Types of Excavation Used in Landscape and Building Construction

Types of Excavation Used in Landscape and Building Construction

In the last blog post, we discussed the construction excavation process. We said excavation is the process of digging out dirt, rock, sand, stumps and other materials in the ground using tools, heavy machinery, or explosives. Excavation clears the way for landscape grading, site preparation, foundation construction and other important construction projects. But there are different types of excavation that are used in different situations.

In this post, we’ll identify these different types based on purpose or material type.

Excavation by Purpose

Cut and Fill Excavation

Cut and fill excavation is basically moving earth from one place to another to make ground more level. This type of excavation is used to minimize labor and materials needed for grading or leveling ground.

When the material you cut, or remove, roughly matches the amount of fill needed elsewhere at the construction site, this type of excavation is called cut and fill. For example, you could take the fill (topsoil) and use it to create an elevated section of land on which to build.

There are precautions needed to be taken when you use this type of excavation. In order for the excavated material to be used in foundations, it first needs to be compacted to avoid settling. If it is not properly compacted, settling earth can cause cracked foundations.

Trench Excavation

When the length of your trench (or excavated area) is greater than the depth, this type of excavation is called trench excavation. Typically this process is used to install pipelines, bury service lines, or lay a strip or shallow foundation.

Basement Excavation

Basements are the bottom floor of a building, usually below ground level.  You would perform this type of excavation when the house or building that is being constructed wants a basement as the foundation.

Basement excavation is not just digging a hole and removing the soil and earth. Once this excavation is done, there is a lot more to the creation of the basement foundation. Ensuring it is done properly is critical since it is the main support for the entire home and building.


Dredging is used to remove sediment deposits or debris generally in rivers or shallow ocean passages to help marine vehicles pass more easily through the water. Sometimes dredging can be used to construct boat docks, waterfront living spaces and retaining walls along waterways. It also takes specialized equipment.

Excavation by Material

Topsoil Excavation

Topsoil excavation is what it sounds like – when you remove the first layer of the earth’s soil to make land suitable to build. Before construction projects can begin, the land may need to be cleared of topsoil, gravel, sand, stones and other debris. Site preparation and landscape grading might also need to be done to provide a foundation to any landscaping or construction project.

Rock Excavation

Rock excavation is arguably the most challenging types of excavation to perform. The equipment you use in most other excavations cannot be used when clearing rocky surfaces. Rather, experts need to blast or drill through rock to clear a surface for building.

Muck Excavation

Muck is the combination of water and soil. Most of the time, it’s detrimental on a construction site. Thus, you need to either remove it or spread it out so the soil can dry prior to construction.

Earth Excavation

Earth excavation is when you remove the layer of soil underneath the topsoil. It’s usually done when preparing to dig a foundation for a construction project such as a building or a bridge.

The examples above are not an all-inclusive list. There are many other types of construction excavation.

Remember, excavation can be dangerous if you’re not trained to use the equipment properly. It’s always a good idea to contact an expert when embarking on a project that requires excavation.