Property damage from excavation: Broken driveways, ruined lawns, and everything else!

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Picture of Sam Maerz

Sam Maerz

Owner/Foreman

What comes to mind when you think about excavation damage that can occur during your project? Do you think you have a say or responsibility in preventing it or do you think it’s all on the contractor?

In this article we will discuss the options you have as a client in preventing, avoiding, or deciding on what property damage you do want.

Yes, many clients of ours actually choose to have some property damage from an excavation project.

Excavation damage in our eyes is categorized by either physical or cosmetic.

Physical excavation damage

Physical property damage from excavating could be things like a broken concrete driveway, broken plumbing or electrical pipes, a ruptured natural gas line, or even damage to a home or building. Neither the client, excavating contractor, or the owner of the service line want this infrastructure damaged.

excavation-pipe
We excavated and repaired this sewer pipe when it was broken during digging for a fence post.

Cosmetic excavation damage

Cosmetic excavation damage examples would include track marks across a lawn from a piece of equipment, a dirty concrete driveway where excavated soil was stored, or flower beds and landscaped areas disturbed.

While you can definitely see work was completed in the area, none of it is expensive, difficult, or too much of an inconvenience to repair.

Often times the client will do this repair themselves to save money.

How to you decide to avoid and prevent excavation damage, vs choosing to repair damage afterwards?

Avoid and protect all site services on the property that are not owned by the property owner. I.E BC Hydro, Fortis gas, Municipal Water, Sewer, Storm drain connections, and telecommunication services (Rogers/Shaw/Telus).

These service owners have specific rules outlined when excavating in their vicinity which are put in place to protect you as the client. In doing so your services are not disrupted, and the contractor is not liable for repairs.

Prior to excavating in these areas, the contractor by law must call BC1Call and request site service locations.

This will assist the excavating contractor in knowing roughly where the services are.

Unfortunately, this information is not guaranteed or highly accurate, but it does provide clues that can be used onsite to determine the location of underground services. 

For projects requiring a higher level of certainty as to the location and depth of services, private locating companies can be hired to locate and mark more exact locations.

underground-utilities-marked

As a client, if you are concerned as to the locations of underground services, make sure you have an open conversation with your excavating contractor.

Your budget for a project directly impacts the level of service, and resources your contractor has at their disposal.

Concrete driveways are another item that should be avoided or protected when doing an excavation project. Wheels from heavy dump trucks can easily crack concrete driveways. Tracked equipment on the other hand disperses the weight very well, and would be fine on most driveways.

plywood-proetecting-new-ashpalt-driveway
This new driveway was protected even though tracked equipment was crossing it.

Prior to any excavation project have a conversation about what exactly you would like to protect so that at the end of your project your home and property are left exactly as you envisioned!

Surfaces that are often protected, but always are lawns, sidewalks, gravel pathways, and flower beds.

Where practical, and desired Back 40 Landscaping can put down temporary plywood roads, and prevent damage from our equipment.

excavator-digging-trench-for-french-drain

When would the client choose damage and repair afterwards?

Larger projects that occur in lawns and around flower beds are often done with no surface protection to save the time to lay down roads, and to work off of them.

These projects are often large enough that the entire area is being relandscaped at the conclusion of the project.

excavator-retaining-wall

Maintaining a plywood road can be labor intensive as it slides around, and gets a build-up of excavated material on it, unless this roadway is kept clean the lawn around it becomes damages from the spilled material.

retaining-wall-excavation

Working off a plywood road on a hill is almost impossible as each sheet and piece of equipment on it is constantly sliding down the hill.

retaining-wall-build

From an experienced excavation perspective, two huge factors that are often overlooked during an excavation project is where the excavated material will be stored, and how is it being hauled off site.

Excavated soil is considerably more than you will imagine. Soil fluffs up 1.3-1.5x more when it is uncompacted.

This will create a bigger pile than expected, and cause more of an inconvenience if not properly planned for. Soils stored on the lawn, driveway, or roadway will need to be cleaned up, and repaired via reseeding the lawn, or sweeping/power washing the driveway.

On large projects with lots of room we can excavate and store the material until completion, and then haul it all out together.

This is the most efficient and cost effective however, in most residential scenarios this material will need to be immediately loaded as its being excavated. The challenge with this is the dump truck will need to sit on the road for hours before the truck is full.

Dump trucks cost over $125/hour, so consider hiring an excavating contractor that owns their own dump truck/trailer combination. This will save you money!

excavation-equipment

There are pros and cons as to how to execute every project. Make sure you work with a contractor that understands the options, and more importantly understands the implications to their choices.

A successful excavation project really does take some planning, and will require the client to let the contractor know if they want to avoid and prevent property damage, or if they want to repair the damage at the conclusion of the project.

For more information, and to start planning your excavation project today, please submit your information today!