Coastal Excavation – Contractor’s Guide to Successful Site Preparation

Posted 8/21/2023

Excavation is a critical first step for any construction project. But when working near the coast, excavation requires special care and planning to ensure a stable foundation and prevent environmental impacts. This article provides an in-depth guide to successfully preparing coastal sites for building projects of all sizes with the help of an experienced Maryland Coastal excavation contractor.

Whether you’re a homeowner, developer, or commercial builder, excavating a coastal site presents unique challenges. From dealing with a high water table to preserving delicate shore ecosystems, specialized equipment and methods are needed. A reliable excavation contractor in Maryland can assess your site’s needs and execute an effective excavation plan while following stringent environmental regulations. Read on to learn what’s involved in coastal excavation and site preparation.

Looking to learn more about site development? Check out a few of our other posts here:
Maximizing Land Use Efficiency through Effective Site Development
The Importance of Site Development Planning in Construction Projects
Designing Accessible and User-Friendly Sites through Site Development

Why Proper Excavation is Crucial for Coastal Sites

When excavating near the ocean, bay or other shoreline, taking the right precautions during site preparation makes all the difference in the integrity of the foundation and structure. Here are some key reasons proper excavation is so important:

  • The water table is higher near the coast, so digging deeper foundations and allowing for proper drainage is critical. Basements also require extra waterproofing.
  • Coastal soil tends to be looser and wetter. Compaction may be needed to prevent settling issues.
  • Erosion control is vital to avoid sediment runoff into fragile marine ecosystems. Strict permits and erosion barriers are required.
  • Saline conditions can corrode certain building materials over time. The coastal excavation services strategy can help mitigate this.
  • Digging near the shoreline sometimes uncovers historical or archaeological artifacts requiring specific protocols.
  • Coastal zones have more complicated zoning laws. A knowledgeable contractor handles permits and regulations for the job.

By partnering with an excavation company experienced in coastal projects, you can avoid costly foundation problems, delays, and environmental fines down the road.

Key Site Preparation Steps for Coastal Excavation

The exact approach will vary depending on factors like soil conditions, permitting, and project scope. But in general, preparing a coastal excavation site for excavation involves:

Planning and Permitting

  • Assess the site layout and have necessary surveys conducted.
  • Research permit requirements based on location and scope of work. Shoreline projects often need special permits.
  • Plan machinery access points and space on-site to stockpile soil temporarily.
  • Determine whether any artifacts may be uncovered that require an archaeologist on-site.

Site Protection and Preparation

  • Install sediment barriers, silt fencing and other erosion controls to contain runoff.
  • Cordon off any shoreline buffer zones that must remain undisturbed.
  • Clear and strip topsoil from construction area, stockpiling it on-site for later landscaping use.
  • Conduct any demolition of existing structures and debris removal.

Excavation and Shoring

  • Dig foundations and utility trenches to depth needed, stabilizing walls as you go.
  • Use dewatering methods if groundwater seepage occurs.
  • Install shoring boxes or other retainment systems to reinforce deeper excavations.
  • Backfill and compact with suitable fill material to prepare subgrade for construction.

Cleanup and Erosion Control

  • Remove all excavation equipment and temporary structures when finished.
  • Grade and establish proper stormwater drainage from the site.
  • Plant native vegetation on disturbed areas and install permanent erosion barriers.
  • Clear excess fill materials and waste from the site.

Following coastal excavation best practices with help from an experienced Maryland Coastal excavation contractor gives your next oceanfront, bayfront or shoreline project the stable foundation it needs. Let’s explore some of the key processes and considerations in more detail.

Choosing the Right Excavation Contractor

Not all excavation pros are equipped for the unique challenges of coastal projects. When selecting an excavation contractor in Maryland, look for:

  • Extensive experience excavating shoreline sites, including specialized equipment
  • Knowledge of state and local coastal zoning laws and permitting
  • Resources for environmental testing and remediation if needed
  • Capability to work on sites large and small
  • Reputation for quality work completed on schedule and budget
  • Strong safety record and focus on environmental protection

The right excavation contractor becomes your partner, advising on permitting, drainage, foundation design, and more. This provides major value during planning and can prevent issues down the road. Be sure to get multiple bids and talk to past clients in coastal areas before choosing your contractor.

A black truck is parked in front of a pile of rocks during site development.

Key Machinery Used for Coastal Excavation

Standard excavation equipment like backhoes, bulldozers and dump trucks can be used for many coastal projects. But shoreline sites often call for specialized machinery such as:

  • Long-reach excavators – Access hard-to-reach areas from shore without disrupting sensitive ecosystems.
  • Amphibious excavators – Navigate soft, wet terrain near water’s edge.
  • Articulated trucks – Haul heavy loads over loose sandy soils.
  • Compact track loaders – Provide low ground pressure when working near water.
  • Dewatering equipment – Pump out groundwater from trenches and foundations until construction completed.
  • Shore boxes – Build retaining walls and support structures for deep excavations.

The contractor will match equipment to the site conditions and scope of each phase, from demolition and digging to backfilling and grading.

Getting Proper Permits and Approvals

Construction on or near coastal land falls under strict regulations in Maryland. Permits and approvals required may include:

  • Wetlands permits – Alteration of non-tidal or tidal wetland areas.
  • Waterway construction permits – Building any structure that intrudes on or crosses over a designated waterway.
  • Erosion and sediment control plans – Projects disturbing over 5,000 sq. ft. of earth.
  • Archaeological review – Digging in designated historic or archaeological zones.
  • Local planning and zoning – New structures, site plans, density allowances, etc.
  • Building permits – Required for any new construction and certain renovations.

