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

Average range: $1,600 - $8,000
Low
$1,000
Average Cost
$3,500
High
$12,000
(Clearing and preparing to build a one-acre piece of land with moderate vegetation and rocks)

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

Average range: $1,600 - $8,000
Low
$1,000
Average Cost
$3,500
High
$12,000
(Clearing and preparing to build a one-acre piece of land with moderate vegetation and rocks)

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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 $1,600 and $8,000. Most people pay around $3,500 to clear a one-acre piece of land with some vegetation and rocks and building site preparation, including land excavation, basement excavation, and land leveling. At the low end of the spectrum, you can expect to pay around $1,000 to clear and prepare to build one-acre lot with very little vegetation. At the high end, you can pay up to $12,000 to clear and prepare to build hilly land with excessive vegetation, tree removal, clearing an overgrown fence line, and junk removal.

Average Cost to Clear Land

Clearing Land to Build Cost
National average cost$3,500
Average range$1,600-$8,000
Minimum cost$1,000
Maximum cost$12,000


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Land Clearing and Site Preparation Cost by Project Range

Low
$1,000
Clearing and preparing to build a one-acre lot with very little vegetation
Average Cost
$3,500
Clearing and preparing to build a one-acre piece of land with moderate vegetation and rocks
High
$12,000
Clearing and preparing to build on hilly land with excessive vegetation, plus clearing an overgrown fence line and junk removal

Land Clearing Cost per Acre

In general, you can expect to pay from $400 to $6,000 per acre to clear land. 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, or 4 Acres of Land

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


Land SizeAverage Cost to Clear (Labor Included)
¼ acre$125 - $1,500
½ acre$250 - $3,000
1 acre$400 - $6,000
2 acres$1,000 - $12,000
3 acres$1,500 - $18,000
4 acres$2,000 - $24,000


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Land Survey Cost

Many factors impact your land survey’s cost, including the survey type, property size and shape, terrain, and how difficult the property is to access, ranging in price between $400 and $1,200, with most homeowners paying around $600. A land survey compares the land to the blueprints to outline what land clearing must occur within the given boundaries. Most homeowners conduct land surveys before any transaction or project.

Land Clearing Prices by Step

Land clearing is considered the first step in many building projects averaging from $1 to $43 per sq.ft. or $400 to $6,000 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 of which serve important purposes to create a level surface. The chart below highlights land clearing steps with their respective costs, followed by an explanation of each. 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, Reslope Lawn, Prevention of Soil Erosion, and Top Soil Replacement

Cost of Land Clearing Steps: Home Demolition and Removal, Tree and Brush Removal, Forestry Mulching, Reslope Lawn, Prevention of Soil Erosion, and Top Soil Replacement


Land Clearing StepsAverage Cost (Labor Included)
Home Demolition and Removal$5 - $10/sq.ft.
Tree and Brush Removal$500 - $6,000/acre
Forestry Mulching$400 - $600/acre
Reslope Lawn$1.10 - $3/sq.ft
Prevention of Soil Erosion$1 - $5/sq.ft.
Top Soil Replacement$20 - $43/sq.ft.


Cost of Home Demolition and Removal

The first step in land clearing includes demolition and removal, ranging between $5 and $10 per sq.ft., depending on the property size. This is a mandatory step for lots with an existing structure such as a home, shed, or even the skeletal remains of what was once a building. Perhaps fire or time eroded the structure, but the concrete foundation and underground infrastructure remain. To clear the lot and build a new structure, the old building must be demolished and completely removed from the site. The concrete, pipes, wiring, and any existing structures and debris must all be removed before a new building can be constructed on the site.

Tree and Brush Removal Cost

The next step involves tree and brush removal averaging around $500 to $2,500 for a lightly wooded area. Heavier areas might cost as much as $6,000. Even after a tree is cut down, the stump remains. The stump can be ground down below the soil line, or you can have it completely removed to create a cleared area for a building site. After grinding a stump, you must get rid of the tree roots. This service varies greatly in price because it requires heavy equipment to dig deep into the ground to remove the roots. If some of the land is covered by thick underbrush, that must be removed to clear the land for future building. It is important to note that if the trees and brush on the land are kept, there is no additional charge, and this step is not necessary as part of the land clearing process.

Forestry Mulching Prices

Forestry mulching is the next mandatory step, averaging from $400 to $600 per acre. A forestry mulcher, masticator, or brush cutter is used to cut down brush and trees, leaving fine mulch that can be spread across the ground. If you go this route, you won’t have to pay as much for debris removal. There is also the other option of traditional land clearing. However, this can result in the loss of valuable topsoil.

Reslope Lawn

Land resloping may be completed after clearing to prevent flooding and create an even building site. This is the next step in the land clearing process. The process of resloping involves bringing in topsoil to reform the area for runoff, stop flooding, and prevent erosion. This is simply moving dirt from one area of your yard to another or removing it entirely. If your land is even, then resloping is not a necessary step in the land clearing process. Homeowners should expect to pay about $1.10 to $3 per sq.ft. to reslope if no additional fill dirt is needed.

