Land clearing is an important phase of land development and construction, and strictly regulated by local building codes. A physically exerting and dangerous task that typically requires the use of heavy-duty equipment and machinery, and as such, it should always be done by properly trained professionals. According to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62 fatal occupational injuries and 3,630 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses were recorded amongst construction equipment operators in 2019 alone.
Hiring a professional land clearing contractor nearby ensures that your land clearing project is done safely in adherence to local building rules, national construction safety standards and regulations, site clearing regulations, and land clearing conservation practice standards. To make sure that the land clearing contractor you intend to hire is the best one near you, you should ask the following questions:
Are You a Licensed Land Clearing Contractor?
Many states require land clearing contractors to obtain government-issued contractor licenses before plying their trade. However, the ways these licenses are issued vary. For example, in some states like Missouri, Illinois, and Maine, contractor licenses are typically issued at the local level by cities, counties, and municipalities. California requires licensing for any project that involves more than $500, while Arizona requires licensing for projects that are worth more than $1,000. In Louisiana, land clearing contractors are required to obtain a license for commercial projects worth more than $50,000 or residential construction projects worth more than $75,000. The State of Oregon requires licensing for any type of paid construction activity, and the State of Washington requires land clearing contractors to register as specialty contractors.
Always make sure that your land clearing contractor is properly licensed per the requirements of your state of residence. You can obtain information on the specifics of these requirements by contacting the local consumer protection office near you. It is also a good idea to verify the validity of any license that your land clearing contractor presents to you. This can be done through the licensing information portal provided and maintained by the National Association of State Contractors Agencies.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Land Clearing Contractor?
Making sure that your land clearing contractor is bonded and insured is very important. Even though your contractor might take every necessary precaution, there is always the possibility of a work-related accident occurring. Land clearing involves the use of heavy equipment and tools, and these increase the chances of on-the-job accidents and injuries.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in 2019, with the construction industry having an incidence rate of 2.8 per 100 workers. During this period, 5,333 fatal occupational injuries were also recorded, and construction and excavation workers accounted for 1,061 of these fatalities. If your land clearing contractor is properly insured, then you are protected from any financial liabilities if any injury or fatality that is directly related to your land clearing project occurs. Likewise, if your land clearing contractor is properly bonded, then you will be duly compensated if the project is not completed per your agreement with the contractor.
Always ask your land clearing contractor to provide you with proof of insurance and bonding in the form of certificates, and make sure that these certificates are valid. You can do this by contacting the organizations that issued them. Land clearing contractors are generally required to have general liability and workers' compensation insurance plans. However, it is advisable to also contact your local consumer protection office to find out whether there are any mandatory contractor insurance and bonding requirements for your locality. If there are, make sure that any land clearing contractor near you being considered meets every single one.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
There are several techniques used for land clearing, and the one used by your land clearing contractor is usually dependent on certain factors. These include the size of your land, its soil composition, the amount of vegetation, rocks, trees, and bushes on the land, and the intended use for the land. Some of the most common techniques used by land clearing contractors are:
- Cut and Grind Technique: this technique is mostly used for land that does not have a lot of trees. The brush and weeds on the land are first removed using tools like a brush mower or a root plow. The trees and tree stumps are then taken down and removed with equipment like bulldozers, trucks, or backhoes. Depending on the intended use for the land, the tree stumps can be mulched and spread to improve the soil. Alternatively, the entire brush, weed, trees, and tree stumps can all be taken down by forestry mowers, mulched, and spread across the land.
- Pushover/Bulldozing Technique: this technique involves pushing over large brush and trees with heavy machinery like bulldozers. However, the pushover/bulldozing technique decreases the value of the wood from your trees and is not recommended if you are working with valuable hardwood. Another disadvantage of this method is that it can destroy your land's topsoil.
- Pulling Technique: as the name implies, this technique involves attaching anchor chains and tractors to the trees and growth that need to be removed and pulling them away.
- Pile and Burn Technique: this method involves clearing out the land with tools and equipment like tractors and skid steers, piling the trees, weed, and brush together, and burning it. However, if a large amount of materials is being burned, the fire can get too big and even out of control. This technique is not ideal for dry, windy climates, and it is also not suitable for land that has a large number of giant tree roots. Another disadvantage of this technique is that burning some plants and trees can be toxic, and inhaling the smoke from these types of weeds and plants can have hazardous health effects.
- Hand Clearing Technique: this technique utilizes handheld tools and is suitable for small areas. Hand clearing is the least invasive land clearing technique, but it is also the most time-consuming.
It is always a good idea to hire a land clearing contractor near you that is qualified to handle and operate any of the tools and equipment required for these land clearing techniques. Although many professional land clearing contractors are experienced enough to perform any of these techniques, you should never make this assumption.
Who Will Do the Work?
Depending on the size of your land, your land clearing project may involve more than one active worker. Always make sure that you find out the exact number of workers that will be required for your project before any work commences and insist on being informed before any additional workers are included. Ensure that all these workers are properly licensed, bonded, and insured per the requirements of your locality. It is also a good idea to find out whether the inclusion of any additional workers would affect the total cost of the project.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
When you pay for a product or service, you are usually offered a warranty that assures you of the quality of that product or service. This warranty can be implied, oral, or written. You should always ask the land clearing contractor that you intend to hire whether you will be offered a warranty after the completion of the job. Professional land clearing contractors near you would be willing to offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. This guarantee is sometimes referred to as a money-back guarantee or a redo warranty. Generally, satisfaction guarantees provide you with the option of requesting your money back if your land clearing contractor performs an unsatisfactory job. However, the specific terms and conditions of these guarantees differ, and so it is advisable to request a written copy from your land clearing contractor.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Whether or not you will need to obtain a permit for a job typically depends on your location. In many cases, a permit is required for projects that will result in a considerable change to the footprint or structure of your property. Even though land clearing generally requires a permit, the procedures for obtaining this permit vary. For example, Bay County, Florida, does not require a permit for certain types of land clearing. These include land clearing that is done to eliminate nuisances and eyesores, land clearing of underbrush with hand tools when there will be no building construction involved, and land clearing that is done strictly for agriculture or timber harvesting operations. The City of Wildwood, Missouri, requires a grading/excavation permit for any excavation, fill, or land disturbance on private property, while in the City of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a land clearing permit is required for any activity that disturbs any land that is more than one acre.
