How to Estimate Excavation and Backfill

3 min read

If you’re building a new structure, there’s a good chance you will be doing some excavation and backfilling. If you’re not used to estimating those things, you might wonder how to estimate excavation and backfill.

Fortunately, there are a few simple tips you can use to create your estimate and set up your construction estimating software. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Estimate the Equipment


If you’re going to be excavating a lot of material from your job site, you will need the right equipment. That usually means an excavator, backhoe, or some other kind of equipment.

If you’re going to be renting this equipment, remember that you will need to get rates for transport to and from your job site separate from the daily rate for the machine. That way, you can keep the fixed and time-related costs separate from your estimate.

2. Estimate the Labor


If you’re not used to estimating excavation and backfill labor, you can ask the equipment rental company how much material their machine can move per hour.

Next, calculate the total volume of dirt you need to move, by multiplying the depth by the length and then the breadth of your excavation.

If you divide the total volume by the volume of dirt the machine can move in an hour, you will know how many hours it should take. But remember that things like concrete slabs, underground obstacles, difficult access, and other things can slow down progress, so always allow extra time to deal with all those issues.

3. Allow for Dirt Removal


When you are excavating a big hole that is going to have something else in it – whether it’s a basement or a swimming pool – you’re going to have a lot of dirt left over.

After you’ve calculated the labor costs for the digging, you’ll need to figure out where you’re going to dispose of the dirt, and how much that will cost. Sometimes, you can give clean fill material away to landscapers or other contractors, but it’s best not to rely on that because it might not happen. Instead, allow for disposal, and if you don’t have to spend the money, it’s extra profit.

4. Don’t Forget Backfilling and Compacting


The last step in any excavation project is backfilling and compacting, and this can be a time-consuming process.

Often, you’ll need to do your backfilling and compacting in layers to ensure you get the right soil density, and you will probably need to use equipment like plate compactors or rollers to get the job done.

Estimating excavation and backfilling is not that difficult once you get the hang of it, but if you’ve got any doubts about your calculations, it never hurts to get a quote from a company that specializes in this, so you can make sure you’re in the right ballpark.

You can still self-perform the work if you like, but this kind of double check will help to ensure your estimating is accurate before you put it in your construction estimating software.


In conclusion, mastering the art of estimating excavation and backfill is crucial for the success of any construction project. By incorporating the strategies outlined in this guide, you can enhance project planning, reduce unexpected costs, and increase efficiency on the job site. Remember, accurate estimation is not just about the numbers; it's about foreseeing challenges and preparing for them.

These insights will empower you to tackle excavation and backfill tasks with confidence. Embrace the knowledge, apply these tips, and watch your construction projects thrive with precision and professionalism.


GeneralConstruction Estimating Software