How Much Does It Cost to Clear Land to Build a House?

National Average Range:
$2,500 - $5,000
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Reviewed by Nieves Caballero. Written by Fixr.com.

Land clearing involves removing all existing vegetation, rocks, and debris from the land to create a level building site. In some cases, land clearing is done to prepare for cultivation, increase fire safety, improve the view, or plant grass. Preparation of a building site is the most common impetus for land clearing. The land is cleared and leveled or regraded. The cost of the land clearing depends on the size of the lot, the necessary machinery, the amount and density of vegetation, and the labor required.

The national average cost for clearing land to build is between $2,500 and $5,000. Most people pay around $3,000 to clear a one-acre piece of land with moderate vegetation and complete building site preparation, including land excavation, basement excavation, and land leveling. At the low end of the spectrum, you can expect to pay around $250 to clear a one-quarter acre lot with very little vegetation. At the high end, you can pay up to $15,000 to clear and prepare four acres of land with excessive vegetation, plus debris removal.

Average Cost to Clear Land

Clearing Land to Build Cost
National average cost$3,000
Average range$2,500-$5,000
Low-end$250
High-end$15,000

Land Clearing and Site Preparation Cost by Project Range

Low
$250
Clearing a lightly wooded 1/4 acre lot with minimal vegetation
Average Cost
$3,000
Clearing and preparation work to build on a one-acre piece of land with moderate vegetation and rocks
High
$15,000
Clearing and preparing to build on four acres of sloped land with excessive vegetation, plus removal of debris

Land Clearing and Site Preparation Cost by Step

The land clearing and site preparation process includes several steps. The main goal is to remove all debris, trees, buildings, and other items from the land and prepare it for a new building to be constructed. One of the first steps in this process is having a land survey done for $1,000 to $2,000. This gives you insight into what is included on the property and how far it ranges and provides info about any special knowledge you need before building.

The next step is clearing the land so the building can go into the construction phase. This includes home demolition and removal, prevention of soil erosion, forestry mulching, tree and brush removal, and topsoil replacement. While some of these steps are mandatory, others are not. The average price for land clearing is $500 to $5,000 per acre but varies based on how wooded the area is and what processes need to be completed.

Soil testing ranges from $700 to $1,800 per acre and is the next step needed when clearing land to build. It needs to be completed before the building site steps. The soil testing provides information about the right materials to use to create a solid building on a specific piece of land. Finally, building site preparation is done for $200 to $2,000 per acre. This includes tasks like excavation, land stabilization, and creating a foundation for the new building.

Land Clearing and Site Preparation Cost for 1 Acre by Step: Land Survey, Land Clearing, Soil Testing, and Building Site Preparation

Land Clearing and Site Preparation Cost for 1 Acre by Step: Land Survey, Land Clearing, Soil Testing, and Building Site Preparation

Clearing and Preparation StepAverage Cost for 1 Acre of Land
Land Survey$1,000 - $2,000
Land Clearing$500 - $5,000
Soil Testing$700 - $1,800
Building Site Preparation$200 - $2,000

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Land Survey

Many factors impact the cost, including the property size and shape, terrain, and how difficult the property is to access, ranging in price between $1,000 and $2,000, with most homeowners paying around $1,500 for a land survey for new construction. A land survey compares the land to the blueprints to outline what land clearing must occur within the given boundaries.

A land survey should be done every time land clearing is about to occur. A surveyor determines where your property starts and ends and can clearly mark it for proper land clearing. In addition, the professional surveyor provides information about terrain, required foundation depths, and any limitations associated with the land.

Land Clearing Cost per Square Foot

One of the ways that professionals price their land clearing services is by the square foot. Unlike a per acreage cost, this is typically used for smaller areas that do not span an acre or more. When charging by the square foot, the average price ranges from $1 to $2, depending on what methods of clearing are used. The most common tasks charged by square foot are demolition and removal of an existing home or building on the land.

Land Clearing Cost per Acre

In general, you can expect to pay from $500 to $5,000 per acre as a land clearing and grading cost. This does not include excavation, topsoil stripping, hauling dirt to a landfill, grading, and other tasks that are required for the project. The cost to clear land is heavily dependent on the size of the land. Most companies give you a quote on the final cost to clear your land per quarter acre. The chart below highlights the cost to clear land based on the land size in acres.

Cost to Clear 1/4,1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Acres of Land

Cost to Clear 1/4,1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Acres of Land

Land SizeAverage Cost to Clear
¼ Acre$125 - $1,250
½ Acre$250 - $2,500
1 Acre$500 - $5,000
2 Acres$1,000 - $10,000
3 Acres$1,500 - $15,000
4 Acres$2,000 - $20,000

Land Clearing Cost per Hour

While it is more uncommon, some land clearing professionals handle the process on an hourly basis. The average price per hour for land clearing services ranges from $110 to $250 per hour. In most cases, hourly projects include removing and disposing of debris, trees, and vegetation. This kind of pricing structure may also be used for disposing of items taken from the location where a building will be installed in later stages.

