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How Much Does It Cost To Clear Land And Prepare It to Build A House?

At Hammer Excavations, we have performed our fair share of land clearing, tree removal, stump removal, the list goes on. 

Preparing the site for construction requires a variety of tasks, but one of the most vital is land clearing, and without it, no project can be accomplished. Site preparation makes land accessible, which in turn allows construction to proceed easily. The land clearing process includes breaking down large trees and removing their roots, clearing debris, vegetation, or any other natural foliage detrimental to construction. The building can be quickly built without having anything get in the way once the land clearing is achieved.

After clearing the land, grading the piece of land is critical to layout an even surface for construction purposes so you don’t have trouble connecting utilities like water, sewer, and gas lines. The cost of land clearing will vary depending on the size of the land you are looking to clear out, vegetation density, the labor needed and the machines employed for the job. Clearing, grading and site preparation are all critical steps in land clearing and making the site suitable for building a house. We consider this a critical step, we have dealt with land that has not been graded in the past, and it never turns out pretty. 

Clearing land is not a task to be taken lightly and is not something you should do without professional help because many factors will affect your total price to clear the land for a smooth construction purpose. 

Let us dig deeper to understand the impact of various factors that affect the land clearing cost:

Cost on soil removal - Hammer Excavations

Factors Affecting Land Clearing and Site Preparation

Clearing land involves a lot of factors that affect the overall cost of the job. The size and location are important considerations, and if the land is close to an overhead or underground utility, it might be difficult for heavy equipment to operate. Whether there is any tree removal, forestry mulching, erosion control, grading, or demolition, land erosion significantly reduces costs. If your property hasn’t been surveyed in some time, then finding out from the local councils what boundaries exist can also add another dimension cost-wise. In some specific cases, there may be a need to retain the trees to prevent soil erosion, protect the property and obstruct possible flooding.

Mostly, less wooded land does not need any particular equipment use, so you can be safe from costlier expenses for heavy-duty machines like bulldozers and excavators, which are expensive to rent. If your property is extra wooded with tall trees or rocks, you would likely have to go through a more expensive process.

In most areas, permits need to be acquired for the excavation of land. The average cost is $100-$200 depending on the city or county you’re located in, and in some instances, tree removal is restricted. At the same time, limits can sometimes be placed on how many trees are allowed during excavation projects.

Land Clearing And Site Preparation

Land clearing is the foundation for any construction project. Before the building can commence, a level surface must be created by excavating and grading the site to ensure smooth construction.

Surveying The Land

Site preparation typically begins with a land survey to determine and identify its easements and boundaries. A land survey is an essential part of any construction project as it ensures that the borders and the dimensions are accurate. The survey team will also determine how grading or landscaping needs to be done depending on future development plans in the area.

This information can be mapped out on a blueprint to ensure no surprises when clearing begins. The survey cost ranges between $575-$700, depending on how much work it will take and whether or not new markings need to be made.

Clearing The Existing Structures

To clear the lot and build a new structure, old buildings must be demolished. Demolition is part of land clearing as any existing structures need to be demolished before new construction can commence. This process costs between $7,500 to $15,000. However, minor demolitions are about $1,000 per minor demolition project because even if there’s nothing left from an old building other than skeletal remains such as foundation or steel beams need to be removed too.

Eliminating The Underground Infrastructure

The next stage involves digging up any abandoned structures. One of the most important factors to consider when building a new home is whether or not there was ever any initial construction on that land. To construct a new building, these old relics must be removed to commence a new structure. Removal of foundations and other underground infrastructures averages $1,000-$5,000 depending on the volume of work.

Removing Timber And Underbrush

Tree removal will add costs to the overall land clearing, and the average price would be around  $200 for a small tree, $700 for a medium-sized one; and about $1,000 for large ones. And if the trees on your land are going to be preserved, there won’t be any additional charge.

