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There are many reasons why homeowners need a professional to excavate their yard, concrete or around their foundation. In this guide to hiring an excavator, we'll dig into what situations require someone to do excavation work, what to look for when hiring an excavator, what you should do before you dig, alternatives to excavation, costs to excavate on your property and scams to avoid.

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Short answer - yes it is possible. However, generally you are looking at major $, and a lot of workers tracking dirt up and down the basement stairs unless you have (or can easily add) an outside basement door.

You would need a General Contractor as well as a foundation specialist if you use a General, who will handle permits, minor electrical, plumbing, and drywall repair issues even though most of the heavy work may be done by the foundation specialist subcontractor. If you go the lift beam method, then it might be a house mover doing the lifting, then the General and normal trades handling the rest.

When a house is built with a part basement and part crawl space, the footer (the concrete strip support pad the foundation wall is bonded to with rebar and sits on) typically sits a foot or two below the basement slab. Then, to save money, they "step-up" the footer to a shallower depth for the crawl space. This means that to deepen the crawl space to full depth, you also have to deepen the foundation. It is very rare to put in full depth foundation all around, then backfill part of it to crawlspace depth - if you have gone to the trouble of full depth foundation all around, why not pour a slab and sell the additional basement footage too ? See if you can come up with the builder's plans p they will show you what the footer does.

Deepening the crawl space to full depth is commonly done in one of two ways for residential jobs (there are several more sophisticated methods such as pin piles used on large or very tricky commercial jobs, or on historic buildings with weak foundations and walls) -

1) by carefully excavating the crawl space to the new footer depth (say about 5-8 feet below ground level, depending on whether you have a daylight or full basement) bit by bit along the foundation (3-5 feet at a time, typically), usually tearing out the existing foundation for that section while temporarily support the existing wall and joists, then pouring a new concrete footer and foundation wall up to the bottom of the house beams. Occasionally, they will be able to leave the existing wall and pour the new foundation up to and connect to the bottom of it. Then you move on and do another section the same way, so you are incrementally removing dirt, building a new wall section, then moving on. This is quite expensive because of the limited work space and difficulty of getting materials in and waste dirt and old foundation materials out, and the slow progress due to having to wait for concrete to set before you can buid the wall on the footer, and before you can move on to the next section.

2) by cutting slots in the existing crawl space walls and sliding heavy steel beams through  crossways under the floor joists and picking up the weight of the section of the house over the crawl space on jacks, elevating it about 1/2 inch above the existing foundation, all at one time. Then they can remove the existing crawl space foundation and all the dirt all at once, and pour a new footer and pour or lay a new foundation up to the bottom of the walls, then lower the house back onto it and pull out the support beams.

Either way, because of the restricted work space and waitingon concrete setting, the excavation and new foundation will cost about 2-4 times as much as one done outdoors. Therefore, while this type of job is done on occasion, a contractor's or architect's estimate usually shows that you can build a totally new one story extension or Florida room for not an exorbitant amount more, and that new space is worth a lot more to most homeowners, and certainly to a new buyer, than basement space.

As one example, we had two neighbors years ago who had the numbers run by an architect, and for one the estimate was only 30% more to build a large Florida room than to reclaim a crawl space about 1/3 smaller in floor area. For the other they could get the foundation and rough framing (without siding, roof, or interior) for a basement-less new addition the same size for the same price as digging out the crawl space. For this reason, when crawl space expansion is done on a residence, it is usually a do-it-yourself job (and you have to be pretty experienced to do it right).

One other factor of significance if you dig out the crawl space is all the utilities (wiring, pipes, ducts, etc) have to be checked to see that there is freedom of movement at the interface between the area over the crawl space and the rest of the house, as there is bound to be a little bit of movement between them. It is also almost inevitable that there will be minor non-structural cracking and slight separation of plaster or drywall walls and ceilings at the junction area over the first couple of years afer construction. Nailed-down hardwood flooring and vinyl near the interface can also buckle, though "floating" laminate floors are usually OK. Of course, if the contractor is incompetent or inexperienced, serious damage to the house can result, particularly if the foundation collapses while he is digging.

Therefore, I would not recommend this route except for a very expensive house (as in building a wine cellar or safe room), a historic house where additions are prohibited, or one the owners just love and intend to live in for many more decades but do not have land space for an addition. I would put the money into an addition if you need the additional space and have the land.

Well the fact is he is going to have to pull permits which means it has to be inspected before he is done, you also have to consider the equiptment that he has to bring out to the jobsite to do the job and the man power plus materials, it's costly, but I am not from your area so if you are unsure call another company out and see what they say.
Don't tell them what the other company said as far as price.

It is almost certain that you will have to modify the foundation to make it deeper too - and that is MAJOR structural work.


