How Much Does Excavation Cost?

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

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Sam Maerz

Owner/Site Foreman

Back 40 Landscaping specializes in all things Hardscaping from patios and driveways to retaining walls. 

What is excavation?

Excavation is the process of moving rock, soil and other materials with equipment. That equipment can be anything from an excavator to a shovel. In short, if you are digging, you are excavating.

Do you have to call BC1Call before excavating?

Anyone who is excavating, even if it is just while gardening, is legally required to contact BC1CALL to request a locate ticket.

Within three days BC1CALL will inform you of all underground  utilities entering the property.

Excavation must not start before this ticket is issued, however, once it’s issued excavation needs to commence within 14 days.

Getting the equipment to the excavation site

Any time a machine is moved to a location there is a charge for it.


Expect to pay between $200-$400 for a machine less than 10,000 lbs

And $800-$1200 for a machine over 10,000 lbs

Factors that determine the move charge:

  • Weight of machine
  • Distance
  • Company owned transportation equipment
  • Compliance with BC Commercial Vehicle National Safety Code (NSC)

National Safety Code compliance:

This is provincial requirement that applies to commercial vehicles over 5000 kg (think diesel pickup / trailer and larger)

Some of the Requirements:

  • Signage on both sides of vehicle (easy way to spot non-compliance)
  • Daily Hour of service (driver logs)
  • Commercial vehicle inspection every 6-12 months
  • Record keeping, Maintenance, etc.

Types of excavation equipment:

As a landscape contractor there are 3 very common types of earth moving equipment.

All 3 come in various sizes and configurations, and there is always a trade off with each machine.

  1. Excavators: Generally speaking, they are the best at digging holes, trenches or ditches. However, they “walk” the slowest out of all the equipment. This makes them impractical for moving a pile a long way, or working a large area.
  2. Skid steers: In my opinion they are hands down the most versatile piece of heavy equipment. They can lift heavy loads, maneuver, and travel very fast. This makes them very good at working in a large area, and moving piles of material or supplies. Unfortunately, the trade-off is they do not dig as well or neatly as an excavator.
  3. Backhoes: Backhoes are a Swiss army knife of both Excavators and skid steers. If they have enough room to work, they can be almost as productive as an excavator or Skid steer. Their inability to work in confined spaces is why they are not as popular as their above-mentioned counterparts.


On large scale projects you may need all 3 machines with 3 operators, while on other projects it can be more cost effective to have 1 machine with 1 operator.

Choosing the correct machine and size for the job may incur rental costs, however that may be a small price to pay to save days of machine and operator time.

Likewise, on smaller jobs using a company owned machine that’s the wrong size can save rental costs even if the project runs an extra few hours.

How much does excavation cost with an excavator?

Excavator themselves can cost between $65,000 – $300,000+

Pricing for a project with an excavator can vary from $1000 - $3250 per day.

The longer a project goes the lower the rates, as the machine is already onsite.

How much does excavation cost with a skid steer?

Skid steers can cost between $75,000 – $125,000.

A small project may cost $1000, while a full week project may be as much as $8000.

How much does excavation cost with a backhoe?

Backhoe price vary between $35,000-$150,000.

Similar to a Skid steer a small project can start around $1000, and run around $6000 - $8000 / week.

Factors that can increase the cost of excavation:

  • Site preparation & Protection (temporary plywood roads)
  • Space restrictions (Slower movements, smaller less efficient machines)
  • Size of excavation area
  • Grading tolerance: Laser vs. Operator feel
  • Disposal / trucking costs
  • Importing material: Gravel, soil etc.
  • Site cleanup
  • Harley raking – Perfect final grading attachment
  • Weather condition (rain and snow reduce efficiency)
  • Project plan changes

Factors that can decrease the cost of excavation:

  • No site preparation or protection
  • No landscaping or obstacles to work around
  • Soil remains on site (No dumping costs)
  • Little or no cleanup afterwards

Excavation spoils

Not every site will have to have soil or material trucked out, but for those that do it’s a rising cost.

Every year it gets harder and harder to find legal site that accept the material.

The process has become very strict, 24-48 hrs notice is needed, and in some cases a soil test must be done.

Disposal costs start at $500 for small load, and can go up to $1000-$1500 for a large load.