Before any construction project can take place, the land where it will be built must be prepared to support it. Whether the location is hilly, rutted or sloped, significant land grading work is often needed to ensure the project begins with a smooth surface.
Land grading and excavation are two common processes for preparing land for the construction of structures and roadways. While many projects require both processes, they involve different steps and have different aims.
Here is a look at how land grading and excavation are carried out and what they accomplish.
What Is Land Grading?
Land grading is a technique for smoothing the ground by pushing topsoil around an area that will serve as the foundation for construction and other projects. It serves to level the area and reduce holes and bumps. This provides a flat and even surface for a construction job as well as any post-construction landscaping that will be carried out.
What Is Excavation?
Excavation is the process of digging and removing debris from a job site to prepare it for construction. It may entail digging a hole in which concrete can be poured for the foundation or footings of a building. It might also involve removing major debris such as boulders and tree stumps so they can be hauled away.
In home construction projects, residential excavation teams assess the lot and remove the amount of soil needed to accommodate the home’s basement, foundation, swimming pool and other structures. It can also be used to remove dirt to create channels that can be filled with weeping systems and gravel to ensure water is wicked away from the home.
What Is the Difference Between Land Grading and Excavation?
In addition to having different aims, there are a few more factors that set land grading and excavation apart.
They Are Used at Different Times
Excavation is typically one of the first activities in a construction project as it facilitates the construction of foundations, swimming pools, sidewalks, roads and other projects. An excavator is commonly used for this process, but bulldozers, blades and backhoes may also be needed.
Grading, in contrast, is generally carried out in the later stages of a construction project. For example, it may be used to smooth and level a surface so that grass can be planted uniformly or other landscaping can be set up. It may require the use of a bobcat tractor with landscaping rake, or blade.
They Serve Different Purposes
Excavation is a very practical and straightforward job that is focused on safely removing unwanted earth materials, but grading tends to be more aesthetic. In some cases, grading may even be used solely for creating a more visually appealing0 flat surface without having any practical applications.
A Typical Grading and Excavation Project
Here is an overview of a standard road construction project that entails both grading and excavation to better illustrate how these two processes work in conjunction with one another and demonstrate their differences.
Clearing the Land
Contractors will work to clear the site of any trees, existing structures, old gravel and other manmade and natural elements. This can help to prevent undergrowth and other issues that could impact the integrity of the project. In cases where trees need to be removed, their entire root systems must be cleared away completely to avoid land shifting in the future.
After debris has been cleared from the land, an excavation team will come in with heavy equipment to move debris and slope the land in accordance with the construction plans. The land will be carefully staked to guide this work. In some projects, contractors may also be responsible for excavating to accommodate utility lines or facilitate irrigation.
After the excavation process has been completed, the grading team will come with its equipment and start to level and slope the land and remove any remaining debris. While the excavation team may have dug holes or moved earth materials, the grading team will shape the land in accordance with the site plan.
Effective grading requires fully dry, solid land. Summer is the ideal time for this, but it can be done at any time of the year as long as the ground is not frozen.
What are Grading and Excavation Contractors, and Why Should You Work With Them?
Because the success of any construction project depends on proper site preparation, grading and excavation professionals are typically contracted to carry out the work and ensure a stable base is created.
Grading and excavation contractors know how to address the various obstacles that may be encountered in this work, such as navigating around utility lines or hitting bedrock. They are also trained on taking factors related to irrigation and draining into account when conducting their work.
These contractors will often work with engineers to analyze soil composition and the project’s structural demands, particularly for larger projects. For example, rocky soil requires a different approach than sandy soil.
For smaller residential projects, homeowners sometimes consider handling grading and excavation as a DIY project with rented equipment. However, this is not recommended as these can be very dangerous jobs. Land can cave in or collapse, or you could encounter a utility line. Moreover, the equipment needed can be difficult for untrained individuals to operate safely.
In addition, improperly excavated or graded land with the wrong level of soil compaction can put the structure that is built on it at risk and may even endanger those who are present if the land shifts dangerously.
Keep in mind that homeowners’ insurance will not cover damage that you cause while carrying out this type of work, and the insurance you can buy for rented machinery will only cover damage to the equipment itself rather than any property damage. Professional excavators and graders should have insurance that can cover the cost of repairs if something goes wrong. They will also clean up the site and haul the dirt away.
Contact the Northern Virginia Dirt Grading and Excavating Professionals
At Dirt Connections, our team of licensed and bonded contractors has the experience and equipment needed to carry out residential and commercial site work such as excavation, grading and filling safety and effectively. Contact us today to find out how we can help you get your project off the ground.
Dirt Connections was started with one goal in mind: providing quality residential and commercial construction services to clients on time and on budget. Reach out for more information on how we can support your next project.
For your convenience our estimates are free and by appointment. Call 703-940-9949 for a free estimate today!