Small Excavation Contractors

Excavation 101: Why Hire a Small Excavation Contractor?

Residential and commercial property owners and construction and other companies often need above- and below-ground work completed on a small scale for their new construction, renovation and underground maintenance and repair projects. Some people might think that they can handle this type of work on their own with merely some consumer-grade equipment and determination, but the fact is that DIY excavations can result in expensive damage to the land or underground systems and even more expensive remediation to fix mistakes. Damage can also add to the expense by causing costly delays with completing projects on time. 

As a result, it’s important to invest in professional services offered by a small excavation contractor who is always available “on demand” for scheduled appointments and emergency calls. Our guide below offers a clear outline of the types of projects handled by small excavation contractors:

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General Excavation Services

A small excavation contractor primarily accepts projects that involve digging, moving and grading of earth and other types of land preparation and alteration work. Although excavation can refer to a wide range of service offerings, excavation-related projects usually involve the following four areas:

– Land Clearing

One of the top types of projects handled by small excavation contractors is land clearing. They might need to wait for or assist with demolition of one or more structures and then haul away rock, soil and debris to another area of the site for later use in landscaping or other projects or haul debris offsite entirely. They might need to remove trees and other objects to clear a forested or similar natural zone as well that’s located near a residential or business area or on a previously untouched property. Common types of land clearing locations include homes, residential acreage, subdivisions, commercial buildings, business parks, parking lots and municipal sites.

– Ground Alteration

Once they’ve finished with removing any objects that impede their preparation of a site, a small excavation contractor then levels out, grades and spreads the earth they didn’t move elsewhere, as needed, to make it easier for a construction firm or other contractors to build upon the property or make underground changes. They might even offer new asphalt installation services or provide asphalt resurfacing services after the construction ends.

– Trench Digging

Many home and business owners hear the word “excavation” and automatically think of “trench digging,” which makes sense given that the term “excavation” means to unearth or dig up something. Additionally, small excavation contractors often perform this type of work. 

They’re typically called in to dig trenches for installation or repair of foundations, pipes that provide fresh water, drainage and sewage and electricity and cable/internet utility lines. They might also dig trenches for installation of irrigation and sprinkler systems unless the property owner hires a landscaper who offers these services. They might also dig a trench to help another company in a different professional area reach existing underground structures. 

– Hole Drilling

A project manager might also need hole drilling/boring work completed on a site. Expert small excavation contractors usually offer directional drilling or trenchless boring services to aid in the emergency repair of an underground system or to reduce the amount of damage done to an existing landscape. They might use a vacuum excavator as well to help quickly suck up and relocate the drilled loose soil. 

With directional drilling, the goal is to create one or more holes that aren’t in a vertical direction, as seen when drilling holes to connect pipes that contain utility cables without causing ground-level damage in areas where it would be far too expensive to dig, such as sites with roads. Trenchless refers to digging a hole without creating a trench; as often seen with trenchless underground repair jobs.


General Pipe Services

Plenty of small excavation contractors branch out with their service offerings to provide pipe system services, such as installation, maintenance and repairs. This is an organic and natural extension of their work since excavation and underground pipes are often closely associated during various types of projects. The services offered in this category can vary by contractor. 

– Installation 

If a small excavation contractor has the appropriate level of related experience and skills, they might provide all of the dig work for a new underground pipe system, install it and then perform regular maintenance over time. That said, they might only offer the dig services while allowing a separate contractor to complete the installation. Some contractors don’t have time to perform or feel comfortable handling installation of a sewage system, for example, but they have time to perform later maintenance and complete emergency calls.

– Maintenance

With maintenance, a small excavation contractor typically starts with a high-definition video inspection of the pipes to check for problems before they become emergencies. They also supply cleaning services. A common form of cleaning involves the use of hydro jet equipment that removes all biofilm and debris with highly pressurized water. If they offer emergency services, they might also use this equipment to clear large blockages and clogs found deep in the system. If the property has storm drains and a catch basin, they inspect and clean these as well to prevent storm-related and other overflow problems.


Emergency Calls 

Property owners need underground emergency services for a variety of reasons. A landscaper or nearby construction site might cause earth movement that damages the underground plumbing or utility system for a home or business. A heavy truck or piece of construction equipment driven aboveground might put too much compression on underground pipes causing them to crack. Tree roots from old trees might grow through one or more pipes. Other problems that happen naturally over time that can result in emergency calls include blockages, cracked pipe seals and age-related pipe material deterioration. Depending on what a small excavation contractor discovers during an emergency pipe system video inspection, they might perform a sectional or trenchless repair to fix one or more pipes.

– Sectional Pipe Repairs 

The decision on how to repair the pipes depends on the contractor’s evaluation of the situation and the property owner’s input. If they decide on a sectional repair, the small excavation contractor digs through only enough of the earth to reach the section of pipe that they need to repair or replace. A video inspection beforehand allows them to find the exact spot so that they don’t need to clear the landscape and dig up and move away all of the ground above the entire pipe system. Once they gain access to the pipe system underground, they repair or remove and replace the damaged section of pipe or pipes. This process is a bit more time-consuming than a trench-less repair. 

– Trench-less Pipe Repairs

Instead of clearing the landscape and digging a trench or section after performing a video inspection to access underground pipes, the small excavation contractor drills a hole above the system near the damaged area or uses a nearby drain to start their work. They insert a flexible, resin-coated liner known as a Cured-in-Place Pipe (CIPP) through the hole or drain pipe and feed the liner into the system until it reaches and passes through the damaged area of the water or sewer line. They then use a special piece of equipment to expand the liner so that it presses firmly against the old pipe’s interior and wait until it hardens inside of the pipe to form a brand new pipe. With this method, they don’t need to remove the old pipe at all to replace it.

Things to Keep in Mind

Did you know that our On Demand Excavation team members have more than 75 years of combined small excavation, sewer and drain experience? We offer complete residential and commercial small excavation and underground pipe system services, including 24-hour emergency pipe inspection and repair assistance. For the last five years since we started On Demand Excavation, we’ve been proud to help our neighbors not only in Portland but throughout Oregon and Washington complete their projects in a timely fashion. 

We’re available for all types of small excavation and pipe system jobs. Think of us first in the region for new projects and when a “fix” is necessary after costly damage and delays caused by do-it-yourself attempts or inexperienced contractors. 

Call today to learn more about how we quickly and affordably complete small excavation and related services!