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Excavating for a Driveway

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 7 Jun 2011 | comments*Discuss
Driveway Excavating Excavate Foundations

If you think you don't need to be excavating for your driveway, think again. It may only be just a little bit of concrete, but in a few years' time you'll be doing the job again. And the second time you'll be excavating properly!

A Little Excavation Goes a Long Way

You don’t need to dig all the way to Australia! And the depth to which you excavate depends on the nature of the ground beneath it, which sort of driveway you are laying, and its length and width. But you need to lay proper foundations if you want a driveway that performs well and lasts for a long time. That means excavating.

We can't cover all the excavation techniques and foundation levels for every single instance here, but the intention is to give some general guidelines. For the exact depth of foundation and excavation required, take a look at the articles on this site for each driveway type.

Manual or Mechanical?

Once you know how far down and how wide your excavation needs to be, you need to decide whether you are going to do the job by hand or get some mechanical tools in. Often the bulk of the work is carting the rubble away and disposing of it rather than the actual digging. But that also depends on the type of ground you have. (Read our article Waste Disposal When Making a Driveway on this site.)

If you have soft, loamy soil, and you can make use of it in the garden, you may be better off saving some money. Just get a few friends and family in to help dig out the soil and take it to its new home in wheelbarrow loads.

If you live in a mountainous area, and there's solid rock under your topsoil, you may well have to get specialist in. That could blow the driveway budget out of the water, so do some exploratory digging before you commit to the job.

Get the Diggers in

Mini-diggers are pretty economical to hire these days, so it might be worth lining up a digger and a skip if you think you're going to have more stone than earth to shift. If you are lifting an old driveway, perhaps Tarmac or Concrete, then a pneumatic drill is definitely on the cards.

Without a pneumatic drill you'll be looking at hours of work with pick axes and spades. If you have a mini-digger, you'll be able to shift larger chunks, so the job will be even faster.

Skip Management

If you're using a skip over a weekend, make sure that the skip firm are able to swap a full one over for an empty one on the Sunday; you'll need that if you end up using more than one skip load. If they don't work on Sundays, make sure you have an arrangement to call late on Saturday afternoon and be prepared for them to take away a half load. That's better than filling the skip up halfway through Sunday afternoon and having nowhere to put the rest of the rubble.

Watch Yourself

Finally, make sure you wear the right protective gear and take it slowly and steadily. It'll be no good saving money on driveway excavation if you put your back out and can't work for a fortnight (for more information read our article Safety and Driveway Laying.)

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