Prevention of Soil Erosion

If you’ve invested the time and money to reslope your yard, you should also protect it from erosion, which is the next step in the process. This step is only necessary for sloped land. The steeper the slope, the bigger the problem unless you’re proactive with a solution. Soil erosion prevention methods must be employed, such as installing metal braces and edging, to hold the soil in place. The cost of these measures averages $1 to $5 per sq.ft. The most expensive but effective way to protect from soil erosion is to build a retaining wall, which immediately tiers any slopes on your property and creates level ground.

Top Soil Replacement

The final step in clearing the land is replacing the topsoil. If topsoil was removed from your yard earlier, you can reapply the soil to the land. Replacing the topsoil is only necessary if the quality of the topsoil is not good. You want to ensure that the soil is rich in nutrients to grow grass or flowers. Grading your land with new topsoil is a difficult process and should be completed by a professional. The cost of grading and dirt replacement ranges from $20 to $43 per sq.ft.

Cost to Clear Wooded Lot

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 $500 to $2,000 for removal. For heavily forested land, you can expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 per acre. Heavily wooded lots are significantly more expensive to clear than other types because they require more time and work by the contractors.

Soil Testing for Construction Cost

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.


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Site Work Cost per Square Foot

You can expect to pay from $6 to $43 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.

Site Development Costs per Acre

In general, you will pay $200 to $2,000 per acre for site development. Site development it’s also know 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, and involves land leveling and stabilization, land and basement excavation, and building a foundation.

Building Site Preparation Costs

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. Land excavation removes obstacles and gives greater access to the area. Soil compaction and site preparation ensure the longevity of the structure once it is built. The chart below highlights building site preparation tasks in the order that they are supposed to be done with their respective costs, followed by an explanation of each.


Cost of Building Site Preparation by Step: Land Excavation, Basement Excavation, Land Leveling, Land Stabilization, Building Foundation, and Underground Utilities

Cost of Building Site Preparation by Step: Land Excavation, Basement Excavation, Land Leveling, Land Stabilization, Building Foundation, and Underground Utilities


Site Preparation StepAverage Cost (Labor Included)
Land Excavation$200 - $2,000/acre
Basement Excavation$10 - $20/sq.ft.
Land Leveling$9 - $12/sq.ft.
Land Stabilization$20 - $43/sq.ft.
Build Foundation$6 - $20/sq.ft.
Underground Utilities$500 - $5,000/utility


Land Excavation Cost

The first step in building site preparation is land excavation. It is a mandatory step in building site preparation that costs between $200 and $2,000 per acre. The space for the footing and foundation and the trenches for utilities are excavated during this step of the process. When excavating, crews should never come within 10 feet of power lines. Only specially-trained contractors are allowed to trim and remove vegetation around power lines. Underground utilities are another factor that must be considered when clearing the land. The contractor should always call to have the lines mapped out by the utility service before excavation begins. Each state has an 811 center that must be contacted before excavation begins so the lines can be marked. The service is free.

Basement Excavation Cost

Not all buildings have basements, but if the building to be constructed on the site requires a basement, the next step is excavating, ranging in price between $10 and $20 per sq.ft. The basement excavation process involves digging the hole and removing all dirt, rocks, and debris. It is often cost-effective and easier to have the basement excavated as soon as the land is cleared and graded. The builder can determine when this should occur based on the permit and building schedule.

Land Leveling Cost

Land excavation is followed by land leveling, ranging in price between $9 and $12 per sq.ft. When you are working with land that is not entirely flat, it must be leveled or graded for use or construction. Leveling is not a mandatory step in site preparation as it may not be required. In this leveling/grading phase of preparing the land, it will either be scraped and removed from the location or scraped from a higher elevation on the land, and the dirt then used to fill a lower elevation to level it out.

Land Stabilization

The next step involves land stabilization, ranging in price between $20 and $43 per sq.ft. If a building site is sloped, in a flood zone, suffers from erosion, and/or other issues, stabilization must be undertaken before building. If none of these issues exist, then land stabilization will not need to occur. Stabilization creates a stronger soil which improves its load-bearing capacity. One of the most popular options for stabilizing soil is cement.

Cost to Build Foundation

The next step in building site preparation is building a foundation that averages between $6 and $20 per sq.ft. depending on its type. Whether you are building a new home or any other type of structure, you must start with a foundation. The foundation is the most important part of a new building, from supporting it to holding the weight of the structure above. Concrete foundations are the most common type among homeowners due to their strong and stable properties.

Underground Utilities Cost

Finally, underground utilities need to be set in place after the groundwork for the home so that they do not get damaged while digging or excavating, which costs $500 to $5,000 on average. This includes the water line, gas line installation, underground electrical, and CAT-6 cables. During the excavation process, trenches must be dug to run the utility lines from the road to the area where the building will be constructed.

