Pricing Guide: How Much Does It Cost to Clear Land?

Most homeowners will pay between $1,266 and $3,900 for land clearing, for an average cost of $2,581. 

The average cost to clear land and prepare land for a construction site is $2,581. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $1,266 and $3,900 or between $1.18 to $2 per square foot to clear and prep their lot for construction. 

The cost for small-scale projects that don’t require much land clearing or grading averages around $563, while homeowners with extensive lot clearing projects pay an average of $8,313

Before a professional can level or grade your land, he or she must clear out trees, underbrush, rocks, and other debris from the landscape. The average cost to clear a lightly forested area — without any land grading or leveling — costs $733 to $2,333 per acre.

The average price to clear a heavily forested area costs $3,395 to $6,155 per acre

Clearing land is a complicated project, but our cost guide will help walk you through it. Once your lot is prepared for building a new home, you might even want to invest in a landscape design or in-ground pool. Our guide includes those prices, too. 

How Much Does It Cost to Clear Land?

  • Average Cost to Clear and Prepare Land for Construction: $2,581
  • Typical Range to Clear and Prepare Land for Construction: $1,266 to $3,900 or $1.18 to $2.00 per square foot
  • Low-End: $563
  • High-End: $8,313

The average landowner can expect to pay $2,581 or between $1,266 and $3,900 for clearing and preparing their land to build a house. Total spending will vary depending on the lot’s size, what needs clearing, and whether the land needs grading.

  • Average Cost to Clear Lightly Forested Land: $733 to $2,333 per acre
  • Average Cost to Clear Heavily Forested Land: $3,395 to $6,155 per acre

The average cost to clear a lightly forested area ranges from $733 to $2,333 per acre. A highly forested area densely packed with trees will cost between $3,395 and $6,155 per acre to clear. 

Cost Estimator by Lot Size

The more land you need to clear, the more you can expect to pay. Most land clearing professionals will charge by the acre or square foot rather than by the hour. Keep in mind that prices by the acre will vary depending on:

  • What debris is cleared
  • How that debris is cleared
  • How much of that debris is cleared

Forested Land

trees cut down in a forested areas
Photo Credit: Daniel Beilinson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Is your lot full of trees? Expect to pay between $733 to $2,333 per acre to clear a lightly forested area. Clearing a heavily forested area ranges from $3,395 to $6,155 per acre.  These land clearing prices do not include the cost to grade or level the land. 

The more forested land you need to clear, the higher your bill will be. Depending on the wooded area’s density, clearing an eighth of an acre of trees (5,445 square feet) will cost most landowners between $92 and $769. Landowners who need to clear 2 acres of forested land will need a budget that ranges between $1,466 and $12,310

Size of lotSquare footageCost to clear lightly forested landCost to clear heavily forested land
⅛ acre5,445 sq ft$92 to $292$424 to $769
⅕ acre8,712 sq ft$147 to $467 $679 to $1,231 
¼ acre10,890 sq ft$183 to $583$849 to $1,539 
½ acre21,780 sq ft$367 to $1,167$1,698 to $3,078
¾ acre32,670 sq ft$550 to $1,750$2,546 to $4,616 
1 acre43,560 sq ft$733 to $2,333 $3,395 to $6,155
2 acres87,120 sq ft$1,466 to $4,666$6,790 to $12,310

Forestry Mulching

Mulch scattered in a large area
Photo Credit: davenjah / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Forestry mulching involves turning trees and brush into mulch as the land gets cleared. This method leaves an organic mulch layer over your land that nourishes the soil. Another advantage of forestry mulching is that you don’t need to worry about debris removal costs. 

Forestry mulching is optimal for landowners who don’t plan to grade or excavate the land right away. The mulch can remain on the ground in the meantime. Expect to pay between $150 and $250 per hour or $400 per acre on average. 

Size of lotSquare footageCost of forestry mulching
* by the acre
⅛ acre5,445 sq ft$50
⅕ acre8,712 sq ft$80
¼ acre10,890 sq ft$100
½ acre21,780 sq ft$200
¾ acre32,670 sq ft$300 
1 acre43,560 sq ft$400
2 acres87,120 sq ft$800

Brush Removal

Brush removal isn’t all that expensive compared to removing or mulching trees. Most landowners pay between $20 and $200 per acre for brush removal. 