The stump of an already felled trunk will remain after it’s been chopped down. You can have this ground below the soil line or completely remove it from sight altogether with heavy machinery that typically costs about $400 per 20″ stump or up to double that amount if some high-quality work is required.

Underbrush in some sites needs to be removed effectively to ensure smooth construction. There will be an average spending of $200-$600 to get rid of debris and brush.


After the tree removal, the stumps, leaves and other debris covering the ground needs to be cleaned. Resloping involves bringing in topsoil to reform an area for runoff not to flood or cause erosion. For a 1,000 square foot site, this process averages $985, including excavation of soil from elsewhere if necessary, followed by spreading new soil over any remaining unlevelled portions with a bulldozer blade that smooths everything off nicely. 

Controlling Erosion

Soil erosion is a significant issue for the new land being cleared. Many soil prevention methods are used, such as metal braces and edging that will help hold the soil from escaping downslope or off of hillsides. These can be expensive at an average price of 10 dollars per four-foot sections to ensure no land erosion in the newly cleared land. 

Grading The Land

The land is graded and flattened once vegetation, brush and trees are gone, and the erosion control steps are taken. Wells for drinking water or sewage systems can be drilled during this phase of the process. Dirt is expensive to move and often needs to be hauled onto the grading area. This starts at about $4 per square foot but can go up depending on how much dirt you need or any problems with erosion before foundation work begins.         

To have a fair idea, let us try to understand land clearing and site preparation costs by project range as under:


$200 – $1,000              

Land clearing of a levelled 1-acre land with very little vegetation

Average Cost

$1,500 – $3,000

Land clearing of a completely or moderately flat 1-acre lot with some rocks and moderate vegetation 


$3,500 – $6,750

Tree removal and excessive vegetation of a hilly land

Earthworks soil removal cost

Identifying The Site Features and Procuring Geotechnical Report

Far from being a routine and mundane activity, clearing the land for construction often has many steps. Hiring an engineer or surveyor can identify the features of your property that require special attention, such as floodplains, oil-wells, septic tanks and terrain changes, to plan accordingly by outlining them on site maps. If you decide not to get these reports completed before building a home, then be sure to clear out all obstacles when it comes to demolition, so everything goes smoothly.

A geotechnical report or a general site survey must be done before levelling the land and commencing the work; both are essential pieces of information. Without this vital data, landowners would have no idea what problems could erupt once the construction has started. A geotechnical report examines physical properties like soil type to determine where the building can be constructed.

Testing The Soil 

Soil testing is a necessary step in the building process. A geotechnical report can help you plan for the foundation of the construction and helps to determine what type of foundation and other materials are needed to create. Soil tests can range from $7-10 depending on their depth – while some are only 20 feet deep, others may go down 40 or 50. Soil tests come in different types, they cover fertility, chemical makeup, environmental pollutants, and building materials like concrete or cinder blocks used in construction.

Costs For Preparing The Construction Site 

To prepare the ground for building, one must first clear away any natural obstacles that impede construction. Land clearing also makes excavation easier as it removes all of the land material in the desired area and prepares it to be re-shaped for the endurance of the construction.

The site preparation process is necessary to ensure long term stability, as soil compaction prevents settlement or heaving on support structures like footings and foundation walls. Site development includes removing obstructions before work begins, so they don’t get in the way during subsequent construction phases; excavating dirt where you want new foundations laid out.

Excavating The Land

Land excavation is a necessary step in building site preparation, and it can be one of the most costly tasks in the process. Land clearing starts by removing all vegetation around your future foundation to prepare for construction, this includes bushes, brush, rocks or any other debris that may stand in the way. The average cost ranges from $200-$2k per acre when levelling out terrain with mild-moderate vegetation on flat ground or gentle slopes.

Cleaning up land also helps make sure no harmful materials like hazardous chemicals get into the water supply because they’re more likely to seep through.