Labor Cost to Prepare Land for a House

Regarding labor costs, most professionals charge from $150 to $250 per hour for the project. Clearing an acre of land and site preparation takes approximately 5 to 8 hours. To clear a moderate to completely flat one-acre piece of land with moderate vegetation and rocks and prepare the site for building, including land excavation, basement excavation, and land leveling, expect to pay around $750 to $2,000 in labor and $850 to $6,000 in materials related to the cost of equipment renting, for a total cost of between $1,600 and $8,000. However, remember that most land clearing and site preparation jobs are charged by the acreage and square footage for the whole project, including labor and materials, and not by the hour.

Land clearing and building site preparation are both important processes completed together to prepare land to build a home. Land clearing removes obstacles, makes excavation easier, and gives greater access to the area. Building site preparation prepares the lot for a structure. Soil compaction and site preparation ensure the longevity of the structure once it is built. Land clearing involves removing trees, stumps, boulders, and other obstructions from the building site. This is usually done with the use of chainsaws and heavy equipment. Two to four acres of land can generally be cleared of all vegetation and rocks in one day. Building site preparation involves the use of special machinery. Site preparation can take up to a full day, depending on the scope of the project. Several factors affect the cost when clearing the land and site preparation. The size of the piece of land being cleared is the first factor to consider. Land located near overhead or underground utility lines might make it difficult to use heavy equipment. Also, the date of the last land survey matters to verify the boundaries of the property. Additional fees apply if there is a need for tree or brush removal, demolition, stump grinding, resloping, grading, or soil replacement.


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Cost to Prepare Land for Mobile Home

The cost to prepare land for a mobile home averages between $1.50 and $2 per sq.ft. The process involves the same tasks and steps as those for a stick-built home. The only major difference for a mobile home is it does not have a basement and would not require excavation. It is important to double-check that your state/municipality allows for mobile homes because they are prohibited in some areas.

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.


Excavation Being Carried Out During Residential Building Site Preparation


Residential Site Plan Cost

The cost for a residential site plan averages between $644 and $906 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 $600. 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.

Junk Removal Pricing

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.

Cost to Build a Driveway

The average cost for an asphalt driveway is $3,000 to $10,000. A gravel driveway averages between $1,000 and $3,000. Whether you are building a home or a business, a driveway is necessary to reach the parking area from the road. Asphalt is likely the chosen material if you live in the north or plan to pave your driveway due to its ability to withstand harsh, cold winters. Asphalt is easier to maintain than gravel, but gravel is an inexpensive alternative to create a driveway. Several options are available for creating a gravel driveway, from the method to the materials used.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Asbestos testing. Sites that have an existing structure on the land must undergo demolition before land clearing may begin. Before demolition, an asbestos test must be done, and any asbestos found must be responsibly and safely removed.
  • Permits. Permits are needed for the excavation of land in most areas. In many areas, certain trees cannot be removed. Also, limits are often placed on how many trees can be removed during land clearing. More often than not, when grading must be done, you are likely to need a clearing permit.
  • DIY. Excavation of land is generally not a DIY project. Even if the land is flat, with no trees, and needs very little excavation, you will still need a backhoe to clear the property effectively.
  • Exchange. If you have valuable trees on your property, lumber companies will often remove the trees for free in exchange for the wood.
  • Keeping trees. You may have to pay more for keeping trees, especially if they require a new construction plan.
  • Hiring tips. Only hire a licensed and insured contractor. Always ask for references. You should also check the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the contractor.
  • Quotes. You should get several quotes for the job to have a general idea of the cost, and you know someone is not charging too little or too much. Make sure the quotes include the cost of labor, equipment, debris removal, and dumping fees. Also, see if the contractor offers grading services.
  • 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.
  • Land. If you are shopping for land to purchase and build on, make sure the land is easy to clear and level before purchasing.
  • 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.
  • Cactus removal. The local U.S. Department of Agriculture office can be contracted to inquire about controlling or removing cacti from your land. You should also inquire about the availability of federal grants, which help in the control and removal of brush.
  • Check underground utilities. Before any work is done, it is important to check for any underground utilities, especially if grading is required. The process begins with calling 811 to have a utility company come out to your property to identify utility locations and directions. This process is free of charge.
  • Soil use. Any soil removed during grading can be valuable to a local garden center or can be used as fill dirt.
  • 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.

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?

Clear land has more value than wooded lots.

  • 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?

It costs between $500 and $5,000 to clear one acre of wooded land.

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

It costs $400 to $6,000 to clear land.

  • How long is site preparation?

It takes one day to clear one acre of land.

  • 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.

  • How much does it cost to grade an acre of land?

The cost of grading and dirt replacement ranges from $20 to $43 per sq.ft.

  • How much does it cost to prepare raw land for a home?

It costs $1,600 to $8,000 to prepare raw land for a home.

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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The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources
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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.

The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources