Land Clearing Methods

A skid loader can clear and grade land.
A skid loader can clear and grade land. (Image: loader clearing land - widening driveway image by from <a href=''></a>)

When you're building a house, the land that the house will sit on does not come ready for a construction crew. There is the surveying process to determine where the house goes, then the grading and clearing of the land. Certain land clearing methods are more environmentally friendly than others.

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Clearing Trees

Using a chain saw is a typical way to clear trees from areas where you do not want them. As a general rule, the root system of a tree stretches about as far as its limbs; that will be a factor in construction, especially if your house will have a basement. Try to keep as many trees as possible to serve as a wind block and also to provide some privacy. Mark only the trees you want to cut down, using orange marking paint.

When cutting the trees with the chain saw, make sure that you cut a wedge on the side that you want the tree to fall. The wedge should be about half way through the tree. Then cut from the other side so the saw blade does not get pinched.

Cutting trees with a chain saw lets you be selective about which trees are removed.
Cutting trees with a chain saw lets you be selective about which trees are removed. (Image: tronçonnage image by Nath Photos from <a href=''></a>)

Grading The Earth

A large part of clearing the land for a building site is grading it to get rid of the rocks and low growing plants in the area where the house, lawn, and driveway are going to be. The most important parts for the construction process are the clearing for the driveway and the house foundation. Most of this work can be performed with a large skid loader and a back hoe. The skid steer takes care of the maneuvering around trees and smaller tree stumps, while the back hoe will take out the bigger stumps and rocks and grade the area with its front end bucket. When performing the clearing with these tools, separate the rocks from the rest of the fill as these rocks can be used in the landscaping. The stumps and brush go in another pile, and the dirt goes in the main pile and can be reused later for finish grading once the house is built.

Silt Fence Regulations

When clearing land, it is required that a silt fence be installed along the perimeter of the area you are clearing. Forestry and wildlife laws require this as erosion control and to help keep dirt and construction debris from washing onto the neighbor's yard.

The silt fence comes in woven or unwoven geotextiles to promote drainage through the fence without allowing sediment to be carried past it. This fence only has to remain up until the grass or erosion control plant life has grown. The fence is buried about 6 inches in the soil and is staked every 3 to 6 feet for stability.

Removal of Cut-Down Trees

For removing trees you've cut down, there are really only two options.

First, you can cut the trees into short logs that can be used for fire pits or in a wood-burning fireplace. Stack the wood in a corner of the site so it does not interfere with future grading and building.

Second, you can have a logging company come out and remove the logs. They will be able to load the logs at full size, so it requires no work from you. They may or may not pay you for the logs, since they are technically doing you a favor by removing them. Some companies may even charge you, depending on whether the wood is millable or not.


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