Your excavator has many roles he can play in building your home, including dig-a-basement. He will use anything from a track hoe to a skidsteer in accomplishing this task.

  1. He digs the basement hole

  2. Spreads Gravel around sub-rough plumbing before flatwork in basement or under concrete pad

  3. Digs and connects lateral plumbing with the city (Quiz him to make sure he can connect with the city – You want one who can)

  4. Backfills against foundation

  5. Final grading

But, before you start to dig even a shovel-full of dirt, check with Blue Stakes.

Blue Stakes

Before beginning work and digging of any kind, you must have the property checked by Blue Stakes. Blue Stakes will tell you if there are any underground utility lines you need to worry about. This service has always been free in our area.

This needs to be done just a little before Excavation begins. They will give you a number and a "window" of time that you are legally free to dig in. They will give you instructions that you need to know.

However, your excavator needs to be cleared to do the digging himself with Blue Stakes, and he gets his own Blue Stakes Number. That number allows him to do the digging for only a short window of time. If he exceed that time frame, he must get a new number.

The Excavator knows all this, but let him know you know it too. I suggest you call Blue Stakes yourself so you know what it's all about.


Have your Excavator sign a contract with you before beginning to dig-a-basement. This is terribly important.

My story will illustrate why.

I found an Excavator who said he would dig-a-basement for me, supply gravel and spread it out, backfill, dig the laterals, and repair the road that was disturbed all for a set price (less than half that of another Excavator)

Try as I might, I was unable to get him to sign a contract. We just didn't connect to get the paper signed. It was time for him to come dig and when he arrived he simply climbed out of his truck and into the big Track Hoe and started digging. track hoe - excavator No way was I going to walk up there and try to get his attention. Maybe he wouldn't see me and would run over me, so I let it go. Besides I liked the man and trusted him to dig-a-basement for me.

Motor running and bucket swinging, it was like he was saying “I'm in control here, and I'm going to dig-a-basement for you”, and surely he had the control in his hands.

Long story short, his ultimate price was nearly the same as the first contractor's. Double his original bid. Believe me, I had asked if his price included each of the things the other contractor had quoted, and he said “It's all included in the quote.”

When he handed me the bill, I questioned him and he said, “That's what it cost. I need my money to pay my hired help ASAP.”

Without a contract you have nothing to “wave in their face.”

Here's what our Excavator cost us, BESIDES the nearly 10K I paid him.

  1. 45 cents more per sq ft for ouside flatwork because it was winter and flatwork costs more in winter due to chemicals used to heat the cement to keep it from freezing. $337 extra
  2. We couldn't pour our front step because the laterals were not finished (excavator's job) plus that prevented us getting occupancy from the city for two months. This meant we had to heat two homes because of delays through the winter An extra $200

  3. Consequently we paid $2000 in unnessary interest on our construction loan,.

  4. That's 2K more than we should have paid, but because of digging laterals in the winter time and not in the early fall, when I asked him to dig them, and not getting water to the property before the ground froze, we paid an extra $3000 because of not being able to properly prepare the ground by soaking it thoroughly.

pouring cement stairs

serpentine cement sidewalk

As a result, our front steps had to be removed and the front walk had to be replaced, because our unsettled ground produced a leak in the irrigation system and the leak permeated the soil around a pipe which eventually sheered off because of the weight of the wet, unsettled dirt on the connection.

This caused a major flood all along the front of the house, which went clear to the footings and flooded the basement of our new house and also caused our front porch and steps to sink more than 12 inches as did our entire front flowerbeds next to the house.. Now if you followed all that you're doing pretty good. It took months for us to understand how the sinking of our front steps happened.

The tearing out of our new steps and walk, and the repouring of the cement steps and walk cost us another $3,000.

No contract, no proof. An extra $5500 total it cost us, and we still had more dirt to add to the flower beds.

Although our Excavator was super impressive with the track hoe, he was not honest in his quote as to how much his total costs would be to dig-a-basement. A contract would have insured our costs and prevented him overcharging us.

Building your home step by step

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