The Ultimate Guide to Excavation Services: Everything You Need to Know

Excavation services can be broadly described as earthworks where digging and earth moving take a prominent spot. It’s a fundamental part of any project and a crucial starting point to prepare a site for building.

While most commonly used in construction, excavation can have other purposes too. From mining to exploration, different excavation services will use different methods and consequently hold risks of their own. We will tackle some of those below but we must note this guide aims primarily at the construction applications.

This guide offers valuable insight into excavations and how to deal with your next project, touching base and putting emphasis on many important aspects you must consider.

Types of Excavation

Cut and Fill

Usually done to create stable ground for construction works, cut and fill excavations include clearing larger areas of topsoil and rock. It may or may not include grading but will always mean creating a shallow swath.


Trenching means digging a narrow trench as a cut deeper than it is wide, and usually longer than it is deep. It’s either done for exploratory purposes or to prepare for retaining walls and utilities.

Pile Holes

Piling holes are exactly what you’d think they are. While they can vary in depth and diameter, pile holes are made for two reasons only. They can be exploratory or more commonly aimed to support foundations.

Each of the above-mentioned types of excavations will require different plant and equipment, which is something we’ll touch base on shortly. However, your specific needs will determine many other aspects as seen below.

Preplanning and Permitting

The importance of approaching every project with your undivided attention has been emphasised by many experienced contractors. Preplanning consists of a couple of important steps and can affect your delivery as well as speed or potential delays.

It can be seen as lingering somewhere in between and many aspects others consider part of the preplanning process will be mentioned in the sections below. Still, we feel crucial parts here include:

  • Evaluating the site
  • Testing the soil
  • Mapping utilities
  • Understanding the hazards and risks involved

Preplanning will be crucial to getting your excavation permit as well. Permitting may differ locally, but a general rule of thumb could be that any mechanical excavation or one greater than 300mm will require a permit.

Understanding Potential Hazards

As a great starting point for your preplanning, we must deal with safety issues and potential hazards excavating brings about. Statistics show that about 25 people die in trench-related incidents in Australia every year and many more are seriously injured.

Most of these are results of collapsing trenches and having a professional assess the soil and potential risks related to it is important. However, vegetation, water, surrounding buildings, and utilities can all affect the safety of your site. This means you’ll need to devote time to have a detailed analysis before kick-starting your project. 

Other risks to worker safety may include electrical and other utility hazards, water in-rush, hazards related to operating heavy machinery and working in confined spaces, as well as undercutting foundations of nearby buildings.  

It’s essential not to cut corners here and do your best to create solid safety measures you will follow throughout the project. Protection can make all the difference regardless of your or your contractor’s skills and experience.

Managing Risks

Building on what’s been said on assessment and potential hazards above, you will be responsible to manage risks and minimise them. This means implementing control measures and reevaluating them throughout the project to provide worker and public safety to the best of your abilities.


Asbestos is one of the prime dangers to public health with any construction work and the same goes for excavations. Asbestos that may be disturbed in the process must first be properly removed and disposed of, as per regulations. As an airborne contaminant, asbestos has tremendous health risks related regardless of the amount of exposure so it tops our list.

Essential services

You must obtain detailed information on essential services before you start your project, with the focus always on electrical wires but also on water and other assets. This will go a long way in ensuring safety on your site, with both the workers and the public in mind.


Consider traffic and how it may impact your project but also how your excavation may impact safety on the road. Arrange traffic management to ensure pedestrian and vehicle safety especially if using powered equipment. 

Clearing the Site

While it may be considered part of the cut-and-fill excavation, clearing the site will be just as important regardless of your project type. This includes getting ready for excavations by removing potential obstacles, including trees, large rocks, or even demolishing structures on the site. You want no hiccups and a thorough inspection here may set you on your way. 

Excavating and Grading

You finally have your excavation team ready to take over. In the most straightforward of tasks or projects, this will involve moving the earth or digging holes as specified. In other instances, it will require even more expertise and skill on the site to reconfigure land, remove debris, and so on.

Grading is integral to most excavation jobs as levelling the surface will be important to most types of projects. However, aside from aesthetics, grading also includes drainage and erosion control, which can be crucial for your future site and structure. 

Excavating jobs are best left to the professionals and you should always choose quality and safety above pricing, even if you are only looking to wet hire plant for the project.

