13 Common Types of Excavation

13 Common Types of Excavation


In engineering and construction, excavation consists of using tools, equipment, or explosives for the purposes of moving soil, rocks, or other materials. Excavation is undertaken for a number of purposes, and different types of excavation are classified either by their specific purpose or the type of material being excavated. Below are thirteen common types of excavation, by both type and material.

1) Bridge

This type of excavation is related to the construction of bridges and centers on removing any materials that might impede the construction of the foundations, substructures, and so on required to support the bridge.

2) Borrow

In many types of excavation, materials are removed to make way for construction. Borrow excavation does just the opposite. In this type of excavation, materials like soil or gravel are taken from a “borrow” pit (sometimes called a sandbox) to be used in another location. These materials may be used for grading, fill, or mixing with other construction materials like concrete, just for example.

3) Channel

Channel excavation consists of removing materials from channels, drainage ditches, and so on for one of several purposes, but often to change the flow of water or increase capacity. This could help to alleviate flooding or alternately, stagnation and sediment buildup.

4) Drainage/Structure

Drainage is related to carrying water away from areas and could include ditches, trenches, storm drains, agricultural drainage, drainage for runoff, and so on, as well as any structures related to such drainage. These ditches must be excavated to funnel water away from habitation, infrastructure, agriculture, and other areas that could be harmed.

5) Earth

This is a type of excavation classification that centers on the material being excavated, rather than the purpose for excavation. As you can probably guess, it pertains to the removal of soil (located beneath topsoil) and it could apply to earth removal for the purposes of laying a structure foundation, digging a drainage ditch, or any number of other construction or engineering projects

6) Footing

Footings are foundations structures used to support buildings, bridges, and other structures by spreading the load so that the heavy structure above doesn’t sink or collapse. Footing excavation occurs after a building site has been properly graded, at which point excavation can begin. This type of excavation may be somewhat more precise than other types as the concrete for footings will likely be poured and left to set.

7) Muck

Like earth excavation, this is a type of excavation based on material, in this case muck, or a combination of water and soil. Specifically, muck includes water and/or soil that is somehow undesirable, perhaps due to contamination of some sort, or maybe just because of the water content, which makes an area impassable. Excavation can be used to remove muck to another area, or to spread it out so that soil can dry.

8) Roadway

Excavation related to roadways can have a couple of different purposes. For example, excavated materials may be removed to another location to make way for road construction. However, excavated materials may also be used in the building of the roadway, such as to build embankments. In some cases, unsuitable slope materials will be excavated and removed, and other excavated materials will be brought in to replace them.


Rock excavation is based on the removal of materials, generally due to rocky surfaces that impede construction or engineering projects. This type of excavation is often considered more challenging than other types and may require specialized equipment to break up and/or remove rocks before a project can proceed.

10) Stripping

Stripping is a type of excavation that revolves more around clearing a large area rather than digging a pit or a trench, for example. Before construction or engineering projects can begin, an area may need to be cleared of topsoil, gravel, sand, rocks, and so on and grading might need to be done. In such cases, excavation will consist of clearing away wide, shallow swaths of material.

11) Topsoil

This is often confused with stripping because stripping is the method of excavation used to remove topsoil. However, this type of excavation is specific to the material, topsoil, consisting of vegetation and the uppermost level of soil.

12) Underground

Excavations of this type occur underground, rather than above ground, meaning that different tools, equipment, and techniques may be required to remove materials safely and effectively. In many cases, vertical or diagonal shafts and/or horizontal tunnels are excavated for the purposes of building roadways, subways, canals, sewage, or other underground passages, as well as for other purposes


Deep excavation for different soils

Over-site excavation

Cut and fill

Trench excavation

Pier hole

Factors for temporary support of excavation

Timbering support

Timbering support at an angle

Sheet pillings


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