You need a civil/geotechnical engineering firm with experience in foundation rehab and putting in basements under existing homes to design the process and prepare and seal the plans and specifications, which you will need before you can get a building permit for this. They will also be able to help you select either a foundation excavation or a house moving and jacking company to do the actual work for you.


The engineer can also help you with a cost estimate - because I think you will be surprised how much this is going to cost. I have designed or managed quite a few such jobs, from highrise buildings to homes, and even the smallest houses of about 600SF footprint ran at least $15,000, and generally house basement excavations run more like $25-40,000 unless the foundation was originally designed for it but for some reason the basement was never put in, which is VERY rare except in very deep frost areas were footings are occasionally deep enough to allow a basement to be dug without deepening them. I worked on a couple back east that ran about $100,000 each because they were old 2-story brick buildings, which are very sensitive to differential movements - probably like yours.


A couple of other factors to consider is that in doing this you are likely to get at least some minor drywall cracking and door and window jamming, and be sure the contractor is insured and bonded to the hilt and for the potential rebuild value of the house, not just the job cost, because a major mistake can turn your house into a teardown. Not common, but the less experienced the contractor the more likely he is to do something dramatically wrong, and at the same time the smaller and less experienced contractors generally have lower coverages so your risks is compounded in two ways. With a row home you have the added risk of damaging adjacent units.


One thing to consider cost wise before you go ahead - I have worked a couple of jobs where it turned out cheaper and far safer to scrap the digging in a basement idea and put in an addition with same footprint instead. However, looking back I see you are in a row home, so that is likely not going to work. However, being in a row home, especially if on the Potomac flats south or east of the capital area, the soil conditions are generally the pits once you get off the Georgetown heights, so putting a basement under a rowhome without disturbing the other ones is VERY difficult and pricey - I would be surprised if you could do it for less than $100,000.

One other factor is utilities - one of the first things to do is check depth to any utilities like sewer lines, the Metro, etc - if you are over one of those that could well put your project totally out of the frame of reality.


You asked for a recommendation - one who specializes in this type of work that I would recommend, though your job might well be too small size for them - but they might be able to give you an engineer and contractor recommendation if so. Company name is Schnabel Foundation Company in Sterling Va and Bethesda, MD in your area - website www.schnabel.com. They could handle both the engineering and construction.

If the windows are being put in by a general contractor, he can easily handle the window wells too. If you were looking for a window installer to do the windows, they might or might not do the window wells as well - some do, some do not. A small one-man excavation company can do this excavation, as can a handyman as it just takes about 1/2-1 hour shovel work per window in normal soil conditions, because the soil around the foundation is already pretty loose from foundation constructiuon (as a rule). Just be sure they pour concrete in the bottom to keep water from coming under the well, and that it is firmly fastened to the foundation and liberally asphalt sealed at the interface with the concrete - not just caulked at the edge, but mastic-coated on cleaned concrete BEFORE the window well in installed and concrete poured in the bottom. (Note - the concrete depends on soil conditions and water level - if your soil is pretty free draining and groundwater level never comes up to bottom of window well, then a gravel bed in the bottom is best so it stays dry - but if groundwater rises that high or you are in real impermeable soil like clay, then concrete works best. If concrete bottom is used, you probably want to have the clear acrylic window well cover put on too to keep water and frogs and such out. Of course, if this is an emergency egress window, you cannot put the plastic covers over it legally.

Wow - from way general to totally specific - nice job, you have your scope of work almost ready to contact potential bidders about giving a bid - just need to double check each item hads quantities attached to it, plus a plan with depths (or specify tie-in elevations to existing pipe and required drain/pipe slopes - say 1% or more). Search the List (in green banner bar) for Earthwork and Excavation contractors in your area with good reviews and ratings.

here is a very rough idea of costs - obviously you need bids to tie it down, this should just give you a ballpark to compare to - assuming all this work is done at the same time.

1) & 2) - Tree and rock maybe $100 - more like $200 if you want the stump totally rooted out rather than just the stump and root crown taken out.

3) Walk removal and disposal probably about $100-200 - maybe half if these are 3-4 inch individual concrete squares or rectangles that can be skidded to the side, the excavation and ground sloping done, then slid back into place with a backhoe or bobcat or by wood skids and prybar, eliminating the hauling and disposal cost.

4) Excavation and disposal of soil probably about $20-30/CY, because you are talking a small quantity. Cheaper if you have an on-site area it can be spread out onsite for disposal, or stockpiled in yard as a future project dirt pile, if that is suitable.

5) You don't say what the existing drain is - underground drain for downspouts maybe ? For shallow burial, probably about $5/LF or so. Why square - round is cheaper and far stronger for given material thickness.

6) Fence R&R probably about $150-200, depending on depth of posts and whether concreted in or not.

