What you need to know before digging up land

Whether you're doing a backyard project or landscaping your property, it's important to have all bases covered.

Most home owners have done their fair share of DIY on their property, but when the project requires ground to be moved, that's when you call in the professionals.

Herbie Miranda, founder of Herbies Earthmoving has experience across a variety of projects and offers his professional insights into the risks and research of excavation. This is what you need to know:

Do your research

Before you begin any project, it's important to have a plan that you know you can execute. If you need to hire professionals and equipment, Herbie says it's imperative to do your research. As he explains,"Search for reputable earthmovers in your area, and check the credentials. Some operators are inexperienced, unlicensed and uninsured.

"A reputable earthmover can assist you with understanding how the job can be undertaken, from the machine size, the duration, the risks involved, and the cost of the work," he says. 

Know your DIY limits

If you'd like to do a project yourself, Herbie recommends acknowledging your skill set before starting. Practical jobs for first timers could be excavating and disposing of trees, clearing out overgrown garden beds, removing grass/topsoil, fixing a broken driveway or old fences. 

"Estimate your next project based on your previous experience, and scale the costs accordingly so you know whether to take on another project down the track," Herbie says. 

While DIY is an option, Herbie encourages to seek a professional's opinion when jobs need assessing or if there's technical issues involved. 

He explains, "The general rule is, if you can drive a small vehicle around to the work area, you can get small equipment to do the job, too. But if you don't know what's underneath the ground, best not to dig yourself."

Ask the right questions

When you're looking at doing an invasive job to the ground of your property, Herbie says it's worth asking as many job specific questions as you like. From those answers, you'll be able to determine if you're comfortable with that company.

If you're not sure on what to ask, Herbie provides a list of critical points:

•         Ask if the hire company can send someone out to look at the job prior to starting onsite.
•         Assess the company’s reputation, hourly hire rates and terms of hire.
•         Ask if you are getting an experienced, licensed and insured operator.

If you're doing bigger jobs, Herbie encourages checking with the local council to see if there's any laws that could impact your job. Here, he lists what you should be asking:

•         Can I remove large trees?
•         Do I have to apply for Council approval before commencing works?
•         How deep can I excavate and can I fill the land with soil?
•         Do I need soil testing?
•         Is there was a soil report undertaken on the land? You'll be able to get an understanding of what is below the ground. 

Check below the surface

When planning to dig up land, Herbie stresses that you need to know what lays underground. "Investigate what is below the surface to see if any underground services need to be relocated, lowered or removed, prior to excavation," he says.

"There are many risks associated, especially when it comes to services such as water, gas, power and other lines, " Herbie tells. "If you are not sure what is below the ground, it is best to use an excavator with a bladed bucket. This has no teeth and will assist to minimise the risk of damage."

Rather than digging teeth into the earth and busting up pipes or gauging holes into piping, a bladed bucket will just scrape away earth.

Finish the job

While a large job can have an extended time frame, Herbie says to be extremely mindful of the hazards involved with leaving projects unfinished. "Health and safety is the major issue here," says Herbie. "Holes can fill with water and become drowning hazards as well as pits for people to fall into." If the ground is exposed, other hazards like pipes issue a warning of danger, so it's important to keep an eye on the progress and minimise extra risk. 

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