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Land Clearing Prices by Step

Land clearing is considered the first step in many building projects. The cost ranges from $1 to $43 per sq.ft. or $400 to $5,600 per acre, depending on the step. Before construction begins at the site, it must undergo preparation, such as clearing all vegetation and grading. Many steps are involved in the land clearing process. All steps serve important purposes to create a level surface.

The first step is home demolition and removal, which is mandatory when a building is on the land. The lot needs to have all buildings and debris removed before a foundation can be poured and other infrastructure is put into place. Next, tree and brush removal should be handled. The cost to clear wooded land ranges from $500 to $5,000 per acre, depending on tree density.

Forestry mulching is next and is mandatory for the project. This phase of tree clearing cost per acre is $400 to $600. A machine is used to cut trees and bushes and turn them into mulch that can be spread across the ground. Soil erosion prevention occurs after the land is leveled but is not mandatory. It is most useful in areas with a large slope.

The last part of the process involves replacing topsoil. If it was removed in an earlier stage, it can be replaced. This is not required in all cases and is a challenging process that should be handled by a professional. The chart below highlights land clearing steps with their respective costs. The land clearing steps in the chart are arranged in the order they are supposed to be completed.

Cost of Land Clearing Steps: Home Demolition and Removal, Tree and Brush Removal, Forestry Mulching, Land Leveling...

Cost of Land Clearing Steps: Home Demolition and Removal, Tree and Brush Removal, Forestry Mulching, Land Leveling...

Land Clearing StepsAverage Cost
Home Demolition and Removal$2 - $17/sq.ft.
Tree and Brush Removal$500 - $5,600/acre
Forestry Mulching$400 - $600/acre
Land Leveling$5 - $10/sq.ft.
Prevention of Soil Erosion$1 - $5/sq.ft.
Top Soil Replacement$20 - $43/sq.ft.

Lot Clearing Cost by Vegetation Density

The cost to clear a wooded lot depends on how heavily the land is wood, ranging in price from $500 to $5,000 per acre. For lightly wooded lots, you can expect to pay from $125 for a quarter of an acre to $8,000 for four acres of removal. For heavily forested land, you can expect to pay closer to $750 for a quarter acre and up to $20,000 for four acres. Heavily wooded lots are significantly more expensive to clear than other types because they require more time and work by the contractors.

Cost to Clear 1/4,1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Acres of a Lightly and Heavily Forested Lot

Cost to Clear 1/4,1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Acres of a Lightly and Heavily Forested Lot

Size of LandCost to Clear Lightly Wooded LotCost to Clear Heavily Forested Lot
¼ Acre$125 - $500$750 - $1,250
½ Acre$250 - $1,000$1,500 - $2,500
1 Acre$500 - $2,000$3,000 - $5,000
2 Acres$1,000 - $4,000$6,000 - $10,000
3 Acres$1,500 - $6,000$9,000 - $15,000
4 Acres$2,000 - $8,000$12,000 - $20,000

Soil Testing

On average, homeowners spend between $700 and $1,800 for soil testing. It should be completed before building site preparation. It lets you know the bearing capacity before building. This helps the builder determine the type of foundation, subfloor, and footings that will be required. Soil testing can also determine the fertility of the soil and the chemical makeup. The tests can check for environmental pollutants and the presence of chemicals.

Excavation Being Carried Out During Residential Building Site Preparation

Site Work Cost per Square Foot

You can expect to pay from $2 to $10 for site work per sq.ft. Most companies have the option to charge by the sq.ft. for smaller sites or by the acre for larger sites. Site preparation involves preparing the site to build the land on. Some of the processes involved in site preparation include land excavation, land leveling, land stabilization, building a foundation, and basement excavation.

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Site Development Costs per Acre

In general, you will pay $200 to $2,000 per acre for site development. Site development it’s also known as site work, and building site preparation. Some companies give you a final quote based on an acre for larger projects instead of giving an estimate per sq.ft. Site development involves preparing the site for building after the land has been cleared.

Cost to Clear 1/4,1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Acres for Site Development

Cost to Clear 1/4,1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 Acres for Site Development

Land SizeCost for Site Work
¼ Acre$50 - $500
½ Acre$100 - $1,000
1 Acre$200 - $2,000
2 Acres$400 - $4,000
3 Acres$600 - $6,000
4 Acres$800 - $8,000

Building Site Preparation Costs by Step

Building site preparation prepares the lot for a structure averaging in price between $6 and $43 per sq.ft. or $200 to $2,000 per acre, depending on the steps involved. The first step is getting permits to ensure the project is approved and the local government is aware of it. Obtaining the permit is the first step in site preparation and is mandatory. The next step is land excavation, and it is also mandatory. Space for footing, foundation, and trenches are excavated during the process. Professionals should handle trimming vegetation near power lines, and underground utilities must be considered. The contractor will contact the local utility service before this step begins.

If a basement is to be installed, basement excavation occurs next. This step involves digging a hole and removing soil and rocks from the area. Land stabilization to prevent erosion, flooding, and other issues may or may not be needed.

