You may be surprised to know what could be buried just underneath your feet. With the recent discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car park in Leicester back in 2013, some of the UK’s storied history can be found a few feet below ground level. However, in order to get there, you’ll need a team that is competent in excavation.

As an essential part of any archaeological dig, excavation teams work tirelessly to glean the historic treasures from the ground below. Yet, the process of excavation is used for much more than archeology, finding uses in a variety of sectors from construction to environmental restoration. With this in mind, we decided to take a closer look at this essential process and explain what your responsibilities are if you decide to carry out any excavation work.

What exactly is excavation?

In layman’s terms, excavation is simply the process of moving earth, rock and other natural materials in order to create cavities in the earth. Using a variety of tools, equipment and methods, excavation is required for creating everything from trenching and wall shafts to paleontological dig sites.

The process

While the types of excavation will differ depending on the job at hand, there are certain overarching aspects you can expect from the process. For starters, the site will need to be properly surveyed in order to ascertain the boundaries of the dig. This is especially important for the construction sector, where precise requirements are essential for a project.

A contractor or dig team will then get to work clearing away the material in order to create a cavity. This can be done via a variety of methods, utilising everything from shovels to heavy-duty machines like bulldozers and trenchers.

Sectors that rely on excavation

As we’ve already mentioned, there are a host of sectors that rely on excavation services, yet, what are they and how do they benefit?


For the construction industry, excavating a site is a necessary part of working on a project, it’s also  the sector where the process is most commonly used. Excavations are carried out for homes, roadways, reservoirs and a host of other projects.

For structures, excavating is done for a variety of reasons, from piling work and other structural jobs to installing plumbing. However, while excavation is pretty ubiquitous in the construction sector, there are a host of different ways it can be done. One of the main ways that the construction industry distinguishes between excavation types is through the material that it excavates:

Topsoil excavation

This process involves removing the surface layer of the earth, including any plants or other matter that could end being compressed during the building process. This type of excavation is extremely shallow, being between 150-300mm in depth.

Earth excavation

This process involves taking both the top layer of soil and the strata directly beneath. The material removed from this type of excavation, known as ‘spoil’, is later used for foundations and embankments.

Rock excavation

As rocks can’t be removed through traditional excavating processes, specific methods are used instead. Usually, rock excavation is carried out through drilling or by using explosives.

Muck excavation

This type of excavation focuses primarily on the removal of excessively wet material that isn’t particularly useful and is unsuitable for stockpiling in any meaningful way.


In archeological terms, excavation focuses specifically on the exposure, processing and recording of remains. In comparison to construction excavation, working on an archeological dig site requires a much finer touch as many of the artefacts being excavated are extremely fragile.

There are two types of archeological excavation known as ‘research’ and ‘development lead’ excavation. Research excavations have the time and resources to carry out a full dig at a pace that suits them. This type of excavation is usually reserved for academics and historical societies with enough money and labour volunteers to help.

Development-led excavation on the other hand, is undertaken by professional archaeologists in the field, usually working to excavate a site before construction takes place. Usually financed by the developers themselves, there is usually more of a time constraint on the project and the team involved is likely more skilled in excavation.

Whichever method of excavation is used, the process is an essential component when it comes to unearthing historically important remains and in turn, learning more about the story of the British Isles.

Environmental restoration

Excavation can also be an exceedingly useful tool in restoring environments and curtailing excess damage to ecosystems. Falling into the category known as ‘environmental remediation’, excavation for ecological purposes can be done for a variety of reasons, from dredging contaminated soil or sand to be taken to a landfill to aerating excavated material that may contain volatile organic compounds.

Not only does this form of environmental restoration help the local flora and fauna, it can stop further pollution and contaminants diluting water sources that communities rely upon.

Dealing with excavation waste: from its removal to the recycling centre

When you’re dealing with a process that digs up excess earth, you’re bound to run into issues with waste management. Here in the UK, waste in all its forms is tightly regulated, including construction and demolition waste. Thanks to new changes to the landfill tax back in 2018, excavation sites could be deemed as illegal waste dumps, leading to hefty fines and time-consuming litigation.

With excess soil, clay rock and other materials being dug up, it’s important for excavation teams to ensure that they remain on the right side of the law. Luckily, a lot of the excess waste created from excavation projects can be recycled as aggregates. In repurposing the sand rock and clay into construction materials, not only are excavation teams remaining legally compliant, they are putting the materials to the best possible use.

For example, recycled aggregates are what are known as ‘green’ construction material, meaning they are a sustainable and eco-friendly option for building projects. With an increasing pressure on landfills and further destruction of the environment, it is now more important than ever to ensure that we reuse and repurpose everything we can.

It’s also a much more cost-effective option when compared to standard aggregate material. For starters, utilising locally recycled aggregates means less travel costs are incurred. Also, putting excess materials to good use is cheaper than paying landfill tax so it really is the best choice.

In need of a quality waste management team for your excavated material? Brewsters construction waste removal services can help

Excavation waste can grow into a real problem if left to its own devices. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to have a team of waste management specialists on hand to help. Here at Brewsters, we pride ourselves on offering our customers a comprehensive service, ensuring that they are able to easily keep on top of their waste management requirements.

With 60 years of experience in the industry, our team is able to cover a range of waste management streams, from supplying a range of skips sizes for trade and domestic waste to effectively dealing with food and confidential waste, meaning you can rest assured you’re working with the professionals.

Environmental issues are also a significant concern to our business, which is why we ensure all of our waste management services adhere to the strict UK regulations put in place to minimise our impact.

If you would like to learn more about how London’s premier waste disposal company can help you, visit our website or get in touch with a member of our friendly team today on 020 7474 3535.