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Land Clearing and Building Site Preparation Cost

Land Clearing and Building Site Preparation Cost

National average
$1,500 - $3,000
(clear a moderately flat or completely flat 1-acre lot with moderate vegetation and some rocks)
Low: $2,000 - $1,000

(clear a leveled 1 acre lot, very little vegetation)

High: $3,500 - $6,750

(hilly land, excesive vegetation, tree removal)

Cost to clear and prepare a land to built a house varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from excavation contractors in your city.

The average cost of clearing a land and prepare a building site is $2,000 - $6,750​.

In this guide

Cost factors
Land clearing
Site survey and geotechnical report
Soil testing
Building site preparation
Labor
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to clear and prepare a land to built a house?

Land clearing involves removing all existing vegetation, rocks, and debris from the land in order to create a level building site. In some cases, land clearing is also done to prepare for cultivation, for fire safety, to clear the area to improve the view, or to plant grass.

Preparation of a building site is the most common impetus for land clearing. The land is cleared and leveled 1 or regraded. The cost of the land clearing depends on the size of the lot, the necessary machinery, the amount and density of vegetation, and the labor required.

The cost to clear one acre of land for a buIlding site ranges from $200-$6,875. The average cost for clearing one acre of flat or gently sloped terrain with mild to moderate vegetation is $2,000.

Cost factors

There are several cost factors that affect the bottom line when land clearing. The size of the piece of land being cleared is the first factor to consider. Land that is located in close proximity to overhead or underground utility lines might make it difficult to use heavy equipment. Also, the date of the last land survey matters to verify the boundaries of the property. If there is a need for demolition, tree removal, stump grinding, brush removal, erosion control, resloping, grading 1, or dirt replacement then you will be forced to pay additional fees for each. In some cases, trees can be kept to prevent erosion of the property and obstruct possible flooding.

Permits are needed for excavation of land in most areas. Permits average $100-$200 depending on the city, county, or state. In many areas, certain trees cannot be removed. Also, limits are often placed on how many trees can be removed during land clearing.

Land clearing

Land clearing is considered the first step in any building project. Before construction can begin at the site, it must undergo preparation such as clearing of all vegetation and grading to create a level surface.

Land survey

A land survey will compare the land to the blueprints 2 to outline exactly what land clearing must take place within the given boundaries. All heavy rocks and vegetation are removed. The cost of a land survey averages $575.

Demolition and removal

Some lots have an existing structure such as a home, shed, or even the skeletal remains of what was once a building. In order to clear the lot and build a new structure, the old building must be demolished and completely removed from the site. Demolition and removal are all a part of land clearing. Any existing structures are demolished and the debris hauled away. Minor demolition projects average $1,000.

Removal of underground infrastructure

Many sites have had a previous building on the land. Perhaps fire or time have eroded away the structure, but the concrete foundation and underground infrastructure remains. The concrete, pipes, wiring, etc. must all be removed before a new building can be constructed on the site. Removal of foundations and other underground infrastructure averages $1,000-$5,000.

Timber and brush removal

If the trees on the land are going to be kept then there is no additional charge, but if the trees are to be removed then tree removal averages $200 for a small tree, $700 for a medium-sized tree, and around $1,000 for a large tree.

Even after a tree is cut down, the stump remains. The stump can be ground down to below the soil line, or you can have it completely removed to create a cleared area for a building site. Stump grinding averages $400 for a 20” stump. Heavy machinery can also be employed for complete stump removal at an average cost of $320 for a 12” stump.

Some land is covered by thick underbrush that must be removed to effectively clear the land for future building. You will pay an average of $200-$600 to remove and haul away the brush and debris.

Erosion control

Newly-cleared land is prone towards soil erosion, especially if it is sloped. Often, soil erosion prevention methods must be employed, such as installing metal braces and edging, which average $10 per 4’ section and help to hold the soil in place.

Resloping

Land resloping after clearing, or to prevent flooding, creates an even building site. The process of resloping involves bringing in topsoil to reform the area for runoff, to stop flooding, and to prevent erosion. Resloping averages $985 for a 1,000 sq. feet area, including the soil and excavation.

