How Much Does Land Excavation Cost?
Excavation is a critical step in many home construction projects, such as building a patio, installing a pool, and fixing a leaky basement. Excavation cost varies depending on the specific project, but the typical range is $1,515 to $6,211 or $3,847 on average.
- The national average cost to excavate land is $3,847, though prices typically range from $1,515 to $6,211.
- Some of the factors affecting the total cost of excavation include the size and accessibility of the area, the type of soil and terrain, the type of project, the cost of labor, the area’s geographic location, and cleanup costs.
- A homeowner may be able to complete excavation of a small area themselves using rented equipment, but in most cases it’s best to leave land excavation to a professional.
Although many homeowners may be unaware, excavation is one of the most critical parts of the construction process. It creates the type of foundation necessary in order for the rest of the project to proceed. Excavation involves removing the unwanted layer of soil to level the ground or dig a hole in preparation for home renovation and construction projects like installing a swimming pool or pond in the backyard, building a crawl space under the home, or adding a driveway or patio to the property.
Excavation rates can vary due to regional differences, type of project, labor, size of the area, soil and terrain type, and other factors. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, excavation costs between $1,515 and $6,211, with an average cost of $3,847. This guide will explore the numerous factors that can affect the cost, the types of projects that typically require excavation, the pros and cons of DIY excavation versus hiring a professional, some tips on saving money on excavation, important questions to ask an excavation contractor before hiring, and some frequently asked questions about land excavation.
Factors in Calculating Excavation Cost
Determining the cost of excavation depends on a few key factors. These cost factors include area size and accessibility, soil and terrain type, project type, labor, geographic location, and cleanup fees. Homeowners will want to keep these elements in mind when setting a budget for any excavation on their property.
Area Size and Accessibility
Both the size of the area and accessibility of the site influence the total cost of the project. Smaller areas will obviously cost less, not only because there is less work involved but also since smaller and less expensive equipment is needed. A skid steer or backhoe price for a small job, for example, will be $100 per hour to rent, while a full-size excavator rental costs about 50 percent more for a larger project.
Hard-to-reach areas will also have a higher price tag. This is because excavators need to work around existing structures and tight spaces, which is especially difficult with excavation equipment. They may need to use additional equipment or multiple machines at once, which requires more labor. Projects are also pricier if there are underground obstructions like pipes and utility lines that require extra caution.
Soil and Terrain Type
Both the soil type and condition of the terrain can affect the cost of excavation. Soft soil and loose soil are easier and cheaper to dig through than hard, rocky soil. In fact, soil filled with rocks or clay deposits can add anywhere from $200 to $1,200 to the cost. Excavation involves digging, trenching, dredging, and developing the site; therefore, steep, sloped, or rugged terrain makes it more challenging to maneuver, raising the price. Also, terrain in areas with severe winter weather puts a lot of wear and tear on machinery, slowing down the project and boosting costs.
Excavation is necessary for a variety of home projects, such as installing a new basement or crawl space, building a new home, repairing or waterproofing a basement, constructing a driveway or patio, adding plumbing or a septic tank in the ground, building a pond or swimming pool, and digging out a hillside. Each of these projects has a price range to consider. For example, pool excavation typically costs between $1,500 and $5,000 but can be as high as $20,000. Excavation for a driveway or patio runs between $1,000 and $2,500.
There are two ways that excavation contractors charge for projects: by an hourly rate or based on the area in cubic yards. Residential excavation projects run from $50 to $200 per cubic yard. Typical hourly rates range from $120 to $150. Factors such as the project’s layout, geographic location, and challenges that occur on the job site can affect the hourly rate. The rate includes both the equipment and the operator. Most contractors require a minimum of one day, or eight hours.
Home location can also influence land excavation cost. First of all, the farther away the property is from the excavation company, the higher the fee will be because of the price to transport equipment. Although excavators may set their own price, the region may affect the quote provided. Here are examples of residential excavation costs by state:
|State||Average Excavation Cost (Labor and Materials)|
|Alabama||$6,200 to $9,000|
|Arizona||$1,700 to $4,800|
|California||$2,100 to $9,200|
|Indiana||$970 to $3,000|
|Minnesota||$1,800 to $3,400|
|New Hampshire||$2,100 to $3,900|
|Wyoming||$1,400 to $5,300|
Seasonality in some regions can also alter the price, since there are off-season periods in which contractors are slower and tend to charge less for the project, especially during early spring or late fall.