Other Factors That Affect Cost

The size of the land to be cleared has a significant impact on your overall costs, but it’s not the only factor. Land clearing has eight other factors that will affect the cost of your land clearing project: 

  • Site Preparation: Once you’ve cleared the land, what’s next on the list? If the ground needs leveling or grading, you’ll need to factor those services into the bill. 
  • Land Condition: You may get a higher bill if the pros need to maneuver their equipment over hills and uneven terrain. A flat surface is much easier to clear than a bumpy one. 
  • Permits: Before clearing the land, you’ll need to acquire a permit. 
  • Land Survey: A land survey ensures you know where your property lines are. 
  • Erosion: If erosion is a problem on your lot, you may need to pay for additional services to resolve this issue. 
  • Existing Structure: Need to tear down an old building? It won’t demolish itself for free. 
  • Tree Removal: Sometimes, all you need is to clear out a tree or two. 
  • Stump Removal: Is your lot full of old tree stumps? We will show you how to estimate your bill. 

Site Preparation

Skid steer clearing brush
Photo Credit: Arvell Dorsey Jr. / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The average cost to prepare a lot for building a house costs $1.18 to $2 per square foot. This cost includes clearing and leveling the land to make it a suitable surface for a foundation. 

Here’s how pros do this: First, pros remove the trees, rocks, overgrowth, and debris from the landscape. Then, they move soil from high elevations to lower elevations to reslope the landscape and make it level. 

Why site preparation rapidly increases your costs: If all you need is to remove debris from your property, that’s going to cost you much less than preparing the lot for construction. Talk to your contractor about the specific services you’re expecting from the land clearing job. 

For example, clearing a half-acre of forested land will cost most landowners between $367 and $3,078.  But preparing half an acre of land to build a home is much more expensive, with site preparation costs ranging between $25,700 and $43,560

Size of land
* in square feet
Cost to clear the land and prepare the land to build a house
1,000 sq ft$1,180 to $2,000
2,000 sq ft$2,360 to $4,000
5,000 sq ft$5,900 to $10,000
10,000 sq ft$11,800 to $20,000 
21,780 sq ft (½ acre)$25,700 to $43,560 
43,560 sq ft (1 acre)$51,401 to $87,120

Land Condition

Land being cleared by burning the brush
Photo Credit: marneejill / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The more level your lot is, the less you’ll need to pay for clearing or grading. If your land is relatively flat and you want to build a home on it, you might have to pay only for land clearing. You’ll have a larger bill to pay if your land is exceptionally hilly.

Permit

Before clearing your property of trees and debris, you’ll likely need to apply for a permit. Permit requirements vary from county to county, so check your local ordinances before tearing down any trees. On average, a land clearing permit costs $200

Land Survey

Worker conducting a land survey in a forested area
Photo Credit: Hugo Chisholm / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s smart to hire a land surveyor before inviting backhoes and dump trucks to your property. A land surveyor will identify your property’s precise boundaries so you can avoid any legal discrepancies down the road. 

A land survey helps ensure you don’t accidentally clear out parts of the neighbors’ land –– or if a neighbor clears out yours by mistake, you’ll have legal documents that certify where your lot begins and ends. A land survey costs most landowners $500

Erosion

Footpath erosion in an open clearing
Photo Credit: Jim McDougall / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If your land has significant erosion problems, your pro will likely suggest adding erosion control solutions to your budget. A home won’t be safely supported if it is standing on eroding earth. 

One popular option for erosion control on large properties is hydroseeding. Hydroseeding involves spraying a slurry mixture of water, fertilizer, grass seed, and mulch over the land.

Hydroseeding is an effective and affordable way to grow grass while targeting erosion. On average, hydroseeding costs between $0.08 and $0.20 per square foot. 

Demolish an Existing Structure

Abandoned house in the middle of a large field
Photo Credit: Nicolas Lannuzel / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Is a building standing in the way of your new construction project? Clearing land also includes demolishing any existing structures, but it’s going to cost you extra. Expect to pay between $4.33 to $11.67 per square foot to demolish a house. 