A contractor must always have a map of all underground utilities before starting any excavation work to ensure no surprises during the process. It also helps avoid damaging power lines or other vital infrastructure such as water pipes. Calling 811 centers is an easy way for contractors to get up-to-date information about what they might be walking on; the service is free. Taking the help of utility companies to mark where the vital infrastructures lie allows construction crews to make sure they’re staying clear from them. Doing this would also ensure safety in general by making workers aware if anything else dangerous lies beneath ground level.

Making The Construction Site Levelled 

An uneven surface can make any project more time consuming and complicated. The effects of these unpredictable land conditions are not healthy for the upcoming building. So, for the structure’s longevity, the site must be levelled before the construction starts. The average cost for a one thousand square feet levelling service will be $985, with one load of dirt or gravel included. This might seem expensive at first glance, but it’s not considering how much more manageable every aspect becomes after completing this step.

Stabilizing The Sloped Site 

If a building site is in an area that’s sloped, near water or any other hazard zone with erosion issues, it needs to be stabilized before construction can start. Soil stabilization creates better soil which improves its load-bearing capacity for structures. The cost of this process may range from $19-$43 per square foot, depending on the extent of stabilization needed.

Laying The Concrete Foundation

The foundation of a building is one of the most critical components of the structure. The average cost to install a concrete foundation starts at around $5 per square foot. This figure varies depending on size and depth. It will typically come with any extra costs that may be needed for unique materials like rebar steel bars, which are required to create an adequate base if you live near fault lines where earthquakes occur more often.

The concrete foundation provides additional protection against severe weather conditions such as heavy winds blowing through neighborhoods causing structural damage. 

Excavation For  Basement

Cities often have building codes that dictate how a basement must be excavated. Excavation is usually an expensive, time-consuming process where the dirt and rocks are removed from what will become your new home’s foundation. 

Digging up the space starts after the existing debris is removed and the cost of digging the space varies on geographical location and land conditions but the average cost ranges between $60-$150 per hour.


Land clearing is a vital part of any construction project in which heavy equipment or chainsaws are employed to clear the land for the building planned to be constructed there. The labour cost can range anywhere between $110-$245 per hour, depending on how much work needs to be done. Most projects are usually charged by acres that need to be cleared rather than hours worked, so it’s hard to determine an exact price since each person has different levels of experience when they go into these jobs. However, the flat ground will usually average around 3-6 dollars per square foot while hillsides tend.

If you need to hire machinery such as backhoes and excavators, plus a skilled operator, it can cost $60-$150 per hour for the machinery and the operator. However, these charges are usually included in your contractor’s quoted price per sq. ft. An additional $20-45/square foot cost will be charged if grading or dirt replacement is undertaken.

Soil removal cost - Hammer excavations

Costs On Enhancement and Improvement

Creating The Site Plan

The architect’s first step is to create a site plan. The architect must be licensed and certified for their plans to be accepted by the building permit division. The cost of site plan approval averages between $644-906 per project. Designing these plans is initiated with a sketch on paper that will become more detailed as it progresses through different stages until completion.

Setting Up The Underground Utilities 

Having underground utility lines on your property can be a costly investment. This is because prepping the soil, laying down gas and water lines, digging trenches for electrical cables all come with an expense that you have to budget accordingly. 

Gas line installation averages $200-$500 while water pipes average from $1,500-2K depending on how much ground must be dug up to lay them out. Installing CAT6 cables will cost about $750 or more; this number doesn’t factor in any other costs incurred like cutting through rock or labour needed if it’s not already installed nearby.

Laying The Driveway

While you are looking to build your new home, having a driveway is essential to drive your car into the property. Whether you want asphalt or gravel, the cost averages $830 and $2,300 respectively for a 12’x50’&rsquo asphalt driveway.

Building The Access Road

For any property, an access road is often needed. The construction cost of an access road will be the same as that of laying a driveway. The average price of a 12’x50′”&rsquo measurement will be $830 and $2,300 for asphalt and gravel, respectively.