Professional land clearing contractors typically have the advantage of knowing the permit requirements for a locality, and the proper procedure for obtaining these permits. Nevertheless, it is advisable to find out what these requirements are for yourself by contacting the local building department office near you.
Will You Provide References?
Any professional land clearing contractor near you will always be happy to provide you with references to jobs that they have completed. If the land clearing contractor you intend to hire cannot give you the names and contact details of at least three past clients, then you should hire a different one. Also, some third-party websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Review allow you to lookup land clearing contractors and get unfiltered reviews and opinions on them from their past clients.
Do You Have a Business License?
Land clearing contractors that wish to legally conduct business in an area are required to obtain a government-issued business license. It is estimated that there are about 30.7 million registered small businesses in the United States, and these businesses make up 99.9% of all businesses in the country. Land clearing contractors that have a valid business license typically meet all bonding and insurance requirements of the area where they operate, and they tend to be more professional than unlicensed contractors. Always ask for proof of your land clearing contractor's business license and contact the Secretary of State's office in your area of residence to authenticate it.
What Are Common Land Clearing Problems?
Some common land clearing problems are:
- Presence of buried hazardous materials
- Tree obstacles
- Deeply buried roots
- Water issues
- Issues with buried utilities like gas and sewer lines
How Much Does Land Clearing Cost?
The average cost of land clearing in the United States is $1.5 â€“ $2.5 per square foot. Depending on the size of your land and the type of work required, you can end up paying between $500 and $6,000 to clear one acre of land.
Some land clearing cost estimates are:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Land Clearing?
The cost of land clearing is primarily affected by the size and condition of the land. Clearing lightly wooded areas cost less than clearing heavily wooded areas. Similarly, if your land is uneven, it will require grading and leveling, which will invariably increase your bill. Land clearing is usually charged per square footage or acreage, but some contractors may charge by the hour. Land clearing costs per hour generally fall between $100 and $250.
What Qualifications Should a Land Clearing Contractor Have?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 405,750 employed operating engineers and construction equipment operators in the country. These individuals are typically required to have completed high school education. Some land clearing contractors attend vocational schools where they take courses related to automotive mechanics. Land clearing contractors are also generally required to have a commercial driver's license.
Many employers provide training and apprenticeship programs for their employees. These apprenticeships typically last for three to four months. During this time, the land clearing contractor learns how to operate light equipment like trench rollers before moving on to heavier equipment like bulldozers. Finally, some professional land clearing contractors obtain certifications from trade associations and professional organizations like the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Professional Land Clearing Contractor?
Land clearing is a complex and strenuous process, and it is always a good idea to hire a professional near you that has been properly trained to handle these types of jobs. Unlike handymen that typically perform minor repair jobs around a house, professional land clearing contractors have been specifically trained to perform land clearing techniques and handle any equipment and machinery required for the job. Therefore, you should always hire a professional land clearing contractor instead of a handyman. Hiring a professional land clearing also ensures that the job is done by a licensed, bonded, and insured individual. However, you should always verify these before the contractor begins any work.
What Are Common Post Land Clearing Expenses?
In many instances, post land clearing expenses usually involve the cost of carrying out the project for which the land was cleared. This can range from building a patio or a gazebo to installing a driveway or building a house.
Note that although land clearing typically generates a lot of debris, many professional land clearing contractors usually incorporate the cost of removing this debris into their bill. However, it is always a good idea to confirm this with your contractor. Removal of construction-related debris costs an average of $100 - $700 per truckload.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Land Clearing Expenses?
Whether or not a homeowner's insurance policy will cover land clearing expenses depends on several factors. Homeowner's insurance is a type of insurance that protects your home and surrounding property from unexpected or sudden damages or perils. These usually include damages caused by fires, wind, water, and even theft. Therefore, if your reason for clearing your land is because of a peril that your policy covers, then your homeowner's insurance will cover the cost. For example, your homeowner's insurance policy will cover the cost of removing fallen trees from your land if the tree was felled by a wind storm and damages your property. It is estimated that 34.4% of the homeowner's insurance claims made in 2018 were caused by wind and hail damage. However, if the tree falls on your land without damaging your home or any of your property, then it is very likely that your homeowner's insurance will not cover the expenses of removing it. Likewise, if it is determined that the tree fell due to negligence on your part, then your homeowner's insurance will also probably not cover the cost of any tree removal or home repair expenses.
You should always have a proper understanding of a homeowner's insurance policy's terms and conditions before you pay for one. This way, you have a clear idea of the types of damages or perils it covers, as well as the circumstances under which it would pay for any expenses.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Land Clearing Contractor?
Many land clearing contractors near you would accept digital payments because of their relative speed, ease of use, and security when compared with other forms of payment. Also, digital payments provide instantaneous receipts, which make them better for record-keeping purposes. Note that if digital payments are your preferred payment method, then you should inform your land clearing contractor at the beginning of the project before any work is done. Also, insist on collecting a receipt if you have to perform any cash transactions.