How Much Does It Cost to Dig a Trench?

Typical Range:

$400 - $1,200

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.

Updated March 25, 2022

Written by HomeAdvisor.

*all above costs based on 100 linear feet

Trenching Cost

Average cost to dig a trench ranges from $4 to $12 per linear foot

The average cost to dig 100 linear feet of trench is $800. Less expensive projects can run as little as $400 while more expensive ones are about $1,200. The payout per linear foot can range between $4 and $12.

Trenches are used to place utilities underground, install lawn sprinklers or devise a drainage system on your property. Conduit, using 1/2-inch non-metallic PVC pipe, adds about $0.25 per foot. Copper, the most common material for water lines, can add between $10 and $20 per foot. The average price per foot of sewer line ranges from $50 to $250. Gas line, using 1-inch polyethylene pipe, adds $0.66 per foot.

Trenches, usually deeper than they are wide, play a big part in the construction and maintenance of infrastructure. In addition to utilities, these ditches are used in constructing retaining walls.

There are a few things to do before digging:

  • Check to see if any city or county permits are necessary. Permits typically cost between $500 to $2,000.

  • Homeowners should also check for existing utility lines before putting a shovel in the ground. Hire a land surveyor to do that for between $200 to $800.

  • You may need to clear the site of landscaping or trees. The average price to remove a tree is $650, but it can range between $75 to $1,500.

Average Trenching Costs

Average Cost$800
High Cost$1,200
Low Cost$400

Trenching Prices Per Foot

Digging a trench amounts to an average of $8 per linear foot, including equipment and labor. Doing it yourself eliminates labor and puts the price at an average of $2.25 per linear foot.

Costs Per Linear Foot to Build a Trench
Equipment (Trencher)$1.75 – $2.50
Labor*$2.25 – $9.50
Total Per Linear Foot$4 – $12
Total Per 100 Linear Feet$400 – $1,200

*Labor rate includes support materials and cleanup.

Trenching Cost Factors

Most trenches are 24 inches deep and 8 inches wide. Size will be the biggest cost factor if permits, a land survey and site clearing aren't necessary.

Labor Costs to Dig a Trench

The average rate per linear foot of labor is $5.75. The price includes the work as well as support materials.

Material 

Support materials can include:

  • Sheets of plywood to shore up trench walls: 2x4 feet for $17

  • Diaphragm hand pump to remove water that may enter: $90

  • Flagging tape to mark site: 600 feet for $5

Digging 100 linear feet in soil that doesn't have rocks will cost $575 and take about half a day. The work consists of planning the ditch, preparing and protecting the site, getting the needed materials and equipment and cleaning up the site.

Equipment

Smaller jobs require different tools than more laborious projects. Trenching rental equipment rental starts at around $100 per day for a micro-trencher. Other common equipment includes:

  • Drainage spades

  • Trenching hoes

  • Trenching shovels 

  • Walk-behind trenchers 

  • Ride-on trenchers

  • Special-purpose trenchers 

Permits

While costs vary widely across the country, average trenching permits cost between $500 to $2,000.

Consult with a Landscaper to Dig a Trench
Get Estimates Now

Micro Trenching Cost Calculator

Micro-trenching is about $35 per linear foot. This creates a space for fiber and conduit that's only about 1 foot deep and less than 3/4 inch wide. Any land or lawn scars left behind are less noticeable.

The average price of renting a micro-trencher is $125 per day. The price varies based on how long it's needed. You may also need to pay a deposit.

Trench & Conduit Installation Cost Estimates

Homeowners dig trenches to install utilities (electricity, gas, water, sewer, cable) underground, provide for drainage and form the footing for foundation. The size of the ditch and the type of conduit used depend on the type of project.

Hire a licensed professional for most ditch projects, especially when utilities are being installed. Spend a little more money upfront to avoid future spending on repairs. Most contractors will dig the trench for the system they're installing.

Costs for Projects Requiring a Yard Trench
ProjectCost Range Per Lot*DIY vs. Hire a Pro
Drainage$1,900 – $5,100Either
Electrical$600 – $2,100Hire a Pro
Water$600 – $2,400Hire a Pro
Sewer$1,400 – $4,600Hire a pro if not
completed by city/county
Gas$300 – $800Hire a Pro
HVAC$3,800 – $7,200Hire a Pro
Foundations$4,300 – $13,300Hire a Pro
Retaining Walls$2,900 – $7,800Either

*Includes labor, equipment, support materials and cleanup.

Underground Utilities Conduit Installation Cost Per Foot

The price to install conduit for utilities costs an average of $8 per foot, which includes equipment, labor, trenching and installation of the utility. There are different kinds of conduit, but PVC is generally the cheapest. Half-inch non-metallic PVC pipe adds about $0.25 per foot.

