It’s the ultimate Colorado dream to stake out 40 acres of land, or maybe 0.4 acres in this market, either in the foothills overlooking the city, somewhere further west, or even a ranch in Bennett or Elizabeth. Once you buy that land, it may sit for a while – but eventually, you’ll need to clear out a building spot and right-of-way for a driveway, before building that dream home or ranch. Or there might be some scrub oak to remove.
If you’re a do-it-yourself type of person, you may consider what it would take without hiring a land clearing contractor.
Land Clearing Denver Checklist
Do-it-yourself land clearing is possible, but it’s a lot of work and typically requires access to equipment or heavy machinery. A heavy-duty gas chain saw can cost $275 or more. Renting a backhoe can cost $400 a day so it doesn’t take long to be out of pocket more than if you hired somebody.
However, clearing large trees, bushes, rocks, and even old structures isn’t the top-of-the-list task for a weekend warrior, especially on your own. Even a small residential lot may need heavy equipment such as bulldozers, Bobcats, or vertical grinding machines. Yes, pretty large scale. Throw in a commercial-grade chainsaw or two and the personal protective gear, and all but the hardiest amateur builder is going to need some help.
Besides time and effort, safety is another consideration. Felling trees can carry unexpected danger if not done right. Trees may look solid, but hidden in them are unexpected potential energy – and structural flaws that can be unleashed when you start to piece them out.
You must learn the right angle of a tree to prevent binding, for example. Binding is when the logs are cut, using the chainsaw, in such a way that the saw bar gets pinched by the weight on each side of the bar. The log applies pressure from both sides as the notch cut by the saw deepens and pinches the bar. This can also happen when shearing off a branch that is the main support for the trunk.
Also, there are rules – more and more every year. Land clearing is considered a destructive process, so permits usually need to be pulled and zoning guidelines obeyed. Options for handling the refuse material are limited. No burning of brush, that’s for sure. Noxious and invasive species need to be handled in prescribed ways.
Regulations and recommendations for removing the debris have evolved over the past twenty years, and mulching is now the preferred way to convert debris without the cost of transportation and support. So, you may be required to get a commercial-grade mulcher as well.
There’s guidance for assorted state and city ordinances that will dictate whether the debris can be mulched, how organic material is handled, and even prescribed insurance of one form or another. On the flip side, you may get free land clearing from a timber company that can sell the lumber to local utility and manufacturing companies. It may pay to make a few calls and see if you could sell the larger trees or at least get them removed for free.
How much does it cost to clear land for a house?
Land clearing costs depend on several factors.
- If the land has a flat gradient or is sloped, whether it’s heavily forested or open grassy land, all this will be taken into account in terms of the time and the wear and tear on the equipment.
- Local market rates will vary depending upon the volume of development in your area. In some parts of the country, with housing starts and new builds increasing, rates will be higher – and you may end up on the contractor’s waiting list.
- Accessibility is an important factor that needs to be considered. If it takes an extra day to get the equipment in and out, that’s going to increase the cost over a similar clearing job, with easier land access.
- Clearing flat land with light vegetation and a couple of trees might cost $100-$200 per acre. Sloping land on the other hand figures to add ten, even twenty times the cost because of an increased safety risk, and more energy for crew and machines depending on conditions.
Right-of-way clearance and wildfire mitigation require a tree company with the proper equipment. If you own existing land with acreage, land clearing is smaller scale but is useful for reducing wildfire risk, as well as to clear away brush where coyotes and other critters might dwell, creating safety and liability risks.
If you decide to go in that direction, choosing the right contractor can be a challenge. It’s a cliché for landscaping companies to say that no job is too big. This isn’t necessarily accurate, though; many jobs are too big for small contractors. We know because we’ve been there!