How much does excavation cost?
How much does excavation cost?
$2.50 – $15.00 Cost per cubic yard
$100 – $300 Excavator & operator hourly rates
$1,100 – $5,600 Average total excavation cost
Excavation costs $2.50 to $15.00 per cubic yard or $1,100 to $5,600 total on average. Excavator hourly rates are $100 to $300 per hour to dig a basement, foundation, or pool. Land excavation estimates depend on the dirt type, depth, terrain, obstructions, and amount of earth moved.
|Foundation pad for new home site||$1,500 – $10,000|
|Dig a basement for new construction||$1,500 – $10,000|
|Dig around existing house||$5,000 – $15,000|
|Dig an in-ground swimming pool||$1,000 – $5,000|
|Excavate a driveway, patio, or deck dirt pad||$1,000 – $2,500|
|Excavate a hillside or flatten slopes||$1,000 – $5,000|
|Grading for lawn installation||$1,000 – $5,000|
|Rock / ledge removal||$1,000 – $20,000+|
|Trenching for sewer, septic, or drainage system||$500 – $1,200|
Average excavation cost calculator
The following table shows the average cost for excavation work.
|National Average Cost||$3,500|
|Average Range||$1,100 to $5,600|
Cost data is from research and project costs reported by HomeGuide members.
Cost to excavate land per cubic yard & hourly
Most excavation contractors charge by the cubic yard or the total project, though some charge by the hour for small projects. Charging by the square foot is rare but is sometimes done for small grading projects involving shallow depths.
Many excavation contractors have minimum project fees of $500 to $800.
|Charge type||Average cost|
|Cost per cubic yard||$2.50 – $15.00|
|Cost per hour (operator & excavator)||$100 – $300|
|Cost per hour (operator only)||$50 – $150|
|Cost per day (excavator rental only)||$200 – $700|
|Cost per square foot||$1 – $5|
|Cost per acre||$1,000 – $3,000|
Excavation cost per cubic yard
Excavation costs $2.50 to $15.00 per cubic yard, depending on the soil type, depth, terrain, and number of obstructions. Sand or light soil costs the least to dig, while excavating rocky soil or a rock ledge that requires jackhammering costs $50 to $200+ per cubic yard.
|Soil type or condition||Cost per cubic yard*|
|Light soil||$2.50 – $6.00|
|Average soil||$6.00 – $10.00|
|Heavy/wet soil or loose rock||$10.00 – $15.00|
|Jackhammered rock||$50 – $200+|
*Including labor and equipment.
To estimate your total excavation cost, enter the area’s length, width, and depth into a cubic yard calculator.
Excavator hourly rates
Excavator hourly rates are $100 to $300 per hour for operators with their own mini excavator, backhoe, or skid-steer loader. Hiring an operator without equipment costs $50 to $150 per hour. Most operators charge a minimum of one day or eight hours.
Renting your own mini excavator costs $200 to $700 per day, depending on the size and features.
Excavation prices by project
New home site excavation cost
Home site excavation costs $1,500 to $10,000 on average, depending on the foundation size, depth, and terrain. Excavation for a large foundation can cost $20,000+ in areas with rocky soil, large boulders, or excessive clay.
Pouring a concrete slab foundation costs $6,900 to $16,200, while building an unfinished basement foundation costs $26,800 to $50,300.
Building a house costs $155,300 to $416,300 on average, depending on the size and design.
Building a barndominium costs $70 to $120 per square foot.
Basement or crawl space excavation cost
Basement excavation costs $10,000 to $30,000 on average for new construction, depending on the size, depth, and terrain, and typically takes 2 to 4 days. Excavating may cost $30,000 to $50,000+ in areas that are hard to access or feature rocky soil.
|Basement height & difficulty||Average cost*|
|8’ – 9’ (standard soil)||$10,000 – $20,000|
|10’ – 12’ (standard soil)||$20,000 – $30,000|
|8’ – 12’ (difficult or rocky soil)||$30,000 – $50,000+|
*Excavation and grading only. Does not include concrete slab floor or basement foundation walls.
Digging a new basement under an existing house with a crawl space costs $20,000 to $45,000+ for excavation alone, depending on the size and accessibility.
Cost to dig around an existing foundation
Digging around a foundation costs $5,000 to $15,000 or $100 to $250 per linear foot to create access for foundation repairs or basement waterproofing. Exposing the foundation or basement requires a skilled contractor to excavate carefully without damaging the existing structure.
Foundation repair costs $2,300 to $6,750 on average.
Basement waterproofing costs $1,900 to $6,300 or $3 to $9 per square foot.
Cost to excavate a hillside
Excavating a hillside costs $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size, slope, and amount of dirt to move. Removing a steep hill requires heavy equipment. Grading companies with a mini excavator, backhoe, bobcat, or skid-steer loader charge $100 to $300 per hour and typically have a one-day minimum.
Pool excavation cost
Swimming pool excavation costs $1,500 to $5,000 on average if the soil is soft and free of obstructions. Excavation costs can increase to $15,000 to $20,000 for a difficult-to-access area, challenging terrain with boulders or hardpan, or a rock ledge that requires jackhammering or blasting.
Installing an inground pool costs $28,000 to $55,000.
Above ground pool installation costs $1,800 to $5,000 and can be installed up to halfway into the ground.
Cost of excavating for a driveway, patio, garage, or deck
Excavating a driveway or patio costs $1,000 to $2,500 on average and typically includes grading and compacting the dirt. Costs increase for steeply sloped or difficult-to-access areas.
Building a driveway costs $1,700 to $6,900, depending on the material.
