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How Much Does It Cost To Excavate Land?

Most homeowners spend between $1,980 to $3,599 nationally.
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Whether you are building a new home, or adding a pool in your back yard, excavation is a major part of many construction projects, and is often the next step in the building process after finalizing your plans and gaining the necessary permits. Since this is a not a DIY project, be sure to review all costs below.

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National Excavate Land Costs

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Median Cost


Minimum Cost


Maximum Cost
Average Range:


National Average Cost $3,539
Minimum Cost $200
Maximum Cost $12,000
Average Range $1,980 to $3,599
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How do we get this data? This info is based on 205 cost profiles, as reported by ImproveNet members.

Table of Contents

  1. Excavation Costs
  2. Excavation Cost Factors
  3. What Is Land Excavation?
  4. Reasons To Excavate Land
  5. How To Excavate Land
  6. Land Excavation Vs. Grading Land
  7. Related Costs
  8. Find A Pro

Excavation Costs

The cost of excavation varies based on a wide range of factors. Most homeowners pay from $1,239 to $4,017, an average of $2,606. Small projects cost as little as $500, while major projects cost as much as $8,000. These costs cover employing a professional contractor and the use of any specialist machinery necessary for the scope of the project.

For small projects, such as preparing an area for some decking or adding a pond, you may be able to tackle the work yourself. In such cases, the only costs are the tools you purchase or hire, and your own time.

Whether you do the work yourself, or hire a contractor, you still need to apply for permits. You may also want to employ an architect to plan your new construction.

Excavation Cost Factors

Excavation Cost Factors

Every excavation project is different, as each location presents its own challenges. For example, it may not be possible to access the location with large machinery such as a backhoe loader or excavator; there may be the risk of subsidence or there may be large trees and hedges that the contractor must remove. Preparing the land may also require some demolition work. For these reasons, the price of excavation varies and most contractors request to see the site before providing a quote. Factors affecting the quote include:

  • Type of work involved (clearing, grubbing, grading, trenching and digging)
  • Accessibility
  • Size of project (the amount of soil to move)
  • Length of project
  • Geographical location, including proximity to natural habitats for rare or endangered species
  • Time of year
  • Transportation of dirt and shrubbery offsite, if required
  • Introducing systems to prevent subsequent soil erosion
  • Employing a draftsperson, overseer or any other specialists

What Is Land Excavation?

In construction, land excavation is the process of preparing a site prior to the commencement of building work. Work may involve several stages.

Clearing the land involves removing brush and trees, which may include removing tree stumps and roots (grubbing). These processes prepare the land for bulk excavation, which usually requires the use of heavy machinery, but may also include several workers using hand tools. Finally, your contractor may implement systems to prevent soil erosion, either by building subsurface drain trenches or introducing new vegetation with wide root systems that help to hold the earth together.

What Is Land Excavation

Reasons To Excavate Land

Excavation is a common early step in most construction projects. It's necessary for preparing the foundations for a new building, laying a new road system, landscaping a yard or adding a pool or water feature. Excavation is also a way to control vegetation, clearing an area of dense woodland, preparing farmland or even restoring natural environments.

It's important to remember that excavation involves more than leveling and clearing a patch of land; it also includes and digging and trenching necessary to prepare for building foundations. So, even if you intend to build a new house on a flat area of land, you must still factor the excavation costs into your project budget.

How To Excavate Land

Excavation may seem like a relatively straightforward process, but there are many factors to consider before you start digging. It's essential to draw up plans and get the correct permits, to ensure you aren't going to cut through any gas lines or water pipes. In most cases, it's a good idea to hire a professional to complete the work.

Your excavation job may include the following steps:

  • Set out the corner benchmarks to define the area
  • Survey the ground and top levels
  • Clear the area of shrubs and trees
  • Excavate to the correct depth, as defined by the building permit
  • Dress the loose soil and make up to the correct level, ensuring sufficient density
  • Remove excess soil from site
  • Construct dewatering wells
  • Make the boundaries of the building
  • Install necessary systems to minimize erosion
  • Sign off with local authority before commencing the next phase of building work

Land Excavation Vs. Grading Land

During the excavation process, your contractors may "cut" the land, meaning they lower the elevation of an area. They may also "fill" an area, to raise the elevation. These two processes form the bases of grading, a method of leveling an area of land ready for building work. Many contractors consider grading as part of the excavation work, in which case the work is rolled into the final quote; but you should always check exactly what work a contractor's quote covers before you make a commitment.

How To Excavate Land

Related Costs

Excavation work is normally part of a large construction project. Before you spend too much on your groundwork, consider other potential costs. For example, the average costs for several other important aspects of construction work include:

Find A Pro

Excavation is far more complex than digging a hole. It involves careful planning, getting the correct permits, digging to accurate depths, leveling ground, moving large quantities of soil, preventing erosion and creating a solid base on which to build the rest of your project. To ensure a good job, hire a contractor to complete the work for you. ImproveNet makes it easy to find free quotes from local contractors with the necessary skills and equipment.

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