Trench and Conduit Costs by Material Type
Type of LineAdded Price Per Linear FootTotal Per Linear Foot,
including $8 avg installation
1/2-inch non-metallic PVC pipe$0.25$8.25
Copper for water$10 – $20$18 – $28
4-inch PVC for sewer$1$9
1-inch polyethylene for gas$0.66$8.66
2-inch black steel pipe for HVAC$12$20

The kinds of wiring that usually go into conduit are thermoplastic high-heat resistant nylon-coated wire and thermoplastic heat- and water-resistant nylon-coated wire. The type of wiring and conduit used may affect the installation depth.

Digging Drainage Trench

Installing a drainage system, one of the main reasons for digging a trench, costs between $1,900 to $5,100. These are ideal for driveways or other stretches of pavement.

An exterior French drain amounts to an average of $20 to $30 per linear foot. An interior system is an average of $45 to $60 per linear foot. A French drain uses gravity, gravel and a perforated pipe to direct water away from the home.

A trench or channel driveway drainage systems costs an average of $70 per linear foot. This system works quickly using a flush grate surface in the ditch.

Electrical Trenching Costs

Installing electrical wiring or a panel usually costs between $600 and $2,100. The size and layout of the property may impact the total. Even if it's a smaller job, err on the side of caution and hire a licensed electrician at $50 to $100 per hour.

Several home projects require electrical trenching:

  1. Surveillance camera: Installing a security system is priced at about $1,400.

  2. Indoor/outdoor outlet: Homeowners pay an average of $200 to install or replace electrical and ground-fault circuit interrupters. Take additional precautions for outdoor outlets by investing in covers that protect from exposure to water.

  3. Lighting: The average cost to install a lighting fixture is $460.

  4. Swimming pool/hot tub: Install an inground swimming pool for a cost of about $48,500. A typical turn-key pool package includes the electrical system needed. In-ground hot tubs cost between $15,000 to $20,000, including the digging and electrical and plumbing work.

Water Line Trenching

Most homeowners spend to install a water main between $600 to $2,400. Hire a licensed professional plumber to do the work from the beginning to avoid paying the latter. Regional temperatures may affect the type of pipe you can use. The commonly-used copper adds $10 to $20 to the price per linear foot.

Other projects that require this include:

Sewer Line

Installing a sewer main costs most homeowners between $1,400 to $4,600. The type of housing may affect ultimate costs, permits, proximity to connector line or obstacles in landscaping. Permits and regulations are a factor in any sewer-related project. If a city or county isn't responsible for installing sewer lines, hire a professional.

Four-inch PVC pipe adds approximately $1 to the price per linear foot. Plastic pipe ties easily into older systems.

Gas & HVAC Piping

Most homeowners pay to install or repair gas pipes between $300 to $800. The kind of gas used and the appliance to which the line connects will determine the type of pipe.

The price range of a geothermal heating or cooling system is $3,500 to $12,800. Insulate and waterproof the lines. HVAC systems often use black steel pipe. Two-inch black steel pipe adds about $12 to the cost per linear foot.

There are three types of configurations for the geothermal system: horizontal, vertical and pond. The trench for a pond configuration will be about $10 to $20 per linear foot.

Excavating for Foundation Footings

The typical charge for an excavation and grading job is between $1,350 to $4,550. Seasonal weather may affect the workflow.

The price of a foundation project ranges from $4,300 to $13,300. What it's made of can increase or decrease that number. For example, a monolithic concrete slab is about $4 per square foot, but basement foundation is about $18 per square foot.

Retaining Walls

Certain types of retaining walls need trenches. The price of installing a retaining wall runs most homeowners between $2,900 to $7,800 and includes the trenching needed.

Consult with a Pro to install utilities in your yard
Get Estimates Now

DIY vs. Hiring Trenching Services

Digging an average trench that's 24 inches deep and 8 inches wide can be a DIY job. A licensed professional should install the utilities.

DIY Trench Digging Equipment Rental

The cost of renting trench-digging equipment depends on for how long you need it and the type of trencher. Some companies also ask for a deposit.

Rent a micro-trencher for about $125 per day and an 18-inch one for about $90 per day. Shovels and spades for smaller jobs range from $12 to $100.

Benefits of Hiring Local Professionals

If you want the job done right the first time and you've got the money, go with a professional. DIY may save you money in the short term, but if you have little to no experience, prepare for costs associated with repairs.

FAQs

How long does it take to dig a ditch?

It takes about 12 hours to dig 100 linear feet of trench. Measure the number of linear feet you need to dig and multiply that by 0.12 for an approximate labor period.

How deep should your trench be dug?

The depth needed will depend on its purpose. The average trench is 24 inches deep and 8 inches wide. A micro trench is about 1 foot deep and less than ¾ inch wide.

How do you dig a trench?

  • Acquire the proper equipment.

  • Note existing (if any) utilities.

  • Mark the path of your ditch.

  • Use a flat shovel to cut clean lines in the sod.

  • Use a shovel to remove the dirt.

  • Put the dirt and sod aside until the utilities are in place.

  • After installing the pipes, fill it back up with the dirt that's been set aside.

  • Press the sod back into place.

Hire a Pro to Dig a Trench
Get Estimates Now