Supplementary Costs And Considerations 

It is vital to understand all the requirements before starting your land project and clear the space for a construction site. Understanding what you can expect in this area will save you from confusions down the road.

  • No matter what site you’re looking at, if it has an existing structure or trees on the land, that building will need to be demolished before any other work can occur and tree removal is undertaken. This includes testing for asbestos and removing the found material safely from the property with a respirator mask due to its hazardous nature. The cost of these testing services is about $1,500 or more, depending on how much time was spent. Another $400-$500 per hour price will have to be incurred if found with asbestos-containing material inside the structure or building.
  • Tree removal and excavation of land is a difficult task and should be left to professionals. Even if you have the flattest, most easy-going property, it still requires backhoe clearance for proper development. Depending on the location of your project, excavation permits can cost between $100 to $200. But regardless of how much excavation work needs to be done, there’s no way around that expensive permit fee.
  • You may not be aware of this, but lumber companies will often remove the trees for free in exchange for the wood if you have valuable trees on your property. Lumber company representatives are always looking at new places to harvest timber to sell it and make money.
  • Take steps to save money on your land clearing project by looking for a willing contractor to do the job during the off-season if you have any debris that needs to be cleared. Reuse and recycle materials not to incur additional disposal fees or tax deductions. One of the most critical steps in building a house is to choose your contractor. Make sure you get multiple quotes from various contractors so you can be confident about what sort of budget will work best for both parties.

Hiring A Contractor

Site preparation is an integral part of the construction process, so it’s crucial to choose a contractor who has experience. You will have better quality work down the road and avoid serious problems from improper grading and site preparation.

  • To avoid any nasty surprises, you need to get all the information, always get several quotes for the job before choosing a contractor to start the project. Ensure that each quote includes labour, equipment, debris removal and dumping fees, and grading services offered by them.
  • There are many ways to find a good contractor. One of the most important is hiring one licensed and insured. One way to protect yourself from a shady contractor is by asking them for proof of their licensing, bonding and insurance. A bond protects you financially, should something happen on-site during preparation like theft or accidents while working at night when no one else is around. Insurance ensures that homeowners are not liable due to an accident happening outside regular business hours.
  • If you’re looking for the best professional to complete your site preparation, ask family and friends. They’ll have firsthand knowledge of which professionals are reliable and cost-effective.

Example Projects

Project 1: Wildlife Preservation

  • Location: Diamond Creek, Melbourne
  • Challenge: The site was home to a protected species of birds nesting in some of the trees scheduled for removal.
  • Solution: We paused the project and consulted with wildlife conservation experts. Together, we developed a plan to safely relocate the nests without harming the birds.
  • Outcome: The project was successfully completed with minimal impact on the wildlife, and it taught us the importance of being adaptable and environmentally conscious in our operations.

Project 2: Urban Land Clearing

  • Location: Craigieburn, Melbourne
  • Challenge: Clearing land in a densely populated urban area with strict noise and disruption regulations.
  • Solution: We implemented a phased clearing approach, using quieter machinery during certain hours and ensuring efficient debris removal to minimize disruption.
  • Outcome: The project was a lesson in balancing efficiency with community considerations, highlighting the importance of thoughtful planning in urban settings.

Project 4: Challenging Terrain

  • Location: Rural Victoria
  • Challenge: A land clearing project on a steep, rocky hillside, posing significant safety risks.
  • Solution: Utilizing specialized machinery and expert operators trained for rough terrain.
  • Outcome: This project tested our technical skills and safety protocols, proving our capability to handle even the most challenging landscapes.

The Final Word

Building a house is an exciting and daunting experience. But you can make it easier by knowing the proper steps to take while building your home. Ensure that everything from site preparation, utility installation, and design plans are done correctly so that your house lasts long enough for generations to enjoy.
Our many projects have reinforced a vital lesson: land clearing is not just about removing trees and levelling the ground; it’s about respecting the land and preparing it for a new purpose. Each project brings its own set of challenges and learning opportunities, and this one was no exception

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