There are several types of excavation, which are classified by the material being excavated and/or the purpose of the excavation. Based on the type of excavation required, an experienced excavation contractor decides what machinery and technique work best for the task. Whether you need to move soil, rock or other heavy materials to construct a building, road or bridge or install underground pipes or utility lines, exploring 10 of the most common types of excavation helps you determine the type of excavating service you need to get the job done.

Task-Based Excavation

These excavation types are based on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Each process may require different tools and techniques to ensure you can safely complete your task.

Bridge Excavation

Whether you’re building arch, beam or suspension bridges, you need a strong foundation to build on. Bridge excavation focuses on removing any materials that are in the way of constructing the bridge footings, abutments and other substructures you need to safely support the entire structure. These projects may also require backfilling, which your excavation crew handles for you.

Borrow Excavation

Some construction tasks actually require you to add materials, not take them away. When your project requires you to bring in materials from outside the building site, it’s called borrow excavation, because you’re borrowing materials from another location. Borrowed materials can include soil, sand, gravel or a combination of materials that will likely come from a pit. Borrow excavation is often used for filling or leveling, backfilling previously excavated areas when you can’t or don’t want to reuse the material removed or to install grading or an embankment. It’s also an option when you need materials to mix with other construction materials, such as when you’re making concrete.

Channel Excavation

When an existing channel or ditch doesn’t drain well or drain where it should, you may need channel excavation to remove materials within the channel to correct the problem. Channel excavation is used to increase or change the flow of water to help alleviate various issues, such as flooding, stagnation or sediment buildup.

Drainage Excavation

Removing materials to build storm drains or other types of drainage to carry water away from a specific area via a drain, ditch, trench or similar depression for runoff is called drainage excavation. Drainage excavation changes the flow of water to funnel it away from roads, homes and other infrastructure that could be harmed by flooding. It can also be used to change the flow of agricultural drainage, either bringing water to fields that need it or reducing water levels in fields prone to flooding.

Dredge Excavation

Also called dredging, this type of excavation removes built-up sediment deposits in waterways that create blockages over time. Dredge excavation occurs underwater in canals, rivers, shallow ocean passages or other navigable bodies of water with boat traffic. Removing sediments and other debris through excavation allows watercraft to navigate waterways without getting stuck, but dredge excavation might also be used for various construction purposes.


Also known as cut and fill excavation, stripping shouldn’t be confused with topsoil excavation, which involves digging a shallow trench or pit. In contrast, stripping clears large areas of land so you can begin a construction project. Materials stripped away may include soil, sand, gravel, rock and other unwanted vegetation. Stripping may also include grading to ensure the land is level before building.

Excavation Based on Material Removed

Many types of excavation focus on the material you need removed because you wouldn’t use the exact same techniques to remove dirt as you would rock. Material-based excavations may also require different tools but can often be used for more than one purpose.

Earth Excavation

Earth excavation is the removal of soil beneath the surface topsoil, digging as deep as needed for your type of project. This type of excavation is used for a variety of construction endeavors, including the creation of foundations for buildings, bridges or other structures, building drainage ditches or embankments and installing pipes or underground utilities.

Muck Excavation

Muck excavation is similar to earth excavation except the material type is a combination of water and soil instead of just soil. Muck causes problems on construction sites because it makes the ground unstable and unsuitable for building. When muck is excavated, it may be moved to another area altogether or spread out to let it dry and, potentially, be reused.

Rock Excavation

Excavating rock is much more difficult than excavating soil and other types of materials, and it requires specialized equipment to break up and remove unyielding rocks. Drilling or blasting may also be required to effectively clear extremely tough rocky surfaces before earth or other types of excavation can take place and construction projects can proceed.

Topsoil Excavation

While earth excavation involves varying depths, topsoil excavation only removes the uppermost surface area, usually at a depth of no more than 12 inches. Topsoil excavation removes soil, vegetation and other organic matter that causes soil to compress, making it unsuitable for bearing the weight of a building or other structure. The removed topsoil may be kept on site and later used for landscaping purposes.

Trust the Excavation Experts in Kansas City

These are just some of the common types of excavation, but there are others, including some that are unclassified because there’s a mix of materials being removed and/or more than one purpose for excavation. Trust our excavation experts at Earthworkz to help you decide which type of excavation is right for your project. We’ve been expertly fulfilling the excavation needs of customers throughout the Greater Kansas City area since 2009. Whether you have a small job or an extensive excavation contractor project, we have the right equipment, training and experience to ensure the groundwork for your construction needs is accurately completed. Contact us at 816-355-0280 to schedule a consultation today.