One of the first steps of a new home construction involves excavation before building the foundations of your home. In fact, this is a crucial step that should never be skipped.
Wanting a sewer that you can rely on? Excavate first.
Needing a driveway for the car you just bought? Excavate first.
Aiming to get that best landscaping award? Excavate first.
On this page:
- Types of Excavation
- According to Material
- The Importance of Proper Excavation
- What is Hydro Excavation?
- Crawl Space Excavation
- Soil Excavation Costs Per Square Foot or Cubic Yard
- Cost of Basement and Foundation Excavation
- Cost of Pool Excavation
- Pond Excavation Cost
- Getting Quotes from Local Excavation Companies Near You
Interested in getting a basement-slash-theater room? Excavate first.
Excavation work in home construction is not like the kind we did on the sandbox of the playground with our toy shovels. It is much harder and time-consuming; oftentimes, it even requires the use heavy equipment, such as bulldozers.
You got to this page because you are probably in need of excavation services for your property. Fortunately, you are in the right place – we can help you in your search for a qualified excavation contractor near you, for free!
But before you fill out our form to do so, you should spend some of your time reading this article first to understand how vital excavation work is. We will also tell you the different methods suitable not just for a new home construction but also for existing ones and any excavation done outdoors, and the possible costs of doing so.
Types of Excavation
Most people think that excavation is a simple task – basically just making a hole in the ground. Yes, a lot of digging is involved but there are actually different ways of doing so, depending on the kind of material is being dug up and for what purpose. To give you an idea, here are the different methods of excavation done for building site preparation:
According to Purpose
- Bridge Excavation – removal of earth, rocks, sand and other debris on land or water where substructures, abutments, foundations, footings, and other supporting structures of bridges will be placed.
- Roadway Excavation –to clear up a path for a new road, to gather materials that will be used for road construction elsewhere, to remove materials not suitable for road construction and replace them with more suitable ones, or to dig up materials to be used in building the new road.
- Cut and Fill Excavation – also referred to as the stripping excavation, it is primarily for clearing materials in large areas, like heavy engineering or sizeable construction sites. It is also used to grade land before construction starts or to level land by ‘cutting’ away the excess or elevated areas and use the removed material for ‘filling’ up the lower areas to make it even.
- Dredging – to create waterways, sediment deposits must first be removed by dredging. This will allow boats and other watercrafts to pass through without difficulty.
- Trench Excavation – distinguishable by its excavated area that is longer than its depth, trench excavation is used for various purposes, such as for placement of plumbing, sewer, and utility lines, and laying of foundations. It can be a shallow trench that does not exceed 6 meters in depth, or deep trenches that are more than 6 meters deep.
- Basement Excavation – used for structures that require a basement, or where part of the structure, or even the entire structure itself, must be below ground level. Its difficulty increases in proportion to the size of land.
- Over Excavation – excavation normally stops at certain depths suitable for the structure to be built on it. But if there are materials found further below that need removal, excavating beyond the required depth is necessary to do so.
- Channel Excavation – done on drainage ditches, channels, and other similar areas to improve water capacity, decrease flooding, divert the flow of water somewhere else, and remove buildup of sediments and other materials
- Borrow Excavation – instead of removing materials to create space for any construction job, this method removes much-needed materials that another location needs to ‘borrow,’ often to mix with other materials. A borrow pit is created for such purpose.
- Footing Excavation – done after grading land, this type of excavation needs to be done precisely to support the footings of a structure.
- Underground Excavation – requiring specialized tools and machinery, this is for creating subways, tunnels, canals, underground roadways, and sewage systems, among others.
- Drainage/Structure – used to create ditches for drainage systems that prevent water from flowing to agricultural, residential, and infrastructural areas, and causing damage to them
According to Material
- Topsoil Excavation – involves removing the exposed part of the ground, or the topsoil. Often confused with stripping or cut and fill excavation, its purpose is not to clear land but remove specific materials, such as undergrowth and the uppermost layer of soil
- Rock Excavation – removes rocky soil and other hardened materials that can hinder any construction work. Due to the solid nature of rocks, it is the most difficult type of excavation and requires advanced machinery.
- Earth Excavation – similar to topsoil excavation but it removes not just the topsoil but also the layer of soil under it. This type is often used in preparation for the creation of drainage ditches and foundations, among others.