Installing a concrete patio costs $4 to $12 per square foot.
Building a deck costs $15 to $30 per square foot or $4,400 to $10,100, depending on the size.
Building a garage costs $35 to $60 per square foot or $19,600 to $28,200 on average for a two-car garage.
Yard excavation estimates
Yard excavation costs $500 to $5,000, depending on the project size and amount of grading or leveling needed. Small backyard excavation projects for landscaping cost $500 to $1,000, while excavating larger areas for drainage, pipe installation, or erosion control can cost up to $5,000.
Yard projects that may require excavation include:
Trenching costs $5 to $12 per linear foot.
Installing a French drain costs $10 to $25 per linear foot.
New lawn installation costs $7,500 to $22,500, depending on the size and method.
Landscaping costs $4 to $12 per square foot.
A retaining wall costs $40 to $300 per linear foot.
Rock excavation and ledge removal rates
Rock excavation costs $50 to $200 per cubic yard to remove large boulders if storing them somewhere else on-site or $220 to $250 per cubic yard if hauling them offsite. Excavation costs can jump to $15,000 to $20,000+ if the excavator hits rock when digging a foundation, basement, or pool.
Cost to dig a pond
The cost to dig a pond is $300 to $3,200 on average for excavation alone, depending on the type, size, depth, and site and soil conditions. Excavating a large fishing pond costs $2,000 to $5,000+ per acre. Excavation costs do not include pond design or pond liner installation.
Cost factors of earth excavation and grading
Regrading a yard costs $500 to $1,000 for small projects or $1,000 to $5,000 for the average backyard, depending on the soil type, slope, and fill dirt needed. Most contractors include grading or leveling as part of an excavation project, while some charge extra for the service.
|Project type||Average cost|
|Land clearing||$1,150 – $3,700|
|Land grading and leveling||$500 – $5,000|
|Trenching||$500 – $1,200|
|Dirt removal||$140 – $230 per cubic yard|
|Additional backfill / fill dirt||$5 to $25 per cubic yard|
Other factors that affect the cost of excavation include:
Area size and depth – Excavation rates typically do not decrease for larger projects because more soil must be relocated or hauled away.
Accessibility of job site – Costs increase if the excavators must work around existing structures or the site has tight spaces requiring smaller or specialized equipment.
Site geology / soil type – Excavation costs less for property with soft, loose soil versus rocky terrain, hardpan, or rock ledges that require a hydraulic breaker or jackhammer.
Underground obstructions – Excavating around buried pipes or utility lines requires extra caution, increasing labor time and costs.
Plans for the dirt – Costs increase if transporting dirt to or from the site instead of relocating it on-site. Backfilling and grading often require additional dirt delivered to the site. Fill dirt costs $5 to $25 per cubic yard on average.
Site cleanup / soil remediation – Contractors charge extra if the soil requires remediation to remove contaminants. Soil testing costs $25 to $200 per sample for heavy metals or $5 to $50 per sample for a specific contaminant.
Equipment – Excavation companies typically have a mini excavator or backhoe. Digging in rocky terrain may require renting a jackhammer attachment or hydraulic breaker, increasing costs.
Location – Prices increase if heavy machinery must be transported to a remote location.
Land survey – A land survey costs $380 to $540 on average. Some excavation projects require a land survey before excavation can begin.
Land clearing – Land clearing 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 – Tree removal costs $300 to $2,000 on average, depending on the size.
Permits – An excavation permit costs $50 to $400, depending on the project size and location. Most cities require a permit for any earthmoving project.
Cost to move or remove dirt
The cost to move dirt is $140 to $230 per cubic yard or $1,400 to $2,300 per dump-truck load on average, depending on the dirt type and amount, equipment required, location, and the distance the dirt is hauled.
Residential cut and fill cost
Residential cut and fill costs $1 to $15 per cubic yard. Cut and fill involves removing dirt from high areas and using it to build up low areas for leveling or grading. Contractors often use a cut and fill technique when excavating a driveway or road.
Land excavation FAQs
What is land excavation?
Land excavation involves digging, trenching, dirt removal, and other earthmoving to prepare a site for construction, typically using heavy equipment like an excavator or backhoe. Excavation is required when building a new home or driveway, digging a basement or inground pool, or installing septic or gas lines.
Excavation often includes land clearing, leveling, or grading, though some contractors price these services separately.
How long does excavation take?
Excavation takes 1 to 3 days for small projects and up to 3+ weeks for larger projects or areas with rocky soil, a rock shelf, or large boulders that must be removed.
Can excavation and grading be done in the winter?
Excavation and grading can be done in the winter, but it is not ideal in areas that experience snow as the thawing snow may cause shifting earth or drainage issues later. The best time to excavate is in the spring. Homeowners in areas without snow can excavate at any time.
Getting estimates from excavation companies
Before hiring excavation companies near you, be sure to:
Get at least three quotes to compare. Excavation companies require an on-site visit to provide an accurate estimate.
Look for pros with Erosion and Sediment Control certification.
Look at their reviews on HomeGuide and Google.
Select a company that is licensed, bonded, and insured.
Get a detailed estimate, contract, and warranty in writing before the work begins.
Ask the contractor about an erosion control plan for your property.
Avoid companies with the cheapest quotes as quality may suffer.
Never pay in full before the project starts. Follow a payment plan instead.
Questions to ask
How long have you been in business?
Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
Do you own or rent your excavation equipment? Does the estimate include all equipment and delivery fees?
Are you certified in Erosion and Sediment Control? What is your erosion control plan for my project?
Will you flag any buried pipes and utility lines before work begins?
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?