Excavation Methods

Excavation is among the most basic and important construction techniques. Mainly used where new construction is present, it can also be employed in the removal of polluted soil. Excavation has four principal methods, though there are many more "offshoots" not listed here. The four principal excavation methods are these:

Vertical excavation

Vertical excavation is the go-to choice for excavation projects which take place in large urban areas where there is a high level of residential and / or commercial occupancy. In using vertical excavation, each individual layer of the excavation site is exposed in turn. This ends up forming a sort of vertical shaft, with each soil and / or rock layer clearly delineated. This is perhaps one of, if not THE oldest excavation methods in existence.

Horizontal excavation

This is the principal excavation method used when dealing in and with projects involving shallow sites with light or no residential or commercial occupancy. There are some cases wherein both horizontal and vertical excavation are used, however, such hybrid excavation techniques are rarely employed without great need, as the more excavation occurs, the less structural integrity is maintained throughout the excavation site.

Step Trenching

The step trenching technique is another example of the various excavation methods commonly in use. It is employed when deep digging is required. It gets its name from the "steps" formed by the digging process. As the excavation site goes deeper and deeper into the earth, these steps get more narrow, eventually meeting in a V-like point at the base of the excavation site.


The final technique in the 4 principal excavation methods discussed here is known as the cofferdam method. It, as you may have guessed from the name, is primarily used when there is a higher than normal danger that the sides or walls of an excavation site might collapse as a result of deep excavation. It is also commonly used in waterlogged sites, where it again helps to provide structural strength.

While all of these methods have their place, there are, as previously stated, many "offshoots" to be considered, like vacuum excavation. One should always do their own independent research before beginning any excavation project, no matter the excavation methods they intend to use. As is the case with many things, Google is a friend to the excavation researcher - use it! Many companies can be hired to help you with any questions or projects you may be considering. Happy hunting!

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