- Muck Excavation – muck, which is a combination of water and dirty soil, is transferred to prevent ground contamination. It can be moved to another area or spread around the soil, allowing it to dry up
- Unclassified Excavation – entails removal of materials on the ground that cannot fit a single category. It often consists of combinations of various materials.
The Importance of Proper Excavation
Preparation is important in any project, new home construction included. And among the initial work done in any property, excavation is the most important step.
Most homeowners think that the structural integrity of a building relies on its foundation. But, what they don’t realize is that the foundations also rely on something else – the excavated ground.
But, why is proper excavation work crucial?
There are Safety Risks Involved
Digging up large amounts of soil means disturbing the ground altogether. If not properly done, anyone inside the trench created is at risk of being caved-in. Cave-ins may not only cause injury but even death, as even just a cubic yard of soil already has the same weight as that of a car. Yikes.
Excavation also entails using heavy equipment, which is also known to cause all sorts of accidents. And, improper use of such equipment may affect not just the operator but also those within its immediate vicinity.
Your Structure’s Foundation Will Depend on It
You may have gotten the best materials on the market to make sure that your home will not suddenly collapse, but this will become moot if the ground where they are installed on was not properly excavated.
Foundations are known to last for years, but those built on badly excavated ground may not even last months. Water tables may form and cause damage to your home, while loose soil under your foundations will increase its instability.
You Lessen the Risk of Unnecessary Expenses
Once your home’s structural integrity has been compromised, it must be dealt with asap. With poorly excavated grounds, this is a problem that you will encounter sooner than later. And once you do, it means making costly repairs to fix the issue, or even paying additional fees to construction contractors who consider the job as an emergency service.
Worst case scenario is that you have to reconstruct your entire home if the entire structure is severely compromised.
Improper Excavation Can Affect Landscaping
If you take pride in your yard but want to add a small pond to it, excavation is also needed. And if you have centuries-old trees present, excavating may be a bit more challenging to do. It is a fact that roots of trees expand over the years; they may even cover more space than your entire yard. They are vital to any plant, that is why careful excavation is needed to minimize damage to them.
Possible Damage to Service Lines is Minimized
When excavating on ground that already has utility lines buried deep, inexperienced contractors are likely to hit them, especially if they dig without care and have no clue where those lines are. And if this happens, you are in for some costly repairs and possible fines. Also, prepare to get calls or home visits from your angry neighbors who have also been affected by the broken service lines.
It is Guaranteed to Follow Safety Codes and Other Laws
There are no restrictions when digging sand on the beach to make sandcastles, but digging the ground on your property does. Most states have strict implementation when it comes to groundwork, including excavations, to ensure safety. And if they find out that the work being done on your property violates policies, you may have to pay fines or even temporarily halt construction.
These are just some of the reasons why homeowners need to make sure that any excavation work in their property is up to par and done only by professionals, especially for large-scale projects such as building site preparation.
Excavation work is risky, that is why contractors take measures to prevent any accidents from happening, especially cave-ins. One of the best ways of doing so is by shoring.
If you have ever watched any ongoing excavation work, you may have noticed those posts and boards placed inside the trenches. What you don’t know is that this is what shoring is all about.
Shoring, in excavation, is the process of adding braces, usually boards, to the walls of an excavation site, to prevent the ground from collapsing and caving in. These braces are separated and fixed into position by placing hydraulic cylinders, posts, screw jacks, and other materials that serve the same purpose.
There are different methods of shoring in excavation, namely:
- Hydraulic Shoring – the most common method, it involves placing plywood or steel walls and inserting hydraulic pistons between them. These pistons will be adjusted until the steel wall or plywood is pressed up against the walls of the trenches. This is also the safest shoring method and can even be done by one contractor alone.
- Pneumatic Shoring – like hydraulic shoring, it also involves placing steel or plywood walls along the walls of trenches. But instead of using hydraulic pistons, air pressure produced by an air compressor is used.
- Soldier Pile and Lagging – done by placing H-piles on the ground and inserting lagging, which is often steel or boards, in between them
- Beam and Plate – same as the soldier pile and lagging method, but l-beams made of steel are used instead of H-piles
- Soil Nailing – involves placing steel bars close to each other on the ground via holes that are pre-drilled to reinforce soil slopes and excavations
Aside from its safety benefits, shoring also helps speed up the entire excavation process. And because the work is completed earlier and with little to no injuries because of it, you also get to save money at the same time.
