How Much Does It Cost to Dig a Trench?
$400 - $1,200
$400 - $1,200
Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.
Updated March 25, 2022Written by HomeAdvisor.
*all above costs based on 100 linear feet
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.
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.
|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.
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.
The average rate per linear foot of labor is $5.75. The price includes the work as well as support materials.
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.
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:
While costs vary widely across the country, average trenching permits cost between $500 to $2,000.
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.
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.
|Project||Cost Range Per Lot*||DIY vs. Hire a Pro|
|Drainage||$1,900 – $5,100||Either|
|Electrical||$600 – $2,100||Hire a Pro|
|Water||$600 – $2,400||Hire a Pro|
|Sewer||$1,400 – $4,600||Hire a pro if not|
completed by city/county
|Gas||$300 – $800||Hire a Pro|
|HVAC||$3,800 – $7,200||Hire a Pro|
|Foundations||$4,300 – $13,300||Hire a Pro|
|Retaining Walls||$2,900 – $7,800||Either|
*Includes labor, equipment, support materials and cleanup.
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.
|Type of Line||Added Price Per Linear Foot||Total 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.
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.
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:
Surveillance camera: Installing a security system is priced at about $1,400.
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.
Lighting: The average cost to install a lighting fixture is $460.
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.
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:
Well work: Drilling or digging a well can cost $1,500 to $12,000. The average price is $5,500. The number will vary based on the type of pump, but most homeowners spend $1,550 to install or replace a well pump. Repairing a well pump runs about $800.
Sprinkler system: The average cost to install a sprinkler system is $2,500. Have a professional check for existing pipes and wires before digging and putting in pipes.
Swimming pool/hot tub:
Swimming pool: Approximately $48,500.
Hot tub: Between $15,000 to $20,000.
Water heater: The cost to install a water heater runs most homeowners between $800 to $1,400. Invest in an expansion tank to avoid having pipes burst. Repairing a water main costs on the high end $3,000 and about $300 on the low end.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.