But not so fast: Before knocking down an old building, you’ll need to pay for an asbestos test. On average, an asbestos test costs $496, typically ranging between $242 and $784. 

What is asbestos? Asbestos is a group of natural mineral fibers existing in rocks and soil. The fibers are flexible and resistant to chemicals, heat, and electricity. In the past, it was common for  manufacturers to use these fibers to make construction materials, such as:

  • Vinyl tiles
  • Siding 
  • Insulation
  • Shingles 

When items containing asbestos are destroyed, the fibers break apart and are released into the air. Breathing in these fibers can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. 

Before tearing a house down, ensure no traces of asbestos exist in the construction materials. Otherwise, the asbestos fibers will get released into the air and create a toxic environment. 

Tree Removal

Tree cut in half and fallen to the ground beside the stump
Photo Credit: Martin Pettitt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A small-scale land clearing project might involve removing just a single tree. If that’s the case, expect to pay an average of $630 per tree for tree removal.

Your total cost will vary depending on how large the tree is — the taller the tree, the riskier the job. 

Take a look at the cost estimates below to see how much removing a tree can cost.

Keep in mind that not every arborist will categorize your tree’s size the same way. Some pros might categorize a small tree as under 30 feet tall, while others might classify it as under 25 feet tall. 

Tree sizeTree heightCost range
Small TreeUp to 30 feet tall$150 to $385
Medium Tree30 feet to 60 feet tall$350 to $800
Large Tree60 feet to 80 feet tall$750 to $1300
Extreme TreeOver 80 feet tall$1,050 to $1900

Stump Removal

Tree roots lifted out of the ground with a backhoe in the background
Photo Credit: Neil Ennis / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The average cost to remove a stump is $326 plus $40 to $83 per additional stump removed after the first.

If you have several stumps that need removing — such as an entire acre of stumps — your stump removal pro might charge by the hour. Pros typically set their hourly rates between $94 to $163 an hour. 

Removing a stump also involves removing its root system. When preparing for a construction site, it’s best to have the whole stump and its root system removed to avoid any roots getting in the way of new construction. Stump grinding is another clearing option, but it leaves the roots intact. 

Extra Services

Once your land is clear and flat, you are ready to plant or put something — maybe a new house — on your property. Here are the added costs for some common home and property improvements for which you need the land cleared first: 

  • Conduct a soil test
  • Excavate a basement
  • Pour concrete 
  • Landscape your yard
  • Install an in-ground pool 

Soil Test

picture of a soil test
Photo Credit: Ryo Chijiiwa / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Testing soil costs most homeowners $1,268, with prices typically ranging from $801 to $1,755. If you’re looking to save some cash, consider buying a $10 to $20 DIY soil test kit at your local home improvement store. 

But why pay all that money for a soil test? Here are some benefits of soil tests to consider: 

  • A soil test identifies any nutrient deficiencies, pH imbalances, or abnormal salt levels in the soil. 
  • Understanding your soil’s health allows you to optimize plant growth in your lawn, garden, and flower beds. 
  • A soil test helps you to determine the best fertilizer and fertilizing frequency for your yard. Applying only the amount your lawn needs prevents excess fertilizer from polluting waterways. 

Basement

Backhoe in the center of a large hole, digging into it
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Interested in building a basement for your new home? That’s going to require moving more earth and hiring excavation pros. On average, building a basement costs between $10 and $20 per square foot

Concrete Slab

Concrete slab for a foundation of a house
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Concrete should be poured over a flat surface. Now that your lot has been cleared and graded, it’s the optimal space for a new concrete slab. 

Pour your new concrete driveway, garage floor, shed foundation, or patio for an average price of $6.60 per square foot for materials and labor. Prices will vary depending on your concrete slab’s strength, design, and finish. 

Landscaping Improvements

Now that you’ve cleared out the old landscape, it’s time for a fresh start. There are no limits to your dream landscape design (except your budget). 

Homeowners typically spend between $4,000 and $20,317 to landscape around their home, but total spending will vary depending on the landscaping project. 

