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Site Preparation and Clearing

Getting Your Land Ready to Build On

Before construction can begin on any piece of land, site preparation work must be completed. Site preparation involves a number of steps, but the exact process varies based on the condition of the land.

Common tasks include:

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  • Clearing the site of rocks, trees and other vegetation
  • Grading or leveling the site
  • Staking the area where the structure will be built
  • Building access roads to the property
  • Drilling for and installing wells and septic systems
  • Digging for the foundation or basement
  • Connecting the site to the electrical grid
  • Developing erosion control measures
  • Demolishing existing structures (if necessary)

A site preparation contractor can handle most or all of these tasks, although you may also have to hire a surveyor to determine property boundaries. Most builders and developers have preferred site preparation contractors, but you’re free to shop around for your own if you prefer. Some site preparation contractors specialize in residential or commercial properties, while others are experienced in both.

Cost of Site Preparations

The cost of site preparation is very difficult to estimate. It depends on a number of factors, including the size and condition of the lot, the topography of the land, the density of trees and other vegetation, soil and ground conditions, access to utilities, your region of the country and more.

Generally, site preparation usually costs about $3 to $6 per square foot. Keep in mind that this is the price per square foot of the land that needs to be prepared, not the price per square foot of the building. In most cases, about 4 to 5 square feet of site preparation are needed for about every 1 square foot of building space, which brings the cost of site preparation to about $12 to $30 per square foot of building space.

For a 2,000-square-foot house, the cost of site preparation might be $24,000 to $60,000. For a 20,000 square foot commercial building, the price might be $240,000 to $600,000.

Clear Your Land

Choosing a Contractor

Site preparation is a crucial part of the construction process, so it’s important to choose the right contractor. You could run into serious problems down the road if the land has not been properly graded and prepared.

  • Ask people you trust for referrals. Who did they use for site preparation, and were they satisfied with the work? Was the job completed on time and under budget? You can ask friends for referrals, or you can talk to trusted builders or real estate professionals.
  • Do some background research on any company you’re considering. Check the company’s track record with consumer organizations like the Better Business Bureau. Ask for references - and actually check them.
  • Ask for proof that the company is licensed, bonded and insured. A company that is not licensed is operating illegally, so that’s a major red flag. A bond protects you from financial loss if the contractor goes belly up or does not finish the project. And insurance guarantees that you are not liable for any accidents that occur on the property during site preparation.

Ways to Save

The best way to save money on site preparation is to buy a piece of property that is relatively flat and does not have rocky soil or dense vegetation. The less grading, filling and clearing that needs to be done, the less you’ll end up paying.

Always seek quotes from multiple site preparation contractors to find the best price, but never choose on price alone. Weigh the cost with factors such as the company’s experience and reputation. If you hire a company with low prices but they do they job improperly or take too long to finish, you’re really not saving in the long run.

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