How Much Does It Cost To Clear Land?

How Much Does It Cost To Clear Land?

How Much Does It Cost To Clear Land?

$1,200 – $3,700average cost

The average cost to clear land to build a house is between $1,200 and $3,700. Land clearing cost per acre ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 on lightly wooded lots and $3,800 to $6,700 for a heavily wooded area.

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$1,200 – $3,700 average cost

The average cost to clear land to build a house is between $1,200 and $3,700. Land clearing cost per acre ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 on lightly wooded lots and $3,800 to $6,700 for a heavily wooded area.

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Tom Grupa
Written by
Tom Grupa

Land Clearing Cost

The average cost to clear land to build a house is $1,200 and $3,700. Land clearing cost per acre ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 on lightly wooded lots and $3,800 to $6,700 for a heavily wooded area.

  • The price to clear land depends on the size of the lot, the purpose of the land preparation, and the density of trees, brush, rocks, and stumps that need to cleared.

  • Prices could be as low as $500 for a quarter-acre and as high as $7,000 for a full-acre lot.

While you could do the work yourself, this price guide looks at getting the land clearing done professionally.

Cost To Clear Land
National Average Cost $2,700
Minimum Cost $500
Maximum Cost $7,000
Average Range $1,200 to $3,800

Land Clearing Cost Per Acre

The costs to clear land will vary based on how heavily the acreage is wooded with brush, trees, stumps, and rocks. Most companies will give you a quote on the final cost to clear your land based on a quarter acre or full acre price.

  • Quarter-acre: $950 – Light clearing of small young trees no taller than 9’ on a quarter acre—where the ground is flat and doesn't require grading or rock removal

  • Full acre light underbrush: $3,800 – Clearing a full acre of the same level of light brush, also without grading or rock removal

  • Full acre heavily forested: $7,000+ – For a heavily forested area with tall trees, lots of brush, and grading

Land clearing trees brush on acreage
Land clearing trees brush on acreage

Cost to Clear Wooded Lot Per Quarter Acre

The average cost to prepare land for building a house on a quarter-acre lot is $950 to $1,700 depending on the level of brush, trees, and how much grading will be required. Here are average lot clearing prices:

Lot Clearing Prices
Brush Level Cubic Yards of Debris Average Cost
Clear light brush and grub roots 87.5 $950
Clear medium brush and small trees, grub roots 105 $1,100
Clear brush and trees to 6" trunk diameter 455 $1,200
Clear wooded area, pull stumps 490 $1,700

Cost to Clear Underbrush Per Acre

The price to clear light to medium underbrush is $3,800 to $4,400 per acre, which is around 350 to 420 cubic yards of debris to be removed. For a heavily forested area with lots of trees and stumps, expect to pay $4,800 and $6,700.

Land Clearing Cost Per Acre
Brush Level Cubic Yards of Debris Average Cost
Clear light underbrush & grub roots 350 $3,800
Clear medium underbrush & small trees, grub roots 420 $4,400
Clear underbrush and trees to 6" trunk diameter 455 $4,800
Clear wooded area, pull stumps 490 $6,700

Additional Land Clearing Prices

Land clearing is typically charged by the acre or quarter-acre, but in some cases, the average price ranges from $1 to $2 per square foot for complete land clearing and site preparation.

How Much Does it Cost to Clear Land to Build a House?

Clearing land to build a house costs $1,200 to $3,700. For a smaller lot that only needs one contractor and a bobcat with a shredder attached, you can expect to pay $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the density of the brush, grass, and rock.

Brush Removal Costs

Clearing brush is less expensive than trees and costs $1,300 and $1,800 per acre on average. In some cases where the brush is very light and thin, clearing the overgrowth could cost as little as $200 per acre.

Brush Removal Cost
Brush Level Average Cost
Light Brush $1,300 per acre
Heavy Brush $1,600 per acre
Wooded $1,800 per acre

Tree Clearing Cost

Clearing a single tree costs $200 and $400Tree removal costs around $70 to $200 if the tree has fallen down already. Tree clearing per acre ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 on lightly wooded lots and $3,800 to $6,700 for a heavily forested acreage.