What is Hydro Excavation?
When we speak of excavation, what immediately comes to mind is the image of someone shoveling soil and throwing it somewhere else. Even kids have that image of excavation work.
But, did you know that digging using various tools is not the only method of excavation nowadays? There is another method that is not only safer but also minimizes any possible damage that excavation is known for. If you want to excavate without any visible holes on the ground, this is also possible with hydro excavation.
You probably have an idea of what is involved just from the name alone. Hydro excavation is done by letting high pressure water enter the ground through a hose or jetting rod inserted to it. This water pressure is strong enough to penetrate and break down grass, soil, dirt, and other matter. A vacuum will then be placed on the same spot, which will suck up the broken-down material and water.
Hydro excavation is highly recommended because:
- A very simple process, and it is also a safe way of excavating ground on congested land or limited spaces, as well as those with various utility lines present underground.
- If excavation is needed during winter when the ground is frozen solid, hydro excavation can easily do it. There is no need for a contractor to wait until the ground thaws before doing so.
- Debris can be removed on spots that traditional excavation cannot work on, such as under structures and inside drainage systems
- It can create small and narrow trenches with minimal effects to the ground. This is perfect for installing pipes that have small diameters or finding where utility lines are located.
- This can also be done during hot weather when prolonged sun exposure is dangerous to anyone
- It is suitable for daylighting and potholing, as well as for installing signs
- Excavation is faster compared to traditional methods, so you also save on labor costs
- Possibility of the ground caving in is nearly zero
- Work can be done remotely, as the truck connected to the hose and vacuum can be parked some distance away. This prevents congestion, especially on narrow roads.
- Environment-friendly, since only water will penetrate the ground. No explosives needed.
- Can be used in all kinds of soil without having to change equipment every now and then
Although hydro excavation seems like the best way of excavating, do note that there are situations where traditional excavation is still more appropriate.
Crawl Space Excavation
In some homes, the crawlspace is too small even for a child to crawl through, making them useless. The only way to make it accessible is to lower the floor of the crawlspace, and excavation is the best and most cost-effective way to do so.
However, this is not always possible. This kind of excavation should not be done on homes that are standing over gravel or sandy ground, as well as with soil that gets waterlogged for lengthy periods in a year. Doing so may not only damage your home but even make it completely uninhabitable.
Aside from improving access, crawlspace excavation can also let you add a basement to your home. While this is very challenging to do, it is a more economical option for you to do so to home without having the entire house lifted.
It will involve a lot of digging, with the excavation method depending on your home’s foundations. But because it is also a very dangerous task, contractors often add a lot of support structures while excavation is ongoing.
Excavating manually is normally used for crawlspace excavations, as using heavy machinery can compromise the structure’s foundations. Also, it should be done very carefully and usually starts away from foundations, footings, and other similar structures. Digging near them is done later, when extending their height by adding concrete.
New foundation walls will then be added to transform the dug-up space into a room. Afterwards, waterproofing is done via spraying asphalt spray on the new concrete walls and foundations. Once it sets, the finishing touches can then be added.
In most cases, you can live in your home undisturbed while the work is being carried out; you will just have to deal with the noise and dirt produced.
Soil Excavation Costs Per Square Foot or Cubic Yard
Excavation is a necessary expense for any home construction, or even home improvement, projects. This task not only involves digging but also grading the land, leveling the land to make floor leveling easier, and removing unnecessary materials that can affect the stability of a structure.
Most construction and home improvement projects are priced by every square foot, but soil excavation is different. For residential and small commercial projects, it is normally charged for every cubic yard of soil, dirt, and other material. But for larger construction projects, especially those that require clearing or land grading, contractors may charge either by square foot, cubic yard, or land area, specifically per acre.
For home excavation, expect to spend around $1,400 to $5,000 on average. Most residential excavations are charged around $3000 for the job. If charging per cubic yard, the average price is $100 but it can fall somewhere along the range of $50 to $200.
But if grading or leveling is needed, contractors may either charge it as part of the excavation cost, or as a separate job. The cost of grading your yard will fall around $1,000 to $6,000.
