Expert Guide to Excavation Cost for New Home Builds

by | Jun 18, 2024 | Uncategorized

Excavating land plays an essential role in construction projects. However, if you haven’t built before, odds are you’re not going to know how much excavation costs off the top of your head. That’s what this page is for. We’ve dug up some information on how to calculate excavation costs as well as other details you need to know about excavation services.

What is Excavation?

Excavation is the process of digging up dirt, debris, plants and rocks and removing them from future residential and commercial properties. It’s a means of creating an ideal surface for a construction project to commence and therefore is a necessary step in building.

Why is Excavation Necessary for New Home Construction?

Excavation is a key factor in site preparation as it helps prepare the land for a construction project. Land won’t usually be a naturally flat surface or ready for a house to be built upon it. Land excavation is crucial for house foundations, swimming pools and basements.

Excavation is also essential for installing underground utilities such as plumbing and electrical connections.

Key Factors That Will Impact Excavation Cost

The Project Size and Type

As with most construction projects, the size of the job site and the complexity of the job will be the two key factors in determining the price of an excavation.

Soil Type and Conditions

Before excavation can begin, a soil test will be taken to gain information about the condition of your soil. Knowing the condition of your soil is crucial to understanding the stability of your property and this information is essential to knowing how to approach the project.

Essential Equipment and Labour

Heavy machinery is usually essential to remove the amount of dirt required for an excavation job. Depending on the size of the project, you may need multiple contractors on site. When receiving quotes, contractors should specify what equipment they need and factor that into your costs.

How to work out Excavation Project Cost Estimates

Average Excavation Cost per M3 Dependencies

On average, excavation will cost between $30-50 per square metre, but this is assuming your excavation site offers no complications. Issues like tree roots, boulders, asbestos and other materials will raise the price to $40-150 per square metre or even more.

Prices will also vary depending on the scope of your project, where you live, and the company you hire, among other things. Anything that makes the job more difficult or complex will likely make the job more expensive.

Cost Estimates for Different Excavation Jobs


Though basements are nowhere near as common in Australia as in other countries, it is an option some homeowners decide to pursue. Basement excavation can cost anywhere between $2,000 to $13,000, depending on the size of the basement, soil condition, and any complications that arise (for example, removing rocks, tree roots, etc).


Excavation for a pool can cost anywhere between $510 to over $5,000. Obviously, a key factor is going to be the shape and design of your pool, as well as the usual issues involving soil conditions.

New Construction

Expect to pay around $5,000-$20,000 for an average-sized house. Again, the property you’re working with will greatly influence your land excavation costs.

Excavation Equipment and Rental Costs

What Excavation Equipment You Might Need

At a bare minimum, you’ll require an excavator, or digger, for your construction site. You’ll need to consider a means of removing unwanted materials and dirt from your site so you may have to hire a tip truck or other means of removal.

Average Cost to Rent an Excavator

The price of renting an excavator will vary depending on the size of the vehicle and the length of time you’re hiring it for. A basic machine can cost as little as $50 per hour, however, many places hire by the day rather than per hour. Below is a rough estimate of prices.

1-2 tonne: $220-320 per day

2-3 tonne: $320-420 per day

3-4 tonne: $420-520 per day

Excavator and Operator Rates

Hiring an excavator operator will cost between $50-70 usually, but this will depend on your location, project and the company you work with.

Excavation vs. Grading

When researching site preparation and excavation, you’re likely to come across the term grading. While grading may seem similar to excavation, it’s actually a distinct process. Let’s take a look at the difference between these two procedures.

Difference between Excavation and Grading

Whereas excavation is the process of removing soil, grading elevating and reshaping the ground surface to assist with the construction project.

There are several purposes to grading including stabilising the land and creating proper drainage for the property.

Grading land costs

Grading costs are usually between $15-30 per square metre, and therefore is a cheaper process than excavation. However, as mentioned, it is a different process, so you may not be able to exchange one for the other.

Benefits of Hiring an Excavation Expert


Specialized heavy machinery requires skill and care. Excavation can lead to serious injury should anything go wrong. Experienced teams will know all the safety regulations and protocols to follow to avoid these problems.


How much experience do you have with the specialised machinery you’ll need for an excavation? Chances are not as much as the people who do this day in and day out. A professional excavation service is going to be more efficient than any DIYer and much less likely to have delays.

Experience and Knowledge

The cost of excavation really goes through the roof when mistakes are made, which unfortunately can happen when heavy equipment is used by someone inexperienced. A skilled team will have the experience and knowledge to avoid mistakes, will know all the tricks and be able to adapt to any issues that arise.

Common Risks to Avoid During Excavation Work

Safety Risks

With heavy machinery in operation and trenches being dug, it’s important to keep safety regulations in mind when performing excavation. Some key safety issues to be aware of are:

  • Falling into trenches
  • Hitting something or someone with the excavator
  • Both overhead and underground powerlines.
  • Causing property damage

When performing an excavation, make sure any children and pets are out of the way and that you have a sound knowledge of your surroundings.

Environmental Risks

Bulk excavation on construction sites will disrupt the land, but when done poorly it can have a negative impact on the soil condition and the overall environment.

Property Damage Risks

A large machine hitting something it shouldn’t is going to cause severe damage, whether this is a building or underground infrastructure. Something as simple as knicking a pipe while digging can lead to your property flooding. As you can imagine, this is really bad and expensive to fix.

Tips to Save Money on Excavation Costs

Pros and Cons of DIY Excavation


  • Potentially save money on labour costs
  • More hands-on approach


  • You still need to pay the cost of renting an excavator which can cost anywhere between $550-$900 a day.
  • It’ll take longer, especially if you haven’t done this before.
  • You run the risk of hitting pipes, damaging property

Effective Planning and Site Analysis

Land excavation requires planning and a thorough understanding of the land you’re working on. For starters, you must know if there is pre-existing underground infrastructure and where it is. Hitting a pipe is an expensive mistake to make.

You also need to check if you need to obtain any permits before you can excavate land.

Choosing the Right Contractor

When choosing an excavation company, ask them whether they’ve performed a similar job before. Research whether they have any recommendations and good reviews. Also, consider looking into a few companies to have several quotes to compare.

Optimizing the Design to Reduce Excavation

If you’re working on a sloping site or an unusual block, you can adapt your design rather than change the land itself. For example, a split-level home has multiple levels and works with the slope rather than against it. A house with a smaller footprint could also minimise your excavation costs range.

Potential Additional Costs and Overruns

Encountering Unforeseen Obstacles

We’ve said a couple of times now how important soil samples and site preparation are. This is because if you or your excavation professional find unforeseen obstacles during the process, it can completely throw the plan out of whack.

Compliance and Permitting Issues

When performing major renovation or construction, you’ll need to be in compliance of any laws and guidelines, whether they’re part of the National Construction Code or local council regulations.

Be sure to double-check if you need any permits or approvals before performing any excavation.


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