What’s The Cost of Preparing Land for Building a House?

Building a house that you’ll call home can be quite expensive. One of the expenses that you should know before starting this project is the amount of money you’ll need to prepare the piece of land on which you’ll build a house.

We’ve prepared a guide and breakdown of the land preparation process to assist you to estimate the cost.

Essentially, the cost of site preparation is approximately $14,000 to $20,000. The processes included in the estimate are soil testing (if necessary), site survey, retaining walls, site clearance, and service connections among others.

By now, you may be curious about what influences the overall cost of site preparation and the expenses involved in each process. Read on to find out.

preparing land for building a house

Factors that Influence the Pricing

Before you start the groundwork, it’s important to understand all the costs involved. The processes and costs involved may differ due to factors such as location and the builder you’ll hire.

Here’re the processes involved when preparing the site for constructing most types of houses:

1. Cut and Fill

Cut and fill refers to the process involved in moving soil from one part of the land to another area to flatten the ground.

The term “cut” refers to removing soil from certain sections whereas “fill” refers to placing the soil on other sections. The cut and fill technique is commonly used to create a level ground when preparing the land.

Once the ground is cut and filled, the site is compacted to ensure it’s not fluffed or aerated to prevent disastrous effects such as cracking of the foundation.

The equipment required for this process include:

  • Bobcat
  • Plate compactors
  • Drumroll compactors
  • Bulldozers

2. Clearing

The size and nature of the land determines the complexity of clearing. Clearing involves tasks such as vegetation and tree removal and getting rid of rocks and debris.

Also, the land requires screening to about 500mm deep. Screening is done to identify whether there’s any rubble or waste.

Clearing is a highly regulated process. If clearing is not done properly, compacting the site would be extremely challenging. Also, poor compaction can affect your home’s warranty and integrity.

  • Lightweight equipment
  • Bobcat
  • Chainsaws

3. Stump Removal

Root systems and stumps removed from a site should be cleared before proceeding with the work. Decaying roots and stumps can cause problems to the foundation since they allow for soil movement.

Also, tree and stump removal can prevent problems related to insect infestation. The cost of this process depends on the site conditions and the number or size of trees.

Equipment required:

  • Bobcat
  • Equipment to push/pull
  • Excavator
  • Backhoe

4. Grading and Leveling

It’s important to conduct grading and leveling when preparing the site. Grading is necessary to prevent water from flowing towards the foundation and the house.

On the other hand, leveling ensures that the ground is flat to create an even base in readiness to lay the foundation.

Grading and leveling can be challenging on sloped land. In this case, you’ll pay more for the extra work required. In sloped sites, grading is done in such a way that water is redirected away from the house.

It’s also challenging to grade flat sites to allow surface runoff.

Equipment required:

  • Bobcat
  • Heavy earthmovers
  • Auto-leveler- It’s used to check whether various sections of the ground are level. Driveways and pathways should be done once the construction work is completed since heavy machinery can alter the levels.

5. Amenities

Another cost involved in land preparation is related to amenities. Amenities include plumbing, electricity, and water connections. A professional builder will organize for expert subcontractors depending on the services needed.

For instance, an electrician will be subcontracted to do electrical installations while a plumber will be hired to do plumbing and water connections. After all, water and electricity will be needed when doing construction work.

6. Soil Testing

It’s very important to test the soil when preparing the land. A geotechnical engineer does the testing to determine certain things such as:


  • Physical properties- Shows the kind of soil making up the site such as sand, clay, or rock, and whether there’s any natural slope.
  • Chemical conditions- It’s done to ensure there’re no hidden dangers or chemicals that might harm you or damage your house.
  • Soil reactivity- Shows how the soil may move, expand, or contract due to changing moisture content in the soil.


Soil testing results are produced in the form of a report. The findings determine the kind of foundation you can build, the most suitable location for building the house, and the weight that can be held by the site.

7. Termite Barrier

A termite barrier is applied before installing the slab. It can be a physical termite barrier or a termiticide chemical.

The ground gets treated with special chemicals before laying the slab. The chemicals are applied regularly through an installed reticulation system.

The slab functions as a physical termite barrier. This is because termites can’t eat through concrete but can climb over the slab.

Thus, ensuring a termiticide is applied around the entire perimeter will ensure the property is protected.

8. Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are structural walls built to prevent the soil from drifting downward.

These walls are often included in the initial building plan. They’re also used as visual features or to keep the basement supported when built on a hill.

Also, retaining walls are ideal for preventing soil erosion. You can as well use them to create flat sections on sloped land.

The walls have to be built in such a way that they adhere to building regulations and hold the entire weight of the load.

However, some properties don’t need retaining walls. If needed, they’re built during preparation and excavation.

Related Questions

Which steps are followed when building a house?

  1. Site preparation and grading
  2. Laying the foundation
  3. Framing
  4. Installing doors and windows
  5. Roofing
  6. Installing the siding
  7. Rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC
  8. Insulation
  9. Drywall
  10. Underlayment
  11. Installing the trim
  12. Paintwork
  13. Finalizing electrical installations
  14. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters
  15. Finalizing the plumbing
  16. Finalizing HVAC
  17. Well drilling and water connections
  18. Septic/sewage system
  19. Punch list


After how long can you start building the house after laying the foundation?

Upon laying the foundation, it’s important to allow the foundation to cure. It takes between 2 to 4 months for a concrete foundation to fully cure.

However, some construction processes start once the foundation cures to about 50 percent.