Labor costs are higher and are often charged per hour of work. Contractors normally charge between $40 to $180 for it, and this includes their professional fees and their rental charges for their equipment. Do note that some contractors require a minimum number of hours before agreeing to the project.
It can be difficult to gauge how much an excavation project would cost, as this will be affected by numerous factors, such as:
- Type of excavation needed
- Logistics, such as the distance between the site and where the materials will be transported, and how it will be done
- The kind of equipment that will be used
- Season and weather-related issues
Because of the wide range of costs and the numerous factors that can affect it, getting an accurate quote for your property will be difficult. Although there are numerous online cost calculators that you can use as your budget guide, they are more likely to be inaccurate because they tend to disregard many of those factors.
A project they estimate to cost $500 may be worth $1500 when quoted by a contractor who personally checked the worksite. Cost calculators may be handy, but nothing beats getting a quote from a contractor who saw your property and already has an idea on what to do.
Cost of Basement and Foundation Excavation
How much does it cost to dig a basement? This is a question of many homeowners who just purchased a lot and plan to build a house with a basement, or even those with already finished homes. If this is also one of your questions, then you need to pay attention.
Basement excavations are tricky, not to mention riskier for workers. This is why it is generally more expensive than most excavation work. Not only that, basement excavation is not only about digging but may also include other related work, such as shoring. Grading is also a must, as well as the removal of materials, like roots and rocks.
This kind of work also requires extensive excavation; an eight feet deep hole is the norm, but contractors may dig beyond that if needed. And to do so, a lot of manpower is needed, as well as special equipment. This also means increased labor costs for you.
If you want a basement in your home, it should be done before your house is completed. Basement excavations in this case range from as low as $500 to as high as $30,000. Note that the size of the basement and the kind and difficulty of removing the materials are among the biggest factors that will dictate the overall project cost.
But if you are adding a basement to your existing home, you may will have to pay an additional $5,000 or more on top of the excavation cost to get your home lifted. As a result, ballpark figures for this kind of project run between $30,000 to $70,000.
And if you have a crawlspace, you can convert that into your basement so that excavation work is minimized, and it will only cost you a few thousand dollars to do so.
Even if you decide to go do it yourself, just renting the needed equipment can already set you back by $500 on average. While you save on labor costs by doing so, remember that the machinery involved costs thousands of dollars, even more so than the cost of the project, and mishandling and breaking them means you will pay for it. Just let professionals handle it to prevent this scenario.
Cost of Pool Excavation
If you have a big yard and kids who love the water, chances are you have been asked one too many times if you can get a pool installed at home. And if you finally decide to give in to their whims, you need to be aware of how much excavation for it can cost you.
If the ground is ideal for excavation, such as having soft soil that can be easily removed, pool excavation can be as low as $400. But for very challenging excavations, expect to be billed by a pool excavation contractor by as much as $20,000.
Of course, all that soil that has been dug up needs to go somewhere. If you are unable to do this yourself, the contractor will do it for you for a $300 fee on average.
Pond Excavation Cost
Sprucing up your landscaping and completely transforming it can be as simple as adding a pond. This kind of excavation work is generally considered small-scale, that is why contractors normally charge it by every square foot.
The excavation itself ranges from $1 to $8 per square foot, with the total project cost ranging from $500 to $9,000. The size of the pond, how deep you want it to be, and the kind of material that needs to be removed for your pond will largely dictate how much you need to pay for its excavation.
Getting Quotes from Local Excavation Companies Near You
Ready to get your property excavated in preparation for your dream home? Can’t wait to add a basement, or even a pool and a pond out on your yard? If so, you need to find a qualified contractor first.
If you are wondering how you can do that quickly, the answer lies with our free service.
To do that, you just need to fill out our form – which you can already fully accomplish in around two minutes or so, by the way – and wait for the excavation companies themselves to contact you. Yes, it is the other way around, and you can get as much as four free quotes immediately!
But because we already know that it is hard to get an accurate quote for this project, you can ask those interested contractors in your area to drop by your property and give you a more accurate quote.
And because they are fully aware that other companies are also aiming to get you to hire them, you can expect them to compete with each other through their quotes and offers.
We are aware that there is no guarantee that you will accept any of their offers, that is why we do not require you to sign with any of them once you use our service; you are always free to reject their quotes.
Since our service is free, why not try it out today and be one step closer to having your dream home with a pool and a pond?