Landscaping projectAverage cost
Sod Installation$0.87 to $1.76 per square foot
Pathway Installation$8 to $22 per square foot
Tree and Bush Planting$25 to $3,000
Flower Bed Planting $650 to $3,000
Pergola Installation$2,216 to $8,959
Retaining Wall Installation$4,025 to $8,711
Gazebo Installation$5,364 to $9,027
Outdoor Kitchen Installation$5,057 to $17,276

In-Ground Pool

Backyard, in-ground pool with a patio set in the foreground
Photo Credit: Paul Sableman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

How long has an in-ground pool been part of your dream home? With the land cleared, the ground is ready for installing the perfect in-ground pool. 

The average cost to install an in-ground pool is $45,583, but prices will vary depending on the pool type. The three most common pool types include vinyl liner, concrete, and fiberglass. 

Vinyl liner pools are the most affordable, with concrete pools costing the most. Fiberglass pools are more expensive than vinyl liner pools, but they’re popular among homeowners for their cost-effectiveness. 

In-ground pool typeAverage cost
Vinyl Liner$24,000 to $44,000
Fiberglass$24,333 to $70,000
Concrete $31,000 to $71,666

Cost of Land Clearing Across the U.S. 

Person standing in the distance, in the middle of a cleared out area of land
Photo Credit: WisDom-UK / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The prices listed in this land clearing cost guide are all national averages. On a local scale, prices will likely vary depending on where you live. Land clearing professionals will set their rates according to the region’s market and demand for land clearing. 

The average prices listed in this guide should help you estimate your total spending, but it’s normal to find your total bill falling below or above the national range. 

Cost of DIY Land Clearing

Land clearing isn’t always an ideal DIY project. It’s a time-consuming endeavor, and you need to know how to operate heavy machinery safely. 

When clearing or preparing your land, expect to pay an expensive fee for renting equipment.

Your total DIY bill will vary depending on the project’s scope, which machines you need, and how powerful the machines are. The bigger and more powerful the equipment, the more you can expect to pay in rental fees.  

Machine rentalDaily cost rangeWeekly cost rangeMonthly cost range
Dump Truck$200 to $2,000$750 to $4,200 $2,000 to $12,000
Excavator$200 to $3,500 $1,250 to $5,000$3,000 to $15,000
Bulldozer$200 to $800$1,000 to $1,600$3,000 to $5,000
Stump Grinder$190 to $380 $420 to $900$1,070 to $2,240

FAQ About Land Clearing

1. How long does it take to clear an acre of land?

The time it takes to clear a 1-acre lot will depend on the pro you hire and the equipment he or she uses. On average, it takes about two to four hours to clear land. 

2. How many acres of land can professionals clear in one day?

How many acres a team of pros can clear in one day depends on the land clearing company you hire and the equipment they own. Generally, pros can clear 2 to 4 acres a day, and sometimes more.

3. Can you keep specific trees intact when clearing land?

Yes, pros can work around specific trees as long as you let them know which trees you intend to keep.  

4. How much does it cost to check for underground utilities?

Before disrupting the earth, check for underground utilities. Call 811 and request a utility company to come to your lot and identify the utility locations. Most utility companies will perform this service for free. 

Conclusion

Clearing land is a mighty project, so be sure to have your checkbook or credit card ready. Total spending will vary depending on how much land you need cleared, the type of debris removed, debris removal, and the method of clearing.

If you’re preparing the lot for construction, you’re looking at a bill that’s thousands of dollars. 

Once your land is cleared and level, it’s time to transform your dream landscape into a reality. Call a local landscaping professional near you who can pour a concrete patio, plant flower beds, install a water garden, erect a fence around your property, or handle any other myriad landscaping improvements. 

The average cost of clearing and preparing the land to build a house is $2,581, with most landowners paying between $1,266 and $3,900 or between $1.18 to $2 per square foot. 

Small land clearing projects that don’t require much labor average around $563, while extensive projects have an average cost of $8,313. Anything you want to put on your cleared land — or a pool you might want to put in the ground now — will cost extra.

Main Photo Credit: Terry Kearney / Flickr / Public Domain

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.