How Much Does Excavation Cost?

Typical Range:

$3,905 - $7,989

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 24,134 HomeAdvisor members. Embed this data

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  • Homeowners use HomeAdvisor to find pros for home projects.
  • When their projects are done, they fill out a short cost survey.
  • We compile the data and report costs back to you.

Updated July 18, 2022

Written by HomeAdvisor.

A typical residential excavation job can range between $3,905 and $7,989, with an average of $5,929. You'll likely pay between $40 to $150 an hour. Alternatively, you may pay fixed pricing, or the project bid amount. Project bids reflect cubic yards of dirt moved, usually between $50 and $200 per cubic yard

In residential settings, a local residential excavation company prepares a site for development by removing trees, digging and grading the land in preparation for home foundations. If it has to do with dirt—dirt removal, cut and fill, land clearing, digging, compacting, and land prep—these earthmoving experts do it. 

Although the specific machinery used for excavation may vary depending on the size of the lot and the plant life already in place, the most common choices are either an excavator, backhoe loader, or tracker with a backhoe attachment. Many elements influence how much you'll pay for excavation, including accessibility, terrain, equipment, gradient, and the project purpose.

Average cost to excavate land ranges from $50 to $200 per cubic yard

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National Average $5,929
Typical Range $3,905 - $7,989
Low End - High End $1,500 - $12,000

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 24,134 HomeAdvisor members.

Excavation Cost Factors

Four major pricing factors may affect land excavation prices. The size of the total area, terrain and soil composition, purpose of the excavation, and equipment needs. Tough projects on challenging terrain that are difficult to access or that require additional equipment, or the use of multiple machines at once, are more costly than standard jobs because they require more labor. 

Size and Accessibility

For residential purposes, many projects have minimum fees. Smaller projects often require smaller equipment with lower prices. For instance, a skid steer or backhoe for a small job typically cost around $100 an hour to rent, including an operator, while a full-sized excavator runs about 50% more and is the better choice for larger projects, where access allows.

Soil and Terrain

Digging in rock or rocky terrain will add $200 to $1,200 or more to the project. A contractor will always visit the site to determine the final bid. Excavation in an area with loose soil, no trees, and no rocks in the dirt is much simpler, and, therefore, faster and less expensive than removing dozens of mature trees and dealing with boulders stuck in clay-like soil.

Flattening Hills or Slopes

Cut and fill rates vary greatly from $1 to $12 per cubic yard. Haul distance also affects excavation, more so than size. For example, cut and fill earthmoving over a few hundred feet uses less crew, equipment, fuel, and time than moving it over five miles. The price differences vary greatly due to these factors, plus location, accessibility and the type of project.

Equipment Needed

With an operator, equipment rental costs around $100 to $250 an hour. However, larger jobs can use larger equipment that is more efficient at earthmoving. So, while machine rental costs increase, overall, you save money, because labor time is significantly reduced. 

Accessibility also determines the type of equipment needed. Poor accessibility to a job site may require smaller dump trucks and more labor hours to move dirt and debris, increasing the bill.


Though season does have some limitations for most construction work, unless it's a project in the Arctic, it has very little effect on projects or costs. The main worry about winter work is laying a foundation before frost sets into the dig site—though this is a concern of the foundation and general contractor—not the excavator. 

Current levels of technology and engineering in equipment make winter workflow as seamless as summer construction. The largest impact is weather delays. General contractors usually absorb costs due to delays.

Land Clearing

Land clearing pricing alone runs about $200 to $6,000 an acre. This includes removing trees, shrubs, and debris from the land. 

If you have grading undertaken at the same time, you'll spend an additional $0.47 to $2.28 per square. With 43,560 square feet in an acre, that's about $20,000 to $100,000 per acre for grading.

So, for clearing and grading, expect to pay anywhere from $20,200 to $106,000 per acre

Dirt Removal Costs

Hauling away dirt from new foundations and in-ground pools sets you back between $8 and $25 per cubic yard. Access to the dirt plays the largest factor. If a dump truck and backhoe have easy access to the dirt, expect to pay closer to $8 per cubic yard

However, if access is restricted, so only smaller equipment or barrows can get close to the dirt, or the site is a long way from the removal vehicle, expect to pay closer to $25 per cubic yard.

Cleanup Costs

Site cleanup costs anywhere from $200 to $20,000. It refers to the process of testing and fixing any soil contamination issues before work begins. Soil contamination testing costs anywhere from $15 to $3,000. How much you'll pay for the test depends on what you're testing for, the size of the site you're testing, and whether you hire someone to do the test or you buy a self-testing kit and mail it back to the lab yourself. 