Following these steps, the foundation must be put down. This is a mandatory part of building a home. After that, the final step is to place underground utilities so they do not get damaged in earlier stages of site preparation. The chart below highlights building site preparation tasks in the order that they are supposed to be done with their respective costs.

Cost of Building Site Preparation by Step: Permits, Land Excavation, Basement Excavation, Soil Stabilization...

Cost of Building Site Preparation by Step: Permits, Land Excavation, Basement Excavation, Soil Stabilization...

Site Preparation StepAverage Cost
Permits$150 - $1,500/each
Land Excavation$6 - $43/sq.ft.
Basement Excavation$10 - $20/sq.ft.
Soil Stabilization$20 - $43/sq.ft
Build Foundation$5 - $25/sq.ft.
Underground Utilities$500 - $5,000/utility

Residential Site Plan Cost

The cost for a residential site plan averages between $600 and $1,200 for a certified plan accepted by the building permit division. A site plan is a diagram that outlines what already exists on a specific property and the proposed improvements to the land. The plans must be created by either a licensed engineer, architect, landscape architect, or land surveyor. A residential site plan is important as many states require these plans to ensure that they adhere to local and state building codes when making changes or improvements to a property.

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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Geotechnical Report Cost

A geotechnical report examines the physical properties of the soil. A geotechnical report costs $960 down to a depth of 20 feet. This report examines the physical properties of the soil. Such valuable information is used to determine where on the lot to build. Depending on the location, a site survey and geotechnical report are often required before clearing and building. Sometimes they are completed together. A site survey displays the boundaries and edges of the property’s perimeter and costs an average of $200 to $2,000. It also outlines flood plains, septic tanks, oil wells, and terrain changes.

Clearing Overgrown Fence Line Cost

If you are clearing your land to build and have an overgrown fence line, it is a good idea to have it cleared for a price anywhere between $200 and $1,250. The cost depends on the thickness of the plant growth and how much there is. If the trees or bushes have become entwined with the fence, then you can expect to pay on the higher range for this service. If there is an overgrown fence line on the property, it is good to add this task during the land clearing process.

Cost to Dig Hole for Pool

The cost to dig a hole for a pool costs between $500 and $3,500. The price you pay varies depending on a few factors, including the pool size, shape, depth, and terrain. If the yard is rocky and difficult to dig in, you can expect to pay an increased cost. Any excavation process also includes dirt-hauling costs. The distance the hauler needs to travel and the location in your yard impact costs. While not all houses have a pool, if you want one, digging a hole for a pool can be an enhancement to the land clearing and building project.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Exchange. If you have valuable trees on your property, lumber companies will often remove the trees for free in exchange for the wood.
  • Saving tips. To save some money on this project, try to hire during the offseason. Also, if debris is on the land, consider reusing and recycling the items, so you don’t have to pay a disposal fee.
  • Flood zoning. It is important to check the FEMA flood maps to make sure your local zoning for your land hasn’t changed.
  • Tax deductions. Depending on the state you are in, clearing land may be tax deductible.
  • Access road. The local government/authority is in charge of the access road that leads to the land. Only private roads should be owned and maintained by a private individual.
  • Cost to clear land for driveway. You can expect to pay between $200 and $5,600 to clear land for a driveway. The price you pay depends on the condition of the land. If you are simply clearing the land of grass or garden beds, you can expect to pay a price on the lower end of the scale. For more dense brush or woods, you can expect to pay on the higher price end of the scale to clear and grub the area.
  • Junk removal. The national average cost for a junk removal service ranges from $125 to $350. Junk removal services are a one-time service that people choose to help remove junk during remodeling projects, cleanouts, landscaping, estates, and more. Although they refrain from handling hazardous materials, some companies collect yard waste and construction debris to help with that cleanup. Junk removal can be a quick and easy way to clean up any project or property.

FAQs

  • How much land should I clear to build a house?

If you have half an acre lot, you need to prepare enough land for the home site and hardscaping, including the driveway. In this case, you may clear around 5,000 sq.ft. of land.

  • Is cleared land worth more?

Wooded lots tend to have less value than cleared land. The act of clearing land makes it more accessible, which buyers value. It also makes the area more attractive and likely to sell.

  • How do I clear my own land?

You can clear your own land by renting excavators and bulldozers for large jobs. For smaller jobs and light brush, you can use tools such as a hatchet, weed whip, axe, pole saw, and chainsaw.

  • How much does it cost to clear one acre of wooded land?

The cost to clear an acre of land in a wooded area ranges between $500 and $5,000.

  • How much does it cost to clear land to build a house?

The cost to clear land to build a house is between $500 to $5,000 per acre.

  • How long is site preparation?

The length of time needed for site preparation varies. Site preparation often takes as long as one to two months if a residential home is being placed in the area. However, if fewer preparation steps are needed, the length of time may be less.

  • How much does it cost for site preparation?

Building site preparation prepares the lot for a structure and costs between $6 and $43 per sq.ft. or $200 to $2,000 per acre, depending on the task.

Cost to clear land to build a house varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

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