Plant & Equipment

There’s a long list of machinery you may need depending on the type of excavation and your project specifics. This includes but is not limited to trenchers, backhoe loaders, bulldozers, graders, tip trucks, and excavators with attachments such as augers, buckets, and hammers.

The equipment you require will be determined by your project requirements, terrain and site assessment, as well as the scope of work. Different plant and equipment will obviously affect the overall costs.

After It’s Done

Indeed, this could be the perfect opportunity to reconsider some other elements of your project before you decide to grade and/or fill out any holes. For example, you can take many of your utility lines underground for convenience and safety purposes.

It’s thus very important to consider different factors to your plot, site, and future structure at this point already. Implementing such changes could be more time-consuming right now but could also save you time (and money) later on.


Depending on your project, landscaping can be an integral part of your excavations. You don’t want a lawn you’ll destroy with a new home under construction. Still, your contractor may be able to help with elevation, patios, decks, and even pathways. It’s important to bear in mind some landscaping projects are considered domestic building work and some are not.

You may also choose a specialised landscaping expert to help you shape your immediate environment.  However, the point where you just finished excavations is not the best of times to do so. 

Pricing and What Affects It

We have already listed some of the important factors that affect your pricing. Depending on the complexity of the project in question, contractors may charge between $400 and $1,500. For example, an excavator and a tip truck can be combined with an average hourly price of about $140.

Access to your construction site, the size and complexity of the project, and the land you are excavating may largely impact the prices you pay. Costs vary and are mostly charged as an hourly fee, with 30 to 40 mᶟ dug per hour on average.

How To Choose the Right Contractor

Choosing the right contractor for your project is never easy, especially if you have little experience in construction, demolition, or excavation. However, we have a couple of tips to make your life easier when picking an excavation contractor to best suit your needs and complete your project successfully. 

Compare Services Offered 

Firstly, you will want to look around and browse what your local contractors have to offer. Compare their services, from brand to reputation, shortlist the best ones you are considering, and get in touch with at least a couple of them.

See how well the company responds to your specific needs in an attempt to see if you click. It’s never a good idea to go for the first contractor you stumble upon, even if this means you’ll return to them after you’ve checked out a couple of extra options. 

Licensing and Certifications 

You will almost always see a contractor’s licensing and certifications prominently shown in their offices or on the website. This is not ultimate proof of their proficiency but is a good place to start your research, showing they’ve gone the extra mile to show off their knowledge or skill. 

Fair Pricing 

Again, the quote you get is not the only factor to base your decision on. You’ll hardly want to go for the lowest price out there but you don’t want to needlessly throw money at it. We often found our best money-to-quality ratio in the golden middle. We’ve talked about pricing above and you want to get value for your money based on it. 


To be fully fair, no one wants a novice digging around their backyard and that’s understandable. You want to go for companies that have experienced people as leaders to face any challenges along the way, ensuring your project is on track even if you see hiccups. 

Equipment and Heavy Machinery 

You want to have a look at the plant and equipment your preferred contractor owns, including range, quality, and operators to run it smoothly. This means determining your project goals, finding out what equipment you need for your type of excavation as described above, and ensuring the company can do it. 

Customer Feedback

See what others think of the service before hiring a contractor, as you may learn both positives and negatives before even getting in touch. Check out the company website and find user testimonials if available but also browse legit reviews on Google, Trustpilot, and more.

Approach, Responsiveness, and Customer Care

Finally, take into concern how you are treated from the get-go. You don’t want to deal with sluggish staff even if it means a somewhat lower price, so it’s important to rate your contractor’s approach, responsiveness to queries, and general customer care when you e-mail or ring them.

You want to look for a professional yet friendly team of people, who are skilled but approachable. Ultimately, you want good customer support and actual people responding to your concerns before, during, and after finishing your project.

Excavating jobs are best left to the professionals and you should always choose quality and safety above pricing, even if you are only looking to wet hire plant for the project.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the ins and outs of your excavation services can prove crucial for your project to succeed. We’ve covered most of the salient features and considerations you must keep in mind along the way, so now it’s time to act on it.

This is made to be a well-rounded guide on dealing with your next excavation project. If we’ve left anything ambiguous, we’d love to hear from you and we’ll gladly respond to any queries so please get in touch!