Grading and dirt replacement

The property is graded once vegetation, brush, and trees are gone. Any erosion control steps are taken at this time. At this point, wells are drilled and septic systems installed, if necessary to the construction process. Dirt is often hauled in to level the site. The cost of grading and dirt replacement ranges from $19.59-$43.20 per sq.ft. The average cost of just grading is $4.37-$5.41 per square foot.

Site survey and geotechnical report

Depending on the location, a site survey or geotechnical report are often required before clearing and building. A site survey displays the boundaries and edges of the property’s perimeter. Also, the survey outlines flood plains, septic tanks, oil wells, and terrain changes. The cost of a site survey averages $575. A geotechnical report examines the physical properties of the soil. The geotechnical report cost averages $960 down to a depth of 20 feet. Such valuable information is used to determine where on the lot to build.

Soil testing

A geotechnical report covers soil testing down to a depth of 20 feet, on average. Soil testing can also be carried out that covers the fertility of the soil and the chemical makeup. The tests can check for environmental pollutants and the presence of chemicals. The soil test averages $7-$10 per test. Soil testing lets you know the bearing capacity before building. This helps the builder determine the type of foundation, sub floor, and footings that will be required.

Building site preparation

Land clearing removes obstacles and makes excavation easier. It also gives greater access to the area. Building site preparation prepares the lot for a structure. Soil compaction and site preparation helps ensure the longevity of the structure once it is built. The process of building site preparation entails the following:

Land excavation

Land excavation is the clearing of all vegetation, brush, rocks, and debris. This is a mandatory step in building site preparation. The average cost ranges from $200-$2,000 for 1 acre for a flat or gently sloped terrain with mild to moderate vegetation.

When excavating, crews should never come within 10 feet of power lines. Only specially-trained contractors are allowed to trim and remove vegetation around power lines. Underground utilities are another factor that must be considered when clearing the land. The contractor should always call to have the lines mapped out by the utility service before excavation begins. Each state has an 811 center that must be contacted before excavation begins so the lines can be marked. The service is free.

Leveling

In some cases, if the ground is uneven then it must be leveled with grading and loads of gravel or dirt. The average cost is $985 for a 1,000 sq.ft. area.

Stabilization

If a building site is sloped, in a flood zone, suffers from erosion, and/or other issues then stabilization must be undertaken before building may commence. Stabilization creates a stronger soil which improves it load-bearing capacity. The cost of this process is about $19.59-$43.20 per sq.ft.

Foundation

All buildings require a foundation to support the walls and prevent cracking. The price of a concrete foundation averages $5-$8 per square foot.

Basement excavation

Not all buildings have basements, but if the building to be constructed on the site requires a basement then the hole must be dug and all dirt, rocks, and debris removed. Average cost is $60-$150 per hour for excavation of the basement site.

Labor

Land clearing involves removing trees, stumps, boulders and other obstructions from the building site. This is usually done with the use of chainsaws and heavy equipment. Two to four acres of land can generally be cleared of all vegetation and rocks in one day. The cost of labor averages $110-$245 per hour. However, most land clearing jobs are charged by the acreage and square footage, and not by the hour. The average is usually $3-$6 per sq.ft. for level or slightly sloped ground and up to $15 per sq.ft. for hilly terrain.

To hire machinery such as backhoes and excavators, plus a skilled operator, averages $60-$150 per hour for the machinery and the operator. However, such fees are normally included in the contractor’s per sq.ft. quote.

If grading and dirt replacement takes place then the average cost is $19.59-$43.20 per sq.ft. Leveling the surface can run $985 for every 1,000 sq.ft. of soil and excavation. If the land requires further stabilization then the fee is an additional $19.59-$43.20 per sq.ft.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Site plan

A site plan outlines the proposed improvements to the land. The plans must be created by either a licensed engineer, architect, landscape architect, or land surveyor. Site plan design averages $644-$906 for a certified plan which will be accepted by the building permit division.

Driveway

Whether you are building a home or a business, a driveway is necessary to reach the parking area from the road. The average cost for a 12’x50&rsquo asphalt driveway is $830, for a gravel driveway the price averages $2,300.

Underground utilities

Most areas have underground utilities. Trenches must be dug to run the utility lines from the road to the area where the building will be constructed. The average cost for gas line installation averages $200-$500. A water line averages $1,500-$2,000. The cost for underground electrical lines averages $800-$1,200. CAT-6 underground cables average $750.

