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How Much Does It Cost To Clear Land?

Typical Range: $1,283 - $4,688

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Written on August 12, 2020 by Cati O'Keefe, Expert Home Building & Sustainability Contributor.

How Much to Clear Land?

Clearing land and preparing a construction site to build a house will cost about $2,943 or between $1,283 and $4,688. This project averages $1.30 to $2 per square foot. Clearing heavily forested land ranges between $3,000 and $5,600 per acre while lightly wooded lots will only cost $500 to $2,000 per acre. The total amount you pay depends on the topography of the ground, ease of access to the site and the amount of debris you need to remove.

average cost to clear residential land is $2,750 or $400 to $9,200

You might pay as much as $40,000 to prepare a half-acre lot of land (about 20,000 square feet). Most likely, though, if you buy a half-acre lot, you will only be preparing enough land for the home site and hardscaping, including the driveway. In that case, you might clear about 5,000 square feet, which would run you $6,500 to $10,000.

You need to understand the intricacies of site preparation, as well as the variables involved, to know where you will fall on that range.

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National Average $2,943
Typical Range $1,283 - $4,688
Low End - High End $400 - $11,500

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Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 708 HomeAdvisor members in .

Residential Land Clearing Cost Per Acre

In general, you will pay $500 to $5,600 per acre to clear land. This does not include including topsoil stripping, excavation, hauling dirt to a landfill, grading and other tasks necessary to create a finished lot. The amount you will pay depends on the site’s topography and how much vegetation is growing there, with forested lots costing far more than sites with shrubs and grasses.

Land Clearing Prices by Lot Size

AcreageCost Range
¼ acre$125 - $1,400
½ acre$250 - $2,800
1 acre$500 - $5,600
2 acres$1,000 - $11,200
3 acres$1,500 - $16,800
4 acres$2,000 - $22,400
5 acres$1,250 - $28,000

Site Work Cost Per Square Foot

Site work cost per square foot runs between $1.30 to $2.00. For example, if you want to prepare a half-acre lot and your contractor charges $1.75 per square foot, do this two-step math:

  1. Take the number of feet in an acre (43,560) and divide it by two
  2. Multiply the resulting number (21,780) by the cost per square foot charged ($1.75)

Your result is $38,115 to turn a piece of land into a parcel that’s ready for a new home.

Lot Clearing and Grubbing Cost Estimate

It costs $500 to $5,600 per acre to clear and grub a site. This typically includes removing trees, shrubs, and other plant matter. It does not include demolition of structures, grading, excavation or other tasks you may need to get your site ready for construction. When you ask for an estimate, make sure all the costs are clearly detailed on the bid.

Lot Clearing, Grading or Leveling

"If you are building on a hillside, be advised: Your site preparation bid may include line items for "topsoil stripping", "excavation" and "export". These are for excavating dirt from the hillside and trucking it to a clean-fill dump site. This process can add a surprising amount of expense to your project."Cati O'Keefe, Expert Home Building & Sustainability Contributor.

It will cost anywhere from $500 to $7,700 for clearing, grading and leveling. If your site is a level grassy lot, you’ll be on the low end. If you have a heavily timbered parcel, bank on the higher side.

Commonly, you will see "lot clearing" and "grading or leveling" as line items on your preparation and excavation bid. These tasks usually include grubbing (unless that is a separate line item) and refer to removing all timber, bushes, debris and rocks and the use of heavy machinery to sculpt the existing soil into a buildable site. This is sometimes called "topsoil redistribution."

Preparation & Excavation

You will pay about $1.30 to $2 a square foot to prepare land for a build. If your site requires excavation, keep in mind that excavation costs between $1,500 and $5,100. Most companies charge $40 to $150 per hour.

Compare Project Quotes From Clearing & Grading Pros

Average Cost to Clear 1 Acre Wooded Lot

If more than one tree stands on the property, the costs will vary based on how heavily the land is wooded. You will pay between $500 and $2,000 per acre for lightly wooded lots, and between $3,000 and $5,600 per acre for heavily forested land.