Site testing and cleanup costs should also be included in the overall budget. This involves testing and addressing any soil contamination issues found prior to starting excavation. The cost ranges broadly—from $200 to $20,000—depending on the type of testing, size of the site, and type of contractor doing the testing. If the tests come back negative, then no cleanup is required. However, if contamination exists, soil remediation will be necessary. It costs about $4 to $6 per square foot for removal of asbestos, for example.
Additional Costs and Considerations
Preparing for any type of excavation may require some additional costs that homeowners will want to consider. Some of these add-on fees include permits, land surveys, soil testing, land clearing, tree removal, and dirt removal.
Permits and Land Surveys
Most jurisdictions require a permit for excavation. Such permits typically cost around $50 to $400, depending on the size and location of the project. A land survey, which costs between $380 and $540, may also be necessary before the project can begin.
Excavation vs. Yard Grading
Yard grading, a standard job for specialized excavators, helps adjust the slope and soil elevation of a yard before construction. It is necessary before excavation, as it helps remove excess soil and other materials to create an even surface and strong foundation. While most contractors consider yard grading to be part of excavation, it is sometimes treated as a separate project. Grading or leveling land costs between $500 and $7,700, depending on the complexity and duration of the project.
It is recommended that homeowners get the soil tested to check for contaminants before starting excavation. Soil testing costs anywhere from $15 to $3,000, depending on which contaminants are being tested for, the size of the site, and the differences in cost between a civil contractor’s fees and the cost of a self-testing kit. Full-spectrum tests across an acre can cost as much as $3,000 but as little as $15 for a self-testing kit for a small area. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) tests cost between $200 and $500 each, while microbiological testing costs $20 to $300.
Land Clearing and Tree Removal
Sometimes the land will need to be cleared in order for the excavation to move forward. Key factors affecting the cost to clear the land include the size and density of the lot, geographic location, and labor rates. Land clearing fees range from $200 to $6,000 or more per acre. More specifically, it costs $1,500 to $3,000 per acre to remove trees, brush, and stumps on a lightly wooded lot and up to $6,700 per acre for a heavily wooded lot. Tree removal costs $300 to $2,000 on average, depending on the size of the tree. And removing large chunks of rocks costs between $40 and $100 per cubic foot. Post-project, homeowners may need to budget for landscaping costs to improve the appearance of their home; for this, homeowners will want to hire one of the best landscaping companies.
Finally, the cost to remove the dirt from the site will impact the total project budget. The cost to haul away the dirt is $140 to $230 per cubic yard or $1,400 to $2,300 per dump truck load. These rates depend on the dirt type, amount of dirt, equipment used, geographic location, and the distance the dirt needs to be transported.
Excavation Cost by Type of Project
Excavation is often the first step in the construction process for a number of home projects. It is important to evaluate the rate for each of these types of excavation projects before proceeding. Excavators prepare sites for various purposes, such as installing a new basement or crawl space, repairing or waterproofing a basement, constructing a driveway or patio, and building a pond or swimming pool. The most common types of projects and their costs are explored below.
|Project Type||Average Excavation Cost (Labor and Materials)|
|Basement or crawl space construction||$1,500 to $30,000|
|Basement repair or waterproofing||$2,300 to $6,300|
|Driveway or patio construction||$1,000 to $2,500|
|Hillside excavation||$1,000 to $5,000|
|New construction||$1,500 to $10,000|
|Plumbing or septic tank installation||$1,500 to $10,000|
|Pond installation||$300 to $3,200|
|Pool installation||$1,000 to $5,000|
|Rock excavation||$15,000 to $20,000|
Basement or Crawl Space Construction
There are a variety of price points for basement and crawl space construction projects depending on the size and complexity of the job. It costs between $5,000 and $15,000 to dig around an existing basement, which may be necessary to access for foundation repairs. To dig a hole for a new basement or crawl space as a DIY project, homeowners will want to budget $500 to cover the equipment rental. When hiring a pro, homeowners can expect to pay between $1,500 and $6,000 for smaller basements and between $10,000 and $30,000 on average for large ones. Size, depth, and terrain can impact cost. It’s also important to keep in mind that excavating can cost $30,000 to $50,000 or more in areas that are hard to access or have rocky soil.
