Excavation Cost Guide

excavation-of-dirt-with-excavator

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What are the type of excavation
Factors that affect excavation cost
How much does it cost to hire an excavator?
How much does it cost to dig a house foundation?
What are the other excavation fees?
How can I find the best excavation rates possible?

In construction terms, excavation is the practice of digging up and moving soil, rock, or various organic materials using handheld tools (e.g. shovels, pickaxes) or heavy construction equipment (e.g. backhoes, bulldozers).

Excavation is primarily used to dig, remove, relocate, clear, and/or level land for structures such as foundations, plumbing, septic systems, water tanks, walkways, and driveways for residential and commercial real estate.

On small construction sites, excavation may be performed manually using handheld tools. Larger projects will involve heavy machinery. For the purposes of this guide, the excavation cost estimates will focus on heavy construction equipment.

What are the types of excavation?

According to the Standard Handbook for Civil Engineers, excavation may be classified by type of material or purpose.

Excavation by material:

  • Topsoil excavation – This type of excavation involves removing the topmost layer of soil. Because the topsoil has vegetation and more moisture than the layer underneath, it is unfit for carrying structural loads.

  • Earth excavation – This involves removing the layer directly under the topsoil. The removed earth is then used to build foundations and embankments.
  • Rock excavation – As the name suggests, this method is about removing hard, compacted, or cemented materials. Rock excavation is considered more challenging than other types and requires special techniques such as drilling or explosives.

  • Muck excavation – Refers to the removal of material that usually contains excess water and unsuitable soil (primarily of humus from drained swampland). The muck can then be relocated or spread out so that the soil can dry.

  • Unclassified excavation – This is the removal of any combination of topsoil, earth, rock, and muck.

Excavation by purpose:

  • Stripping – Also known as cut and fill excavation, this process involves clearing a large area of topsoil, rocks, and other earth materials to make way for the construction of a railway, road, or canal.

  • Roadway excavation – Refers to the portion of a highway cut that starts where stripping was done and ends at the bottom of the base course or subgrade.

  • Drainage excavation – The removal of materials encountered while installing drainage structures like culverts and roadway pipes.

  • Bridge excavation – This concerns the removal of materials that may obstruct the construction of elements needed to construct a bridge, such as foundations and abutments.

  • Channel excavation – Refers to the removal of materials from waterway channels, typically to change water flow or carrying capacity. The process could help mitigate flooding, sediment buildup, or stagnation.

  • Footing excavation – This involves the digging of a wall foundation or column to support buildings, bridges, and other structures.

  • Borrow excavation – Materials are usually excavated to clear the way for construction. With borrow excavation, earth materials are taken from a “borrow” pit, which will then be used in another location.

  • Dredge excavation – The process of removing material from underwater.

  • Underground excavation – As the term implies, underground excavation is carried out below ground. Because of this, different tools, equipment, and methods are needed to dig out materials carefully and effectively.

 

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Factors that affect excavation cost

The cost of an excavation project may vary depending on several factors, including the following:

  • Soil type – Excavation cost changes depending on the type of soil as it affects the level of difficulty. For instance, removing high-density soil will be cheaper than rock excavation.

  • Equipment used – Hire rates for heavy machinery go up if using specialised equipment. For instance, a 21-tonne excavator costs more than a 1.7 mini excavator. Likewise, using additional equipment like diamond drills will drive up the cost.

  • Site accessibility and location – If a site is difficult for workers and equipment to access, excavation rates go up. Location influences the price as well; for example, in a metro, suburban or rural area.

  • Labour – Location can influence price because of labour cost in a specific area. For instance, the average salary for an excavator operator is about $34 per hour in Gold Coast. In Perth, it’s around $47.

  • Project type – The type of project can affect its level of difficulty, which in turn will influence excavation cost. Digging an in-ground pool, for example, is comparatively cheaper than a basement excavation.

  • Project size – Small excavation projects are cheaper because they will likely require less manpower and equipment. Large-scale digging will require heavier machinery and may take longer.

How much does it cost to hire an excavator?

According to the iSeekplant Excavator and Digger Hire Rates Guide, excavation rate per hour is as follows:

Excavator Size

Average Dry Hire Rates 

1-2 Tonne Excavator

$40+ GST per hour

3-4 Tonne Excavator

$50+ GST per hour

5-6 Tonne Excavator

$55+ GST per hour

7-9 Tonne Excavator

$60+ GST per hour

10 Tonne Excavator

$65+ GST per hour

12, 13, 14 Tonne Excavator

$70+ GST per hour

15-19 Tonne Excavator

$75+ GST per hour

20-25 Tonne Excavator

$90+ GST per hour

26-30 Tonne Excavator

$105+ GST per hour

30-35 Tonne Excavator

$120+ GST per hour

40 Tonne Excavator

$165+ GST per hour

50 Tonne Excavator

$180+ GST per hour

 

Excavator Size

Average Hire Rates with an Operator (wet hire)

1-2 Tonne Excavator

$115+ GST per hour

3-4 Tonne Excavator

$120+ GST per hour

5-6 Tonne Excavator

$125+ GST per hour

7-9 Tonne Excavator

$130+ GST per hour

10 Tonne Excavator

$135+ GST per hour

12, 13, 14 Tonne Excavator

$140+ GST per hour

15-19 Tonne Excavator

$140+ GST per hour

20-25 Tonne Excavator

$170+ GST per hour

26-30 Tonne Excavator

$180+ GST per hour

30-35 Tonne Excavator

$190+ GST per hour

40 Tonne Excavator

$225+ GST per hour

50 Tonne Excavator

$270+ GST per hour

 

How much does it cost to dig a house foundation?

Excavation cost for a house’s foundation ranges from $700 to $15,000. This already includes the cost of digging machinery and labourers. 

The full price would depend on several details (see “Factors that affect excavation cost” above), but the typical house excavation project would fall between $2,000 to $5,000.

What are the other excavation fees?

Take note that in addition to rental fees, excavation companies may include the following charges:

  • Travel fees – Covers the time and cost incurred by the hiring company to bring the equipment to your location.

  • Float charges – This may include daily fees if the machinery can’t be secured legally on the construction site.
  • Penalty rates – Hiring companies may charge penalties for damages to their equipment, and the use of excavators outside regular working hours (e.g. weekends, night-time, public holidays, broken shifts).

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How can I find the best excavation rates possible?

As Australia’s go-to industrial services marketplace, iSeekplant specialises in getting quotes for people looking for heavy machinery. From our homepage, you can conveniently search for and compare many different excavator hiring companies in just a few clicks.

If you don’t have the time to find them yourself, you have a couple of options. First, get in touch with our expert team at 1300 691 912 or email our Projects Team with your specifications. They will then find you the best excavation suppliers for your project.

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