How Long Does It Take To Excavate A Construction Site?

When it comes to construction, there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes before you can start building.

One of the essential stages of the construction process and the very first step is excavation.

Excavation isn't always easy, and it's not a particularly inexpensive step in the process, but it's vitally important.

Excavation is vital for laying the foundation upon which the structure will be built. This is why sitework is important, perhaps the most important step in the construction process.

In the article below, we'll examine the excavation process and the time it takes to excavate a job site.

Continue reading to see what's involved in this process and what you should know about cost, timing, and how it all unfolds.

Table of Contents


What is Excavation?

Excavation is the process of moving earth, rock, or other materials using tools, equipment, or explosives.

It includes earthwork, trenching, wall shafts, tunneling, and underground.

Like any other construction project, excavation has several critical purposes, including exploration, environmental restoration, mining, and construction.

Construction is one of the most common applications for excavation.

In construction, excavation is used to create building foundations, reservoirs, and roads.

Several different processes are used in excavation, including trenching, digging, dredging, and site development.

These processes will require unique techniques, tools, and machinery to get the job done right.

The process that you use will depend upon your project and what you need to build.


How Does the Excavation Process Work?

Before excavation can begin, you need an excavation permit and your job site must be carefully examined to ensure that the surrounding natural habitat is preserved throughout the excavation. 

You will also need to make note of any underground utilities.

Next, you will make plans for the site's size and depth, and the excavation contractors make drawings to mark the excavation site's boundaries.

Once these two critical steps are complete, the excavation work can begin.

The excavation process includes:

  • setting corner benchmarks
  • surveying the ground and top levels
  • excavation to the approved depth
  • dressing the loose soil type
  • marking up the cut-off level
  • the construction of dewatering wells and interconnecting trenches
  • marking the boundaries of the building
  • the construction of protection drains

Excavation can begin once you have your drawingsExcavation Begins

Once there are drawings and an approved plan, excavation begins.

The excavator will use your approved plan and drawings to know where to dig.

How deep they dig will depend on several factors, such as the type of foundation and whether there will be a crawl space or a basement.

No matter what type of foundation you choose, it will most likely need to be placed on cement footers.

The type of foundation you choose will determine how deep your footers will be.

Below, we'll examine a few foundation types and how they affect excavation and footer depth.



A slab is the most basic foundation type, as the name suggests.

When building with a slab foundation, you will have a wide range of options and variables available to you.

You have to be sure that your slab foundation will stand up to the local environment, like meeting frost mitigation requirements.

Requirements like this could drive the cost up to the point where it makes more sense for you to build on a basement or crawlspace.


Crawl Space 

A crawl space has become one of the more popular options recently.

Your crawl space will require at least 30 inches of excavation to protect the foundation from frost.

If you're building in the mountains, 36 to 40 inches is generally the minimum requirement.

If you're building a home, crawl spaces are often thought to add substantial cost savings.

This isn't the case because the bulk of the excavation cost is getting the equipment to the site, starting it, and then hauling away everything.

If you have to dig an additional 4 to 6 feet, it won't impact the overall cost.



Basements are by far the most popular type of foundation.

Basements provide an excellent foundation system with the added benefit of extra storage space.

There are three main types of basements, including full basements, garden levels, and walkouts.

It costs more to excavate a full basement than it does the other types of foundations.

However, when you weigh the cost against the other options, the basement offers homeowners the best value.


What's involved in the excavation project?How Long Does It Take?

Keep in mind that several factors will influence how long it will take to excavate your job site, and times can vary considerably.

However, excavation for a foundation can range from 3 to 4 days and up to 3 weeks.

Generally, the worst-case scenario will involve a 10-foot over dig. This tends to happen in areas where there are large boulders, or you could get stuck in clay.


How to Choose an Excavation Team?

Excavation companies with experience, skill, and attention to detail are crucial for creating a solid foundation for construction projects.

Heavy industrial contractors like STEVENS use advanced techniques, tools, and heavy machinery to ensure construction excavation is done right.

When you hire a heavy industrial contractor to complete large excavation projects, you are setting your project up to yield the best results.

If you're ready to start your actual excavation project, start researching heavy industrial contractors in your area.

Please note their reputations and how they value safety as you narrow down your list to your top options.

This information can be found by conducting a quick Google search, asking around in the construction industry, and reviewing company websites.

Selecting a heavy industrial contractor who values safety, is known for quality work, and has experience in excavation will ensure you achieve the best results for your excavation project.


Contact Stevens

Backed by over 75 years of quality, commitment, and experience, the STEVENS family of companies strives to be the preferred industrial engineer and constructor of choice.

STEVENS specializes in steel erection, pre-engineered metal buildings, civil concrete, earthwork, and excavation.

If you're ready to get started excavating your next job site, contact STEVENS today by clicking the button below.


Check out our other articles:

What Are The Top 4 Advantages of a Prefabricated Metal Building?

What Is The Difference Between Commercial and Industrial Construction?

What To Look For When Hiring A Metal Building Supplier


About The Author


I'm Ben Sparhawk, the Content Writer and Marketing Account Manager for the esteemed STEVENS company. As someone passionate about crafting captivating content, I take great pride in creating pieces that highlight STEVENS' capabilities and communicate the depth and breadth of their outstanding work.

In my role, I'm constantly striving to develop messaging that resonates with our clients and effectively showcases the exceptional work that we do here at STEVENS. I believe that communication is the key to success, and I work tirelessly to ensure our marketing efforts are engaging and informative.

When I'm not working, I often spend time with my three wonderful children. Becoming a dad is one of the best things that has happened to me, and I love every moment I get to spend with my wife and kids. You can also find me in the gym, trying to better myself, and I also enjoy spending time outdoors hiking or checking out local parks.