Full-spectrum tests across an acre can cost as much as $3,000, but if you're testing a small area for a specific contaminant, such as lead, you can pay as little as $15 for a self-testing kit. Volatile organic substance tests cost between $200 and $500 each, while microbiological testing costs $20 to $300, depending on what microbes you're testing for. 

If the tests come back negative, then no cleanup is required. However, if contamination is identified, this must be rectified, or cleaned up, before work can resume. For example, if the soil is contaminated with asbestos, expect to pay $4 to $6 per square foot for removal. 

So, if the contamination is spread over a whole acre, cleanup could cost between $175,000 and $260,000.

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Excavation Prices by Project

Excavation is the first step in the construction process included in your overall home construction costs. Excavators prepare sites for a variety of purposes, including installing home foundations, waterproofing basements, installing in-ground pools, pouring concrete patios, grading for driveways, and even for simple erosion control and drainage. 

It's used to clear and grade farmland and in commercial applications like roads, bridges, and even parks.

Excavation for Concrete Patios and Driveways

It costs between $1,000 and $2,500 to have an area graded, compacted, and prepped for concrete.

Creating a patio or driveway first requires creating a dirt pad—sometimes with grading. 

Excavation for Basements and Waterproofing 

Pricing for getting the basement exposed to install waterproofing runs anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. On top of digging costs, basement waterproofing costs between $5 to $10 per square foot or about $4,000 total.

Excavation for Crawl Spaces

Just digging the hole for a new basement or crawl space can cost between $500 for a DIY job—just renting the equipment for a small project. For larger projects, expect to pay upwards of $6,000 to $10,000.

Excavation for Foundations for a New Construction

New construction is one of the most common jobs for an excavator. On average, you'll end up paying between $1,500 to $6,000 for excavating the foundation, without the cost of laying the foundation

Excavation for Pools

Digging a hole for a swimming pool will run you anywhere from$400 to $1,500 in an easily accessible area with soft soil. Inaccessible areas with rocky terrain can cost as much as $20,000.

Rock Excavation

Rock excavation pricing, if it involves blasting to create small, movable chunks of rock from shelves or large boulders, runs $40 to $100 per cubic yard

Rocks present the largest cost increase for digging if they’re larger than an excavator or backhoe can handle. Blasting often requires geological and explosives consulting professionals.

Excavation for Plumbing and Septic Tanks

Trenching for new sewage lines and septic systems have a few considerations. A new sewage main can cost upwards of $1,500 just to tap into. Installation adds another $6,000 to $10,000, depending on linear feet and accessibility. Renting a trencher runs between $150 to $400 per day, depending on the size of the machine.

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DIY Excavation vs. Hiring a Professional

Potentially, you can perform a small excavation yourself, if you have the right skills, you're certain you won't hit any utilities, and you can access the necessary equipment.

Call 811—the dig line—before digging. If your dig runs over any lines, you'll need to involve the appropriate utility company to either reroute the lines or do that portion of the dig. Never dig or move utility lines outside the home yourself. Costs will vary considerably based on a wide range of factors.

Remember that, while you'll save on labor costs, pricing still runs between $75 and $350 per day for the equipment rental. Plus, it'll take you longer than a pro, and there's more risk of something going wrong, in which case you'd have to hire a pro to fix it for you anyway. 

If you're in any doubt, it's best to hire a pro. Similarly, if the terrain is difficult or the soil composition is clay or rocky, let a professional excavator handle the job.


Average hourly rates tend to vary greatly due to location but tend to run between $120 to $150 per hour. That rate includes both the equipment and the operator and often comes with a minimum number of hours—typically at least one day or eight hours. Hourly rates only apply when you are contracting the excavator directly. General contractors will bid project rates instead.

Excavation vs. Yard Grading

Yard grading runs between $1,000 and $6,000 or more for the entire job. Most contractors consider grading as part of excavation, though it is sometimes a separate project. 

Yard leveling, also known as grading, is a type of excavation used to correct drainage issues, prepare the ground for home extensions, and for purely aesthetic purposes. Both include digging and removing dirt or cutting and filling for both landscaping and leveling.


How do you calculate the cost of excavation? 

To calculate excavation pricing, you need to work out the volume of soil to be excavated, in cubic feet, convert that to cubic yards, then multiply that by the price per cubic yard. 

Example: An excavation of a pit that's 26 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. And the price per cubic yard is $100.

  • (26 x 10 x 4) / 27 = 38.52 cubic feet

  • 38.52 cubic feet x $100 = $3,852

Can grading or excavating work occur in the winter?

Digging projects can happen throughout the year, including winter, though in some cases, it can increase the cost and the duration of the project.

How long does it take to excavate?

It really depends on the yard's configuration. With easy access, it'll only take a few days to excavate.

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