Tree Clearing Cost
Tree Height Average Cost
8′ to 12′ $150 each
13′ to 18′ $200 each
19′ to 24′ $330 each
25′ to 36′ $420 each

Land clearing preparing land for grading
Land clearing preparing land for grading

Land Clearing Stump Removal

The total cost of tree stump grinding depends on the number of stumps, the tree stumps’ diameters, accessibility, the depth of the grinding, the root system, and mulch removal. The stump removal costs $160 on average for the first stump and $40 per additional stump after that.

Tree Clearing Cost
Stump Width Average Cost
6″ to 10″ $70 each
11″ to 14″ $90 each
15″ to 18″ $110 each
19″ to 24″ $130 each
25″ to 30″ $140 each

Clearing Rocks From Land

Clearing rocks from land typically costs $5.50 to $9.15 per linear foot depending on the hardness of the soil and rock. Rock drilling requires the use of a pneumatic truck-mounted wagon drill which requires a $2,500 minimum job charge.

Excavation Cost Per Acre

Excavation costs $1,100 to $5,600 on average. Land excavation is essential when building a structure that requires a foundation, such as a garage or home. Also, it is used to turn a wooded plot into farmland or a garden.

Land Grading Cost

Land grading costs $100 to $200 per cubic yard, depending on the terrain and level of erosion control. Land needs grading when it is not entirely flat and it needs to be leveled for use or for construction.

In this phase of land prep, it is either scraped and removed from the location or scraped from a higher elevation on the land, and the dirt is then used to fill a lower elevation to level it out.

Land Grading Cost Per Acre

Land grading costs $17,400 to $43,600 per acre, depending on the site conditions, slope steepness, and fill dirt or topsoil needed. Work done in clay, shale, or soft rock will cost 10% to 25% more. To strip, stockpile on site, and then replace topsoil costs $15 to $25 per cubic yard.

Bulldozer clearing land for site preparation
Bulldozer clearing land for site preparation

Forestry Mulching Cost Per Acre

Forestry mulching costs $400 to $800 per acre, depending on the brush density and machinery needed. This is a much cheaper option for removing individual trees and bits of brush.

When clearing land that isn’t going to be built on immediately, and assuming the land does not require grading, you can hire contractors to mulch everything.

  • Contractors use a forestry mulcher, masticator, or brush cutter equipment to shred everything and leave a carpet of mulch spread out across the ground.

  • The heaviest-duty equipment available can handle around 15 acres per day, but such equipment is typically reserved for large projects.

  • For smaller projects on residential plots, contractors use smaller equipment and typically clear one acre in half to a full day, depending on the brush thickness.

How Is Land Clearing & Site Preparation Done?

  • Land Survey: A land survey costs $480 to $540 for a residential survey. If you haven’t already done so, in the case of clearing for construction and property lines, check your most recent land survey and make sure the proposed build site is within any setbacks from your property lines. It might be wise to get a new survey if your current survey is quite old.

  • Land Clearing Permit: Permits cost 200+. Most cities require a permit when there is a significant amount of grading to be done. Also, specific sizes of trees are protected and cannot be removed, so those trees must be marked.

  • Utilities: Before work is done, you will need to check for any underground utilities, especially if grading is required. Call 811 to start the process for the relevant utility companies to come out to your property to identify and flag off the utility locations and directions. This service is free.

  • Flood zone: Check the FEMA flood maps for your property to make sure the local zoning for your land hasn't changed. Zoning is more applicable when grading is being done, because of its ability to change the flow of water on your property.

  • Clearing: You may need to demolish existing structures, then begin clearing the trees, brush, and rocks from the land.

  • Stump Removal: Pros may remove the tree stumps or grind or burn them on-site.

  • Grading: Grading will make the surface of the land level and ready for construction.