For a single tree clearing cost, you can expect to pay an average of $700. However, that cost may vary based on the size of the tree, along with its condition, location and diameter. If you remove fallen trees, you will pay between $75 and $150.

Forestry Mulching Prices

Forestry mulching prices run about $400 to $600 per acre. Forestry mulching is using heavy equipment to cut trees and brush flush to the ground and mulching the material as it is taken down. If you go this route, you will end up with a healthy layer of mulch on your ground, and you won’t have to pay as much for debris removal.

Tree Clearing Cost

You will pay between $500 and $2,000 per acre to clear lightly wooded lots, and between $3,000 and $5,600 per acre for heavily forested land. If there are only a few trees on your lot, you will pay about $700 a tree. Fallen trees are less expensive to remove at approximately $75 to $150 apiece.

Cost to Hire Loggers to Clear Your Land

The cost to hire loggers to clear your land (versus simply take down select trees) runs the same range as any land clearing company at $500 to $5,600 per acre or $200 to $2,000 per tree. Some logging companies or firewood sellers will remove the trees from your land for free. However, they often take only the good parts of certain large-diameter trees and may leave you with a partially cleared lot.

Brush Removal Cost Per Acre

You will pay less to clear underbrush than to remove trees, thanks to the fact that their above- and below-surface area is significantly less cumbersome to remove. You will pay between $20 and $200 per acre to clear the land of plants, shrubs and smaller-scale overgrowth.

If you decide to do some of the clearing work on your property yourself, you can tackle the brush and fallen branches and logs and leave the tree work to the professionals. You can source the needed pruning and cutting tools for around $100 to $200. You should factor debris removal into your budget, which can run anywhere from $100 to $800.

You can get simple yard cleanup by using a landscaping firm for $200 to $1,200.

Get Local Costs For Your Brush Clearing Project

Pasture Clearing Rates

If you are clearing debris from your land to create a pasture, it will cost between and $400 to $600 per acre for forestry mulching and approximately $500 to $5,600 per acre for conventional land clearing. Here are points to consider when deciding between the two:

  • Forestry Mulching: This process leaves organic material in the soil and helps new ground cover take root and thrive.
  • Conventional Clearing: You may lose valuable topsoil.

Land Development Costs Per Hour

The typical rate for land development labor, under normal circumstances, falls between $140 and $300 per hour. On average, it takes about two and a half working hours to clear an acre of land, or about $350 to $750.

Cost to Develop Land for Building a House

Land development costs about $1.30 to $2 a square foot. To get an accurate cost, you must first understand exactly what you need to do. In most cases, you would need to get prices for the following:

  • Contract for site and grading plans from a civil engineer: $350-$3,000. This will include a survey, drainage plans, erosion prevention and utility/septic location mapping.
  • Pull a permit: $400-$2,300. Contact your local building department for accurate permit cost.
  • Conduct geotechnical or soil testing: $800-$1,800. This work may be required by the city or county.
  • Decide what method to use: You will pay $400-$5,600 per acre for either conventional land clearing or forestry mulching. A contractor can help you choose a method and provide a quote.
  • Remove structures. Demolishing existing structures costs$2-$17 per square foot.
  • Excavate the foundation or basement. The cost to dig a basement is $10-$20 per square foot. It’s often cost-effective to have the basement excavated as soon as the land is cleared and graded. Your builder will determine this based on the permit and build schedule.

Cost to Prepare Land for a Mobile Home

The cost to prepare land for a mobile home, as well as the steps to take, are the same as those for a stick-built home at $1.30 to $2 a square foot. The only major difference is that you would not excavate for a basement. You should make sure your municipality allows mobile homes as they are prohibited in many areas.

Yard Clearing Cost for a Driveway

The cost to clear land for a driveway depends on the condition of the land. If it is simply grass or garden beds, a landscaping firm would charge you about $200 to $1,200. If the driveway is through dense brush or woods, you will pay $500 to $5,600 to clear and grub the area.

Clearing Overgrown Fence Line Cost

You will pay anywhere from $200 to $1,200 to clear an overgrown fence line, depending on the thickness of the plant growth. If trees or sturdy bushes have entwined themselves with the fence, you will probably pay on the high range for this service.

