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How Much Does It Cost To Clear Land Or Prepare A Construction Site?

Typical Range: $1,218 - $4,247

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No construction project, residential or commercial, is possible without preparing the territory first. Any construction crew needs to ensure that the land is cleared, and the site is prepared.
Depending on the condition of the land at the time of purchase, the tasks required to accomplish this feat vary. In most cases, a work crew will need to be involved to accomplish the project.
Most homeowners spend between $1,250 and $4,200 to clear the land and prepare a construction site to build a house. However, due to a wide range of potential tasks, the cost can be as low as $350 and as high as $8,000. The average cost per square foot ranges between $1.28 and $2, so a half-acre lot of land (about 20,000 square feet) could cost as much as $40,000 to prepare.
The best way for you to understand where you fall on that range is to understand the intricacies of site preparation, as well as the variables involved.

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National Average
Typical Range
$1,218 - $4,247
Low End - High End
$400 - $9,200

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Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 519 HomeAdvisor members in .

What Does Site Preparation Entail?

First, you must understand exactly what needs to be done. In most cases, that includes surveying the land and comparing it with the construction blue print in order to determine the exact tasks that need to be completed before construction can begin.
Most site preparation projects begin with clearing the land of large rocks and vegetation. Trees and shrubs can be significant obstacles to the building process. It makes sense to think ahead: problems that are invisible now, such as tree roots, can become problematic years down the road.
Depending on the property in question, the next step tends to involve grading the land. This step may include drainage control and erosion prevention to avoid future problems. In that case, installing septic systems and wells may become additional cost factors. Other potential steps include:
  • staking the area of construction
  • building access road
  • connecting the construction site to the electrical grid and other utilities
  • digging out the foundation or basement
  • demolishing existing structures (if needed)

If you'd like to install a basement, the cost to dig a basement averages about $2,879. Finally, depending on the area in which you plan to build, you might need to apply for zoning and building permits that could delay the process and potentially result in additional fees.

How Much Does it Cost to Clear a Lot Per Acre?

While a variety of factors influence the answer to this question, breaking down these variables helps you better understand your overall cost.

Average Land Grading Costs per Acre - $0.47 - $2.28 per sq foot

If you work with a land preparation contractor, the cost for grading the land may be included in a larger package price. On its own, the average price of regrading tends to be between $0.47 and $2.28 per square foot. Variables such as the level of the grade and your geographic location will influence where in that range your project falls.

Tree Removal on Lightly to Heavily Wooded Lot - $500 - $6,000 per acre

Removing trees from your property is often necessary for the land clearing process. For a single tree, expect to pay an average of $650. However, that cost may vary based on the size of the tree, along with its condition, location, and diameter. Removing fallen trees tends to cost between $75 and $150. Read our Tree Removal Cost Guide for more info.If more than one tree stands on the property to be cleared, the costs will vary based on how heavily the land is wooded. Expect to pay between $500 and $2,000 per acre for lightly wooded lots, and between $3,000 and $6,000 per acre for heavily forested land.

Brush Removal - $20 - $200 per acre

Clearing brushes tends to be less expensive than trees, thanks to the fact that their above and below-surface area is significantly less cumbersome to remove. Clearing the land of plants, shrubs, and smaller-scale overgrowth typically costs between $20 and $200 per acre.

Hourly Labor Costs – $110 - $245 per hour

On average, it takes about one day (8 working ours) to clear out 2-3 acres of land. The typical rate for labor during that time, and under normal circumstances, will be between $110 and $245 per hour.

Land Clearing Equipment - $160 - $230

Equipment can result in an additional fee between $160 and $230 to your land clearing company. More intensive equipment such as backhoes or excavators can run a rental fee between $60 and $150 per hour. However, many companies will offer package deals in which labor and equipment costs are already included.
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Additional Factors that Influence Lot Clearing Cost

In addition to the general costs involved in clearing land and preparing a construction site, a number of additional factors can play into the equation as well. These costs can play a significant factor in your final costs, in some cases even going above the averages mentioned above:
  • The need to remove asbestos in an existing structure, which tends to cost between $1,000 and $2,500 depending on the size of the problem. See our Asbestos Removal Cost Guide for more info.
  • The proximity of utilities. Longer distances will increase the costs of construction site preparation.
  • The date of the last land survey. If an old date necessitates a new survey, you will need to pay an average of $500.
  • The area that needs clearing. As mentioned above, many of the costs of land clearing are calculated by area rather than in a fixed price.
  • Keeping specific trees, which can become a cost factor if they require a new construction plan.
  • Home Owners' Associations and potential permits, which can come with restrictions that desire extra consideration and need paid. A land clearing permit can cost as much as $200 on its own.
  • Areas that flood easily or are prone to soil erosion will need extra care. Erosion control can include planting ground cover, compacting the area or consistently watering the ground until construction begins.
All of these points can be relevant depending on your individual property. They can influence the price of construction site preparation either subtly or more obviously - but they quickly add up to become more significant cost factors. The earlier you know exactly what your property needs, the better.

Reasons to Excavate Land

Erosion control becomes especially important if you need to excavate the land. You will need to consider excavation most times that you plan on building something, like a house, on the land to be cleared; especially when it's a structure that will require a basement or foundation.
Excavation may become necessary for many reasons. Homes, sheds, and garages all require the process to prepare the ground for the building itself. In addition, swimming pools can benefit from the same process, as well. Finally, excavation can be necessary to turn a wooded land area into farmland, pasture, or a garden.
The costs for excavation depend greatly on the area in which the process will be applied. Most homeowners spend between $1,300 and $4,500, but the only way to get a true estimate for your property is to get a bid from a professional who can evaluate your specific piece of land.

Saving Money on Site Preparation

The costs of clearing your land and preparing a construction site can escalate quickly. As a result, it makes sense to look for opportunities that can help you save funds. Fortunately, budget-conscious homeowners can take a number of steps to minimize the financial impact of the undertaking.

Purchase A Property

Of course, the simplest step is to purchase a property that will not need many of the services mentioned above completed. When that is not possible or desired, getting multiple bids is crucial to find a competitive price for the service performed. If professionals know that you are getting multiple quotes, they will be more likely to compete in terms of price.

Hire During Off Seasons

Seeking help from site preparation services during non-peak times of year can also drive down costs. For most companies, off-peak times of business include the fall and winter months.

Re-Using Old Materials

In addition, several other steps can help to ease the bottom line. Cut-down trees, for example, can be sold as timber or firewood. Some firewood companies remove usable trees for free, or even pay for the wood. The same opportunity might exist with soil that's taken from your property during the grading process, and can be sold at local nurseries and garden centers.

Explore What is Tax Deductible

Finally, clearing land may be tax deductible in some states (such as Missouri). When the effort increases sustainability, or counts as a business expense, you can potentially save significant money through receiving tax refunds at the end of the year.
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Hiring a Professional

Clearing, grading, excavating, and preparing the land on your property can be a complex process, which is why it makes sense to work with professionals in most cases. You can take care of at least some problems yourself, but the high cost of equipment and expertise required should make that option a backup choice.
When hiring a land clearing professional, be sure to choose one from a number of competitive bids in order to get the best possible price. Any quote is credible only after the professional has visited your property at least once to examine it in person.
In addition, any land clearing contractor with whom you work should be properly bonded, licensed, and insured. Ask for references of past projects in your area, as well as the company's range of responsibilities. For instance, will you or they be responsible for obtaining all necessary permits?
Any construction site necessitates proper land cleaning and site prep. A good understanding of the process and costs involved can help you make the best possible decision for your project, and find professionals who will help you accomplish your goals.
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