How to Dig Out a Driveway

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Excavating and installing a driveway is a major job, but one that can vastly upgrade your property and even add to its value. The first step involved in laying down a driveway is digging it out. It’s important to do it properly; otherwise, the entire project will be flawed from the outset. The asphalt surface may not sit evenly, may be too shallow or lack proper drainage. While most people opt to hire a contractor, you can do the job yourself, saving money and developing a useful home improvement skill.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Excavator
  • Stakes

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Clear the site of vegetation, shrubs, bushes and debris.

Place vertical markers at the four corners of your planned digging site.

Check with your local utility companies to verify that your excavation won’t interfere with any gas, sewer, water or electrical lines. Digging out a driveway does not involve a very deep excavation, so this probably won’t be an issue, but you should still check. Moreover, in many states, it’s required by law.

Choose the tools you’ll use for digging. If it’s a small driveway and if the soil is soft and loamy, you can do the job manually, using just a shovel, but in most cases, you’ll want to use a diesel-powered excavator.

Push down the drive lever lightly. In most machines this lever is at your feet when sitting in the excavator. Move the machine to the edge of the digging site. Use the reverse lever, adjacent to the drive lever, to back up if necessary.

Push the joystick forward to lower the digging boom. Different excavators have different controls, but typically you move the joystick to the left to scoop the bucket into the dirt. Manipulate the controls in this fashion to dig out the driveway to a depth of about 12 inches. The depth depends on the soil condition of your property and on the materials you’re using for the driveway itself, but 12 inches can serve as a benchmark to ensure proper depth and drainage.

References

  • Driveways, Paths and Patios: A Complete Guide to Design, Management and Construction; Tony McCormack; 2006; pp. 56-69
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