Basement Repair or Waterproofing
A wet basement can lead to all sorts of trouble, such as mold and structural damage. The cost to waterproof a basement or make repairs to a home’s foundation may include digging around the existing foundation to access the basement foundation walls. This costs in the range of $5,000 to $15,000 or $100 to $250 per linear foot. Foundation repair costs $2,300 to $6,750, and basement waterproofing is $1,900 to $6,300 or $3 to $10 per square foot.
Driveway or Patio Construction
Creating a driveway or patio is one of the most common home projects requiring excavation. Considered topsoil excavation, this type of project costs $1,000 to $2,500 on average and typically includes grading and compacting the dirt. Homeowners are advised to take note that it will cost more if the area is steeply sloped or difficult to access. Cut and fill, a technique involving removing dirt from high areas to build up low areas for leveling or grading, is often used during driveway excavations. This costs $1 to $15 per cubic yard.
Excavating a hillside to flatten a hill or slope typically costs $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size, slope, and amount of dirt to move. What is certain is that this type of work requires heavy equipment, which boosts the price. Companies that have a mini excavator, backhoe, bobcat, or skid-steer loader charge $100 to $300 per hour and usually have a one-day minimum.
As one of the most common jobs for an excavator, new construction costs from $1,500 to $10,000 on average, depending on the concrete foundation size, depth, and terrain. But excavation for a large foundation can cost upwards of $20,000 in areas with rocky soil, large boulders, or excessive clay.
Plumbing or Septic Tank Installation
Excavation projects for plumbing or septic tank installation are called trenching and are typical for new-home construction. With a project price of $6,000 to $10,000, a trencher creates straight paths for plumbers to install pipes. A new sewage main costs at least $1,500. Then installation adds another $6,000 to $10,000, depending on size and accessibility. To rent a trencher, expect to pay between $150 and $400 per day, depending on the size of the machine.
Excavation is one of the first steps in creating a backyard pond. It costs $300 to $3,200, on average, to dig a pond. Price varies based on type of pond, size, depth, terrain, and soil conditions. For a large fishing pond, for example, hunters can plan to pay in the range of $2,000 to $5,000 or more per acre. Another way to look at the price is $60 to $200 per cubic yard or $55 to $150 per hour for larger ponds.
The cost to build a pool usually needs to include land excavation costs—in fact, when it comes to the cost to build an inground pool, excavation is required as one of the first steps. Pool excavation typically costs between $1,000 and $5,000 if there is soft, light soil and if the area is free of obstructions. If the pool is difficult to access or the terrain is challenging, then it can be as high as $20,000.
Rock excavation can involve anything from removing some boulders to blasting in order to create small, movable pieces from the rock shelf or rock ledge. Blasting costs $40 to $100 per cubic yard. Removing large boulders costs $50 to $200 per cubic yard if they’re being stored on-site or $220 to $250 per cubic yard if they’re being hauled off-site. Fees can reach $15,000 to $20,000 or more if the excavator hits rock when digging a house foundation, basement foundation, or pool.
Excavation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Most excavation projects are arduous and require professional training and hefty equipment, so it is often recommended that homeowners hire a pro for this type of work. This is particularly important if it is a large project or if the terrain and type of soil are difficult to dig through. However, it is possible for a homeowner to take on a DIY excavation, especially if it is a small area to dig. Homeowners will want to keep in mind that renting a mini excavator costs $200 to $700 per day, depending on the size and features, so this impacts what the actual cost savings are when a contractor isn’t being paid for this service. It is also critical for homeowners to keep in mind that taking safety precautions and understanding how to work the equipment are necessary to get the job done correctly. Homeowners will want to call their local utility company ahead of time to have a surveyor identify buried cables and overhead wires to avoid when digging. Finally, digging in rocky terrain may require renting a jackhammer or hydraulic breaker, which will increase costs.
How to Save Money on Excavation Cost
Excavation projects can be a big undertaking that requires a financial commitment. Several factors come into play when homeowners are considering the budget for an excavation on one’s property. The following tips will help homeowners navigate potential cost savings during this process.
