What Are Earthworks?

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Perhaps you’ve heard the term “earthworks” before and had no idea what it means. You’re not alone! Many people misunderstand or misuse this word.

Keep reading to discover the true meaning of “earthworks.”

Earthworks definition

Generally speaking, earthworks refer to all operations that prepare a plot of land for a construction or landscaping project.

Earthworks involve reshaping a site’s terrain by digging deep and moving large quantities of earth or rock. The purpose is to create an ideal base for various types of construction, including: houses, decks, pools, driveways; and large-scale projects like roads, highways, dams and buildings.

When carried out by a skilled excavation contractor, earthworks prevent the risk of soil compaction and landslides.

Meaning of “earthworks” in Quebec

In Quebec when we talk about earthworks, we are often referring to preparing the soil for different landscaping projects. These projects include:

  • Installing pavers
  • Constructing retaining walls
  • Planting
  • Building water gardens
  • Seeding or sodding a lawn

Earthworks examples

The term “earthworks” encompasses different projects. These include:

Land grading

Land grading generally aims to level ground for installing various materials or prepare the land for new construction. For example, the ground must be levelled before installing paving stones.

However, levelling can also be used to correct negative grading which prevents water from draining properly.


Excavation includes work related to digging pits, holes, gutters, ditches or trenches. Excavation is therefore essential when installing an in-ground pool or building a house with a basement.

Residential and commercial excavation projects must be carried out with the utmost care. You don’t want to damage buried infrastructure, like sewer or water pipes, gas lines or telecommunication cables.

You should also take into account the quality of the soil, especially when choosing the right excavation equipment.

Land clearing

Land clearing involves removing a surface layer of natural soil. During this phase, tree debris (such as roots, branches and leaves) and topsoil are completely removed.

This alters and readies the natural terrain for the construction.


Backfilling is the process of filling in holes or portions of the land with insufficient elevation. Backfilling materials include soil, crushed stone, sand, etc.

In some projects, backfill also involves compacting this material to ensure that the soil has the proper mechanical properties.

Soil removal and disposal

Soil removal is also part of earthworks. This is necessary when large quantities of soil have been excavated and must be removed from the site.

Earthworks equipment

Depending on the nature and scope of the project, earthworks can require a variety of different equipment.

Heavy machinery such as loaders, backhoes and graders are very useful for completing major earthworks quickly and easily. That said, mini-excavators and traction loaders are very agile and can speed up residential or space-constrained jobs.

Don’t forget the measuring instruments that ensure that the earthworks are precise. These include laser levels and topometers.

Contact Excavation Chanthier for your earthworks needs

Now that you know what earthworks are, you may realize that they’re necessary for one of your construction projects.

If so, you can count on our team. We have all the necessary equipment and our workers are trained and certified by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec.

Contact us today!

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