.

Q. Can I clear land myself?

It is possible for a landowner to clear land themselves, but it’s only advised to do so for smaller land-clearing projects that require tools the landowner likely already owns. To clear small brush and shrubs, a landowner may need landscaping shears, a weed whip, a hatchet, an ax, or a pole saw. Any land-clearing project that requires cutting down trees or removing large brush will need to be completed by qualified professionals.

Q. How many acres of land can professionals clear in one day?

A professional and experienced land-clearing crew can clear 2 to 4 acres in a day. The exact duration of the project ultimately depends on the size of the crew, the equipment they are using, and how dense the vegetation is. In some cases, the crew may be able to clear even more than 4 acres in a day.

Q. Do I need a permit to clear land?

Whether or not a landowner needs a permit to clear land depends on local building code requirements. Some localities require a land-clearing permit when a landowner is clearing a property, although they may allow land-clearing operations to be combined with a building permit. Landowners can contact their local building inspection officials to determine if a permit is required for their land-clearing project.

Q. Does tree clearing include grading the land?

Tree clearing does not include grading the land. Tree clearing simply means cutting down trees and removing them from the property. While land grading can often be completed by the same contractor, it is a separate service that requires separate equipment.

Sources: Angi, HomeAdvisor, Fixr, HomeGuide, LawnStarter

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