We know how difficult the construction process can be, and how many lessons are learned in the process.  In an effort to save you time and energy learning these lessons the hard way, we’ve put together some key advice on what to expect from each phase as well as what pitfalls and surprises could be lurking around the corner! If you haven’t already, check out our Demolition post.


If you’re building a new home, adding on to an existing one, or needing to make improvements to your drainage or foundation, you’re going to need to excavate into the earth. Even putting in a new water main or other municipal service is going to require some excavation to create the service trench from the house to the connection (typically at the street).

There are many sizes and types of excavating equipment. From the powerful machines that will dig through almost anything, to little more than an arm on tracks which can fit down walking paths to dig in your cramped side yard. It’s almost always best to have the biggest machine that will fit on the job with room to work.


No matter what size machine does the excavating, it will make some mess. The material that is dug out needs to be piled up for re-use, or carried out for removal. The trucks and excavators need to drive back and forth in their working areas.

Talk with your contractor about moving plants or landscape features if there are things you’d like to save that are in the way of the machinery. Sometimes areas can be partially protected by plates or temporary materials. This is not always cost effective or possible, so it is often required to replace lawns or garden areas after the work is complete. Check with your contractor as that replacement may not be included in the excavation costs and may need to be considered in future landscaping plans.

There are underground mapping technologies available to find potential complications in advance of excavating. However, they do have an upfront added cost and don’t reduce the costs associated with dealing with any discovered issues. It is a sensible economic option in cases where the possible risks would result in a redesign of the plan if they’re discovered in advance.

What to Expect

Excavation machinery is loud and the exhaust can be unpleasant in close quarters. There will usually be large trucks bringing machinery and hauling materials in or out throughout the process. Depending on the room to work and the street and driveway access, there can be times when the street is temporarily blocked by equipment. The driveway will almost certainly be occupied and street-parked residential vehicles may need to be moved away for the trucks to have access.

Expect to replace or have some abrasion on unprotected surfaces in the work path such as the street, driveway, walkways, lawn, or patios. Even protected surfaces may see some disturbance depending on the level of protection and the amount and weight of traffic. Remember, these are heavy, very hard working quasi-tanks built to get a lot of tough work done quickly – they’re not built to be polite about it.

Excavation work is often in tandem with filling and soil compaction, all of which can occasionally make for a dust filled environment that doesn’t respect your property lines.