Excavating in tight areas

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Picture of Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

One of the issues that contractors see when dealing with excavation is not being able to bring in their machine to a homeowners backyard to excavate.

Why is excavation preferred over hand digging? 

When hand digging it is nearly impossible to dig to the proper depth needed. For instance, let’s say that you are having a retaining wall built.

To have a wall that is strong, there needs to be enough soil excavated, and enough gravel brought in for a proper base, and to fill the back of the wall. This is impossible without the right equipment.

Let’s say we have a retaining wall that is 50’ long and 4’ high. For a wall this size, 3 dump trucks of soil would need to be excavated (60,000 pounds), 13 Tonnes of gravel, 15,000 pounds of block, and 2,000 pounds of caps would need to be brought in.

All said and done that is 103,000 pounds of material coming in and out of a yard for a fairly small retaining wall. That is a lot of material!

While a wall can be built without the necessary equipment, when excavating with a shovel instead of an actual excavator, the depth of excavation will always be cheated, therefore limiting the amount of soil that would need to be removed.

Without a tracked dumper, the amount of gravel being hauled into a yard would be less than needed to build a proper base, and have proper gravel put behind the wall.

As you can see from this retaining wall example, machines are needed to be able to properly excavate and bring material into your backyard.

If machines are not used, you are not getting the same end result.



Excavating in a limited space

Excavating in limited spaces presents a few challenges. The first and obvious one is, can the machine even fit, while the second challenge is, is the machine going to hit anything by accident.

Machines are smaller and more powerful than ever. Mini excavators are as narrow as 27”, and offer zero tail swing (can swing around without going outside of its footprint).

A witty contractor may be able to come up with other ways to get their equipment into your yard, like taking a fence down, or accessing your yard through a neighbor’s yard ( with permission of course!).

Sometimes there is no choice other than to dig by hand if it is impossible to find a way to get a machine into your tight space!

The soil that is getting excavated needs somewhere to go. In the case of a small space that has nowhere to stockpile material there are several options of where to put the soil.

  • Two machines can be used to move the pile. One to dig and one to haul the spoils (excavated material).
  • Wheelbarrows, buckets, etc.

Extreme Case:

In the event the excavation site cannot be accessed by machines, cranes can be used to bring the excavator and materials in and out.

It’s actually more common than you might think to crane a small excavator over a house and into the backyard on properties with no gate access.

Likewise, bagged soil and gravel can also be brought in and out this way.

As stated before, your best bet for any project is to have machines do the job, but as you can see there is always a way that your project can be completed.