Access road

The cost of an access road is similar to that of a driveway. A 12’x50’ asphalt access road averages $830 and a gravel 12’x50’ access road averages $2,300.

Additional considerations and costs

  • Sites that have an existing structure on the land must undergo demolition before land clearing may commence. Prior to demolition, an asbestos 3 test must be done and any asbestos found must be responsibly and safely removed. Asbestos inspection and testing services average $1,500. If asbestos is found then the cost to remove the asbestos averages $400-$500 per hour.
  • Excavation permits average $100-$200 depending on the location.
  • Excavation of land is generally not a DIY project. Even if the land is absolutely flat, with no trees, and needs very little excavation you will still need a backhoe to effectively clear the property.
  • If you have valuable trees on your property then lumber companies will often remove the trees for free in exchange for the wood.
  • Only hire a licensed and insured contractor. Always ask for references. You should also check the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the contractor.
  • It is imperative that you get several quotes for the job so you have a general idea of the cost and you know someone is not charging too little or too much. Make sure the quotes include the cost of labor, equipment, debris removal, and dumping fees. Also, see if the contractor offers grading 1 services.
  • To save some money on this project, try to hire during the offseason. If there is debris on the land then consider reusing and recycling the items so you don’t have to pay a disposal fee. You should always check with your state to see if land clearing expenses are tax-deductible. Be sure to get multiple quotes from various contractors so you can pick the one that best fits your budget. If you are shopping for land to purchase and build upon, then make sure the land is easy to clear and level before making the purchase.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to clear 1 acre of wooded land?

It averages $15 per foot if the land is flat or gently sloped and heavily wooded.

  • How much does it cost to clear land to build a house?

It will cost from $200-$3,000 if the land is relatively flat or hilly.

  • How long is site preparation?

It takes one day to clear up to four acres of land.

  • How much does it cost for site preparation?

It will cost from $200-$3,000 if the land is relatively flat or hilly.

  • How much does it cost to grade an acre of land?

Grading averages $4.37-$5.41 per square foot. The cost for an acre would average $190,357-$235,660.

  • How much does it cost to prepare raw land for a home?

It averages $3-$6 per sq.ft. for a flat to slightly sloped terrain with only mild to moderate vegetation. If the land is very hilly then the cost increases to as much as $15 per sq.ft.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Leveled: (Also known as Grading) The process of evening out the ground's surface, making it either flat or sloped.
glossary term picture Blueprint 2 Blueprints: A technical drawing of an architectural design. Traditionally these were made using a printing process that produced a white line on a blue background. They can also be made with CAD software and a large-scale printer
3 Asbestos: A group of fire-resistant silicate minerals found in construction materials including paint, particularly in older homes. When the asbestos deteriorates, particles can become airborne and this is a serious health hazard.

Cost to clear and prepare a land to built a house varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Bulldozer clearing land

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Albany, NY
+17%
Anchorage, AK
+35%
Andrews, SC
-42%
Arcade, NY
-30%
Athens, GA
-9%
Boston, MA
+40%
Bradenton, FL
-8%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Brownsville, TX
-46%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Concord, NH
+18%
Cumming, GA
+2%
Dallas, PA
-13%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Denver, CO
+1%
Eatonton, GA
-35%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Frederick, MD
0%
Gadsden, AL
-23%
Hampton, VA
-18%
Henrico, VA
+6%
Hickory, NC
-24%
Hollywood, FL
0%
Imperial, MO
-15%
Independence, MO
+8%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Issaquah, WA
+14%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Jonesville, TX
-15%
Kissimmee, FL
-20%
La Porte, TX
+31%
Lakewood, OH
+7%
Lancaster, PA
+3%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Lexington, KY
+1%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Madison, WI
+13%
Mcloud, OK
-37%
Mobile, AL
-8%
Moss Beach, CA
+44%
New River, AZ
-2%
New York, NY
+77%
Norman, OK
-21%
Oswego, NY
-25%
Owensboro, KY
-28%
Palm Bay, FL
-16%
Parker, CO
+3%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Pittsburg, CA
+30%
Labor cost in your zip code
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Methodology and sources