Reputable excavation contractors are very familiar navigating Maryland’s coastal excavation permitting process. They can consult on the project scope and requirements, submit permit applications on your behalf, and ensure compliance during excavation.


Meeting Stormwater Management Requirements

Construction projects in Maryland must contain stormwater runoff under the state’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The contractor will install grading, drainage and erosion controls to manage water flow, prevent sediment from leaving the site, and avoid polluting nearby water bodies.

Common stormwater management methods include:

  • Silt fencing – Filters out sediment from runoff. Required around site perimeter.
  • Drainage swales – Channels to direct site runoff.
  • Sediment traps – Containment ponds to allow sediment to settle.
  • Coir logs – Tubes filled with coconut fiber to control flow and filter runoff.
  • Hay bales – Used as barriers to slow and filter stormwater.
  • Native vegetation – Plants help absorb and retain water flow.

Proper stormwater management during and after excavation is critical for coastal sites. The contractor handles implementation and maintenance of these erosion and sediment controls.

Addressing Common Excavation Challenges

While excavating near Maryland’s shoreline offers rewards like gorgeous water views, it also comes with unique challenges. Here are some common ones and how an experienced contractor handles them:

  • High water table – Requires deeper excavations for stable foundations, with dewatering during construction.
  • Loose soils – Compaction is needed to prevent settling issues over time.
  • Limited space – Strategic space planning ensures access for people and machinery.
  • Wet conditions – Equipment with low ground pressure minimizes damage and rutting.
  • Environmental factors – Careful sediment barriers prevent erosion and water contamination.
  • Unknown subsurface items – An archaeological consultant may be brought in if artifacts are found.
  • Salt corrosion – Proper site and foundation drainage helps mitigate salt damage over time.

By partnering with a contractor who understands these potential issues, you can avoid major headaches, delays and costs. Their expertise allows the project to move forward smoothly from site prep to build.

Why Proper Compaction is Vital

Due to naturally loose, shifting sands, soil compaction is extremely important when excavating foundations near the shoreline. Insufficient compaction can lead to problems like:

  • Settling and movement over time as soils consolidate.
  • Foundation cracks as loose materials below shift and compress.
  • Inconsistent bearing capacities, resulting in uneven settling.
  • Builder’s risk impacts during construction as machinery sinks into loose soils.

To ensure a stable base for foundations and slabs, the excavation contractor performs controlled compaction fills. Methods include:

  • Grading and spreading fill layers that are 12 inches or less.
  • Using heavy compaction rollers making multiple passes over the layers.
  • Compacting to 95% of maximum density for reliable strength.
  • Testing compaction at various locations and depths to ensure consistent and adequate levels.

Proper fill compaction provides a firm foundation for driving piles, pouring concrete, and finishing your coastal project. Don’t skimp on this important process.

An excavation contractor is using a yellow excavator for site development on a dirt road.

Protecting Marine Environments During Excavation

Responsible contractors take precautions to safeguard nearby waterways and ecosystems when excavating shoreline sites. Required practices include:

  • Installing silt fences, erosion mats, berms and other barriers to keep sediment contained.
  • Avoiding excavation or disturbance in designated wetlands areas.
  • Containing and safely removing any excavated hazardous substances.
  • Adhering to designated coastal buffer zones and setbacks.
  • Minimizing disruption to the shoreline area.
  • Re-vegetating disturbed areas with native plants as soon as possible.
  • Keeping equipment and vehicles away from sensitive shore habitats.
  • Having emergency spill containment equipment available on-site.

Environmental stewardship should be a top priority for any coastal excavation contractor you hire near the water. A little extra care goes a long way toward protecting precious coastal ecosystems.

Closing Recommendations

Preparing a stable, environmentally responsible site takes careful planning and experience when excavating near Maryland’s shoreline. Following the recommendations in this guide will help ensure your coastal project gets off to a smooth, problem-free start.

To recap, be sure to:

  • Choose a coastal excavation contractor experienced specifically with coastal sites.
  • Allow extra time for proper planning, permitting and approvals.
  • Use machinery and methods tailored to the terrain and conditions.
  • Compact soil thoroughly to avoid foundation movement or settling.
  • Employ stringent erosion, drainage and runoff controls.
  • Make environmental protection a priority.

With the right excavation contractor as your partner, your beach house, waterfront business or coastal development can have the strong, stable foundation needed to withstand the challenging shoreline environment. Contact a trusted Maryland coastal excavation company today to discuss your upcoming project.

Coastal excavation contractor is operating an orange excavator on a construction site.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What services does your company offer?

Our company is a full-service excavation and construction company specializing in building, restoration, and repair. We provide a wide range of services including excavation, hardscapes, land clearing, and more.

2. Do you offer free estimates?

Yes, we offer free estimates for our services. Contact us today and one of our team members will be happy to assist you with obtaining an estimate for your specific project.

3. Do you provide services for residential properties only?

No, we provide services for both residential and commercial properties. Our experienced team is equipped to handle projects of any size and nature.

4. What is your company’s policy on customer satisfaction?

Customer satisfaction is our top priority. We aim to provide exceptional service from project initiation to completion. With our team of professionals, you can expect quality work and a high level of customer care.

5. Do you specialize in any particular field of construction?

We specialize in a wide range of construction services including excavation, hardscapes, and building restoration. Our expertise allows us to provide tailored solutions for each project.

6. Can you explain your energy-efficient solutions?

We are committed to providing sustainable and energy-efficient solutions. Our team incorporates environmentally friendly practices and materials whenever possible to help reduce