- Shop around. Compare cost estimate quotes from several contractors before deciding who to hire.
- Go over details of the project beforehand. Meet with the contractor before they break ground to review the construction schedule. Make sure they share the list of fees for each step of the project so you can look for ways to save.
- DIY for some tasks. Reduce the cost of hiring professionals for every part of the project and instead take on what you can handle to save some money.
- Do the project off-season. The construction business is slower during certain times of the year, depending on location. Save about 5 percent by starting the project when contractors tend to be slow, such as in late December after the holiday season.
- Stay organized. Avoid extra costs by keeping up with all paperwork, tracking permits, and staying on top of the contractor to make sure the work is getting done in a timely manner.
Questions to Ask About Excavation
Asking the right questions before embarking on an excavation project can help homeowners feel secure that they are making the right decisions for their home. Below are some helpful questions for homeowners to ask experienced contractors regarding the details of their excavation services before deciding to hire them.
- Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
- How long have you been in business?
- What similar projects have you completed?
- Are you certified in erosion and sediment control?
- Can you provide an accurate price quotation?
- Do you take care of dirt removal, and where will the dirt go?
- How will you keep my pipes safe? Will you flag buried pipes and utility lines before work begins?
- Do you provide additional services, such as site preparation, land grading, material hauling, dumpster rental, demolition, and plumbing?
- What is the erosion control plan for my property?
- Do you own or rent the excavation equipment?
- Does the estimate include all equipment and delivery fees?
- Does the estimate include fill dirt, topsoil, and dirt delivery fees?
- Does the estimate include site cleanup and debris removal?
- What other costs should I expect?
- What permits do I need, and will you obtain them?
- How long will the project take?
Starting an excavation project can quickly become overwhelming. The following frequently asked questions and their answers can guide homeowners as they make decisions about different types of excavation projects for their home.
Q. How much can an excavator dig in a day?
An excavator can typically dig between 350 and 1,000 cubic yards per day. The total amount will depend on the type of ground in the area, capacity of the bucket, skill and efficiency level of the operator, and other similar factors.
Q. What is excavation in construction?
Excavation in construction entails digging, trenching, removing dirt, and moving other earth to prepare a site for a construction project, such as building a new home, driveway, or in-ground pool. Heavy equipment like an excavator or backhoe is used to get this work done.
Q. How do you calculate excavation costs?
Calculate excavation costs by determining the volume of soil to be excavated in cubic feet, Then convert that measurement to cubic yards and multiply that number by the price per cubic yard.
For example, here is the calculation for an excavation of a pit that is 26 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep, with the price per cubic yard at $100.
- (26 x 10 x 4) / 27 = 38.52 cubic feet
- 38.52 cubic feet x $100 = $3,852
Q. How do you estimate earthwork in excavation?
To estimate earthwork in an excavation project, multiply the area by the difference between the average of two sets of levels.
Q. How do you calculate excavation and backfill?
Backfill, which is used to replace soil or dirt that was excavated from the ground, is calculated as volume in cubic feet or cubic yards. Calculate the volume of the space to be filled by multiplying the length of the trench by the width and by the depth.
The next step is to calculate the cubic yardage of the same trench, since backfill is typically sold by the yard. There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard, so divide the previous calculation by 27 to get the total cubic yards.
If you need to fill a round hole, first find the area. Area is equal to Pi times the radius squared, or a = 3.14 x r^2.
Estimate the number of truckloads that will be required to fill the holes with backfill. Typically, smaller trucks have a 10-yard fill capacity, while larger trucks will range in capacity from 15 yards up to 20 yards.
Q. What are three types of excavation?
Three types of excavation include cut and fill (strips layers from the earth and can include grading), muck (removes mud, water, and dirt elsewhere so it can dry), and drainage (diverts water and can include trenches and canals).
Q. What is the depth of excavation?
The depth of excavation is the vertical dimension from the exposed cut surface to the original ground surface.
Q. What is the minimum depth of excavation for foundation footings?
The minimum depth that footings should extend is 12 inches below previously undisturbed soil. Footings should also extend at least 12 inches below the frost line (the depth to which the ground freezes in winter), or it must be frost-protected.