Land clearing to prepare for building a house
Land clearing to prepare for building a house

Additional Cost Factors

  • Distance to your property from the contractor’s location

  • Distance from your property to the dump

  • Removal of any additional nonorganic debris like demolished building materials

Land Clearing Equipment Rental Costs

Land clearing companies sometimes pay thousands to rent the right equipment for your job plus the delivery and pickup costs of $150 to $250, insurance at 9% of the rental rate, fuel, and qualified operators. If you were to hire professional labor, costs would be $130 to $250 per hour per operator. Clearing an acre of land takes 3 to 4 hours.

Land Clearing Equipment Rental Costs
Equipment Type & Size Rental cost per 1/2 day Rental cost per week Rental cost per month
65 horsepower $310 $450 $1,300
140 horsepower $570 $810 $2,300
25,000 to 29,000 lbs. $830 $2,200 $5,900
43,000 to 49,999 lbs. $1,100 $2,900 $6,700
Dump Truck
25 to 30-ton articulated truck $1,800 $4,000
12 to 14 cubic yard truck $750 $1,700
5 to 6 cubic yard truck $300 $800

Cactus Removal

Whether you need to clear land for farming or construction, there is a high likelihood that you will need to remove cactus plants from it, which is no easy job.

Low-Density Cactus Removal - Below 100 Plants Per Acre

  • Fast and high cost – Contractors charge $80 to $100 per hour to arrive with the necessary equipment and dig out cacti. The total price can quickly get into many thousands if they have to use the skid loader on high-density infestation on multiple acres.

  • Slow and cheap – A systemic herbicide containing picloram is used on the cacti. This treatment is an inexpensive solution at $20 per acre, but it is slow since you not only have to wait until there are no drought conditions to apply the herbicide—because it is best absorbed through new growth—but it can also take up to two years for the cacti to die and wither.

High-Density Cactus Removal - More Than 100 Plants per Acre

If the density of plants per acre makes the manual extraction or herbicide treatment cost prohibitive, you can go with either broadcast herbicide at $250+ per acre or prescribed burn at $1 to $10 per acre or a combination of both, as long as the size of your land and the location of the cacti will allow for it.

Cheapest Way to Clear Land

  • Financial assistance – Call the local US Department of Agriculture office to inquire about their National Resources Conservation Service and look into the availability of federal grants to help control or remove cacti.

  • DIY Land Clearing – Clearing the land yourself is always an option when there isn’t a significant amount of work to be done, you are in no particular rush to get the work done, and you have the equipment and manpower you need for a few weekends. If you don’t have any of the right equipment, some of the necessary expenses you would be looking at are below, along with the rental prices of large pieces of equipment mentioned above.

  • Sell The Trees – Lumber companies will sometimes be willing to remove them for free in exchange for being able to sell the wood. This usually only works if you have a lot of trees of a variety that makes for good firewood or furniture. While it’s tempting to find anyone you can to come and chop them up for firewood, you could end up paying thousands if they are injured on your property because they didn’t have liability insurance.

Hiring Your Land Clearing Services

To find the best excavating contractors to clear your land, be sure to

  • Get 3 to 5 detailed bids to compare.

  • Confirm they have equipment operators with the necessary certifications or licenses.

  • Confirm they are insured, bonded, and have been in business for 5+ years.

  • Check their reviews on HomeGuide and Google

  • Ask what equipment will be used and how long it will take.

  • Confirm understanding of what is and is not included in the bid.

  • Avoid hiring the company with the lowest bid as quality may suffer.

  • Never pay in full before the work begins. Follow a payment plan for work completed instead.

What Should Be Included in a Bid?

Unless you are providing a solution for one or more of the components of the work yourself, the proposals you get should typically cover the following:

  • All labor

  • All equipment needed

  • All equipment-related expenses including transportation to and from the site, gas, insurance, etc.

  • All debris removal and any dumping fees

  • All grading service prices (if your contractor provides that service)