The Excavation Process – A Complete Step by Step Guide

Victoria Excavation

Excavation can be a complex process. From start to finish there are a number of different operations and project stages to be aware of.  Like anything, the level of complexity involved varies from project to project based on a number of variables.

Below is a step by step explanation of the excavation process outlining what is required. This is just a general guideline as every project comes with its own unique challenges and requirements. While this is a general guideline, it should help you better understand the excavation process and what is required to take raw land and develop it into something new.

A step by step guide to the excavation process

The Planning/Assessment Phase

Before sitework begins, it is necessary to assess the site and create a plan for how to proceed. This is typically done by an engineering or surveying company. This plan will show the current conditions on-site in detail including the grade of the property, trees, soil conditions, underground and above ground utilities.

Additionally, if there are building onsite that will be removed, there is a process that must be followed for testing for hazardous materials and disposal plans. An experienced contractor will be able to help coordinate this.

This part of the process often involves digging test holes to gauge the quality of the underlying material and the depth of the underlying bedrock. Other specialized equipment may be used to further investigate the underground topography and develop a good idea of what lies beneath the surface material.

This is key as the cost for the excavation phase of the project can vary considerably based on what your contractor finds when they start digging the ground. Knowing up front what is down there is helpful to develop a projected cost.

Choosing an excavation contractor and involving them early can be key to success in the planning phase. With their experience in planning large jobs, they can apply perspective to aspects of the project including where and how to build temporary roads, management of space and materials onsite and much more.

Land clearing 

If your project is on raw land, the next phase of the project will be to clear the land. Depending on a variety of factors, your excavation contractor will likely work with a tree contractor to remove large trees as required, and set up containment zones to protect trees that are not being removed.

This stage can include the removal of rocks, brush, trees, shrubs, old houses, garages and outbuildings. The material will be loaded in trucks and taken for disposal at a sorting facility or dump. How long this stage takes depends on a lot of factors including site access, how much brush and trees are present, the age and composition of buildings and more.

Excavation, grading, sloping, terracing etc.

A building is only as good as its foundation. The foundation of a durable, long-lasting building must be deep, on solid material. It’s the excavation contractor’s job to build a stable, rock-solid foundation for your building. Once land clearing is complete, the contractor will move on to getting the site down to the required grade.

First, topsoil and organic material is stripped from part of the site, or the entire site. That material is typically hauled away to a fill dump site, though sometimes a portion will be held back for backfilling and landscaping needs later in the project.

When the organic material is removed, it’s time to address the underlying rock. In a perfect world, the rock would be flat and stable and fit to build on as is. Of course it never works out like that. If solid rock is encountered below surface, it must be broken apart and removed. This can be done in 2 ways – either by blasting with explosives, or by hammering it out with an excavator-mounted hydraulic hammer. The latter is only use for small sections of rock. Anything significant will need to be blasted.

Generally, one of three things happens to the excavated rock.

  1. It’s hauled away to a site that will crush it and resell the material as gravel.
  2. It’s held on site as blast rock to be used for landscaping and rough backfill needs.
  3. On large sites, crushing equipment may be brought in to create gravel needed for other phases of the project.

Through this process, the team will also be actively working on grading the site as required. This includes creating temporary and permanent roadways, creating building pads, slopes, terraces, basins and other tasks such as digging building foundations.

Drainage and utility installation

During and after the excavation and grading phase, your contractor will start work on utility installation. This may include digging trenches and installing pipe for water service, drainage, internet, gas, sewer and more as required by the project. This work may be done by your contractor or by a utility-specific contractor depending on circumstances.

Your contractor will ensure that these utilities can access existing hookups nearby or may coordinate having the utility company run new connections. At this time, your contractor will also be installing new drainage infrastructure including piping, retention ponds and drains as required. This will help manage water runoff during the construction phase.

Additionally, the team will work on creating any roadways, parking lots, and other paved features. This can happen at different phases of the project, depending on the need for equipment access, parking, and more.

Landscaping and clean up

In some cases, your excavation contractor will stay on site, working as required alongside your building contractor. If you partner with an established excavating business, they may be onsite right until the end of the project. One of the last pieces of any residential or commercial project is implementing a new landscape. This may include leveling and planting a lawn with either seed or sod, installing trees, fencing, gardens, retaining walls and more. If your excavation contractor does not do this work directly, they should be able to help you find good, reputable contractors to do the work.

Once the land development portion of the project is completed, your excavation contractor will clear the site. This may include removal of debris, remaining materials and equipment and ensuring the the site is left in a safe and clean condition for the next phase of construction.

If you’re looking to partner with the best excavation contractor in Victoria, give us a shout. We’d be happy to chat with you about your next project.

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