7) vegetation removal - not knowing how much, $100-200

8) Garden wall around $10-12/SF assuming excavated material from yard is suitable for the general backfill - remember should go 4-12 inches below grade for stability (4" for this wall, more like 6-12 for higher front wall)

Front/side yard:

1) Move large boulder - $50-100

2) vegetation removal and relocate 3 shrubs - $150-300 (not knowing how much vegetation orhow big shrubs are)

3) excavation at $20-30/CY again as above

4) sprinkler system relocate/repair - $75-150

5) garden wall around $12-15/SF as above including concrete footer needed for this height wall

6) area drain laterals about $5-10/LF, assuming not over 3 feet deep

7) slab drainage - I don't know where the quick lime idea came from, but this is a no-go - it will remove a small amount of water (maybe 5-20 gallons) from the soil one-time - it has no long term function as it will quickly become saturated. You are actually likely to have 5 wet circles in your concrete slab from this forever, as the lime will act as a soggy sponge, retaining water that would otherwise wick away. If you have or expect a basement slab moisture problem, then you need a sump pump with sump installed, and possibly (depending on how free-draining the base material under your slab is to carry waer to the sump pump) lateral drains cut in below the perimeter of the slab. Can run from $800-1500 range for a pump and pit depending on capacity and wiring situation, plus $500-1000 for an emergency battery-powered backup if desired. $1000-2500 range typically if lateral drains around the perimeter of the slab are necessary. Cheaper but sloppier and moisture-causing solution is small trenches or above-slab channels to carry the water to sump pump. These laterals are commonly held off on till you see if the sump pump can handle the issue itself, ASSUMING you have unfinished basement so a bit of seepage aroundbthe slab does no more damage than needing a mopping up. Personally, unless you have a continual seepage of water into basement or it is finished so leakage is critical, I would leave sump pump and drains for later - to see if your surface drainage changes eliminates the basement dampness problem, which it commonly does unless your water table rises to the basement slab level. Also, having a sump pump implies water issues and tolls against any future buyer finishing an unfinished basement, so it detracts from resale value if you have one.

Note these are off-the-cuff type numbers, NOT any sort of deliberate estimate - but I felt it was better to give you a ballpark than to just say go get estimates. Except for the floor drains, this sounds like a good job for a small 1-3 man excavation and hauling company, but make sure they have experience in putting in drain pipe and block walls and have good references in that area.

Note- if you are inclined to do it yourself work and have the time, most of this is good homeowner home improvement project material. You could have a contractor with a bobcat or small tractor with small backhoe come and pull the fence posts out (you could remove the above-ground apart easily), trench for the pipes, maybe move the rocks and sidewalk (though you could do that yourself with a few scraps of wood as skids and a 5 foot prybar assuming the walk is in piece, not continuously reinforced, and to do the bulk excavation and hauling for you, leaving the vegetation clearing, pipe work, trench backfilling, final slope dressing, block wall building, transplanting, etc to you - could cut your cost about 1/3-1/2. Basement slab drainage I consider a separate issue which would not cost significantly different if done as part of this job, or later if drainage channels or slab french drains are deemed necessary.

For the excavation - remember to get utility locates - I recommend once for bidding so they know where utilities are, then require the bidder to get relocates just before excavation starts. Gas, telephone, cable TV are commonly less than a foot down - water and sewer usually 3 feet or more but don't count on it. Also worry about septic system is you have that, and any power or water lines to/from well if you have a well. Plus of course your sprinkler system if in the way of proposed excavation.

Good Luck with your project


Excavators in Newton, IL

Companies below are listed in alphabetical order. To view top rated service providers along with reviews and ratings, Join Angie's List Now!

Anything Exterior, Inc

17919 Grandview Dr

Conley Excavating & Construction

1555 Gramercy Pl

Custom Construction & Remodeling

475 E Court Street - Suite 83


13349 E 200TH AVE

Fivestone Foundations

915 Benton Street


8507 E Main St



Hutchens Bulldozing Inc

2049 E 1350 North Road



LA Shephard Construction

2403 South Grand Avenue East

luke smith septic

32989 jimtown hollow rd

Mark Ranger Excavating Inc.

217 Springfield Rd.

Mark Ranger Excavating Inc.

217 Springfield Rd.

Marshall's Service Co

1305 S Whittle

Midtown Builders LLC

1727 Ontario Dr



Mr Landscape Construction & Supply

553 Bisaillon Ave

Nick cowger Excavating

3335 Tuller rd

Pearson Climbers

7533 St. Rt. 37


301 N 5TH AVE

RJ Graham Plumbing Inc

9735 W 191st


13814 E 600TH AVE

Soldier Concrete/Construction

1304 South 4th street

Solutions Contracting

1173 BAinbridge St

Stevenson Excavating & Terrys Pumping

1556 210th Avenue

Thurber Excavating And Concrete

109 Almond Ln

Total Plumbing & Heating LTD

4075 Steele Dr
Machesney Park

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