Decks, Porches or Patios

You can add value to your home by clearing land to construct decks, porches or patios. Fortunately, a landscape crew can do this for about $200 to $1,200. If the area is heavily wooded, the rule of thumb is that it will cost an average of $700 per tree for removal.

Hardscaping or Landscaping

You should budget about $1.30 to $2.00 per square foot to prep for hardscaping, which includes the driveway, walkways, patios, fountain or decorative areas, and entry monuments. You must include Landscaping costs in your budget! Once you’ve spent money to clear your land, you need a professionally installed landscape to keep it from returning to its wild state. On average, plant installation costs $3,300 with a typical range between $1,400 and $5,500.

Site Preparation Costs Factors

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. They include:

  • Asbestos removalin existing structures: You might pay $1,000-$2,500 for remediation, depending on the size of the problem. See our Asbestos Removal Cost Guide for more info.
  • Proximity of utilities.If you have to run utility lines long distances, you will pay more for site preparation.
  • Keeping specific trees. You may have to pay more for this, particularly if they require a new construction plan.
  • Homeowners’ Associations and potential permits. You could be subject to restrictions that require extra consideration. A land clearing permit can cost as much as $200 on its own.
  • Areas that flood easily or are prone to soil erosion. You should use extra care when addressing erosion control. You can do things like plant ground cover, compact the area or consistently water the ground until construction begins.
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DIY vs. Hiring a Site Development Contractor

Preparing land can be a complex process, which is why it makes sense to work with professionals. When hiring, you’d be smart to get competitive bids. A quote is only credible if the professional has visited your property in person. In addition, you should make sure your selected land clearing contractor is bonded, licensed and insured. Ask for references of past projects in your area, as well as the company's range of responsibilities.

If you decide to do it yourself, you can rent heavy equipment for approximately $200 to $500 a week. You can get better pricing if you rent equipment by the month, with equipment running about $2,000 to $11,000.

Saving Money

Budget-conscious homeowners can minimize the financial impact of getting a site ready for construction:

  • Purchase a prepped property that’s ready for construction.
  • Hire during the off season.
  • Reuse old materials. Some firewood companies remove usable trees for free, or even pay for the wood. Nurseries or garden centers may want your soil.
  • Explore what is tax deductible. Clearing land may be tax deductible in some states.

FAQs

How much should I charge for brush cutting?

A good rule of thumb is $100 an acre for brush cutting (also known as bush hogging). You should consider a discount rate of $80 an acre for larger jobs.

What is grubbing?

Grubbing is the process of clearing land by removing all trees, shrubs, and plant matter, including stumps, fallen wood and other debris. The purpose of grubbing is to create a clean site. Your builder can then move earth and excavate.

What’s involved in site development for house building?

Site development for a house involves:

  • Locating a buildable lot.
  • Getting a civil engineer to design the site (including commissioning a survey).
  • Performing geotechnical tests, if necessary.
  • Pulling permits.
  • Clearing land.
  • Grubbing and grading.
  • Excavating and hauling away dirt, if necessary.

Can I clear my own land?

Yes, you can clear your own land. You can rent excavators and bulldozers for larger jobs. For smaller jobs and light brush, you can buy useful tools such as a weed whip, hatchet, chain saw, ax, pole saw, pruning shears and the like.

What is the best way to clear land?

You need to hire a professional who can use the most efficient heavy equipment for the job if you want to get a site cleared. Your options include conventional land clearing or forest mulching, which processes the debris on site and leaves it there as organic compost.

How much does it cost to get utilities or electricity on a property?

Many electric utilities and cable companies will pull cable to homes for free, while homeowners must pay for water and sewer lines. If your site is far away from public utilities, you will have to pay to bring them to your site. You’ll need to check with your building department to find out about permits and fees, and to get the contact information for the water, sewer, and power companies that handle the hook-ups for your municipality.

How long does it take to clear an acre of land?

As a general rule, a professional takes approximately two and a half hours to clear an acre of land. They might take longer for very heavily wood sites, sites with low-lying wet areas, or if there are other obstructions (such as outbuildings or homes).

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