The FMP Blog

What Is Involved in Sitework Construction?

  • April 4, 2024

Preparation is important for everything you want to do right, especially in construction. A crucial part of the preparation for a construction project is sitework.

Sitework lays the groundwork for a successful construction process and a long-lasting structure.

But what is sitework, why is it important, and what steps does it include?

Keep reading for a thorough answer to these three questions.

Table of Contents

1. What Is Sitework?
2. Why Is Sitework Important?
3. The 7 Steps of Sitework Construction

What Is Sitework?

Sitework is all the preliminary work done in preparation for the building site before construction begins. It ensures that construction will be both effective and safe.

At its simplest, sitework includes:

  1. Surveying the land
  2. Clearing and excavating
  3. Installing drainage and utilities
  4. Leveling the soil
  5. Creating roads to provide easier access to the construction site itself

We’ll talk about each of these in more detail below!

Ready to break ground on a commercial construction project in Colorado? Contact us today to discuss your upcoming project!

Why Is Sitework Important?

Building foundation that requires sitework construction

Sitework isn’t just a process if you have the time or money — sitework is a must. In reality, it’s just as important as the construction process itself.

Why is this?

To have a stable building, you must have stable ground below it, which results from proper sitework.

Without proper sitework, project owners could deal with the following:

A Faulty Foundation

A site that hasn’t been properly prepared can shift and cave in areas under the foundation, causing it to crack even years later.

A faulty foundation will cause damage to the rest of the structure. For example, you might notice concrete creep, sagging or cracks in your concrete floors. Or, your exterior walls may even begin to crack.

Environmental Damage to the Structure

Sitework creates a stable plot of land that considers the environmental effects of construction.

Without the rerouting of water or the shoring of unstable soil, you could deal with water damage or even a landslide falling onto your structure.

Injury to Workers During the Construction Process

Sitework not only prepares the job site for a strong structure, but it also protects your construction team from injury.

Wet and unstable job sites can result in dangerous accidents that harm your workers.

A Building that Isn’t Level

Buildings that aren’t level — or plumb — just don’t feel right. You’ll notice that doors are harder to shut, windows look crooked, and floors are on a slant.

For a well-made and easily maintained structure, put in the extra effort during sitework. That way, you can ensure you don’t have to deal with these negative consequences later on.

Construction missteps can be costly. Learn more about the most common types of concrete damage (& their repairs) here!

The 7 Steps of Sitework Construction

Professionals working sitework construction project with machine

This section will cover the seven major steps to sitework and discuss why each part and its timing are necessary.

1. Surveying

Before you begin any plans, you must first survey your plot.

In this step, you’ll map out the topographical surface of the land. This step can help you determine how much leveling will be necessary.

If your land has deep crevices or steep hills, this can affect the decision of where to place the main structure.

You’ll also need to map out the boundaries of the plot so that you know how much acreage you have to work with.

In addition, you want to be sure that you don’t affect or build on property that doesn’t belong to you.

While you’re in this stage, you’ll also check the geology of the soil. The type of soil that you’re building on can affect how you need to proceed.

Soil strength can either help or hinder a project. For example, structures built on sand or clay can result in cracked foundations.

2. Land Clearing

Also known as grubbing, this process involves removing any trees, shrubs, and bushes in the way.

Keep in mind this won’t clear all vegetation. After all, some may play an integral part in landscaping, while others may have local laws protecting them.

It’s important to check with the local authorities to see if there are any trees you’re not allowed to cut down.

However, some will require removal to place the building where it needs to be.

Some job sites won’t require extensive clearing, but if your chosen site is heavily wooded, this process may be lengthy and labor-intensive.

Cutting down large trees also means the removal of stumps and roots. So you’ll need a clear plan of how to dispose of these and the felled trees.

Common options are burning, chipping, burying, and selling to a lumber processing company.

There may be regulations and ordinances that govern your choices here as well. For example, burning may not be an option if it’s against the law in your area.

3. Excavating

After you’ve rid the plot of any trees or bushes in your way, you may have quite a bit of excavating come next.

Excavation involves the removal of excess dirt, roots, and rocks. These rocks are sometimes large boulders that require cranes, heavy equipment, and sometimes blasting to remove.

The excavation process also includes digging holes for septic systems. It could also require removing the side of a hill for the structure to fit.

Excavating is a task that only experienced excavators should attempt. That’s because this process requires extreme diligence and attention to detail.

One of the most crucial aspects of excavation on a construction site is erosion control and shoring. Due to the movement and removal of soil, rocks, and vegetation, erosion is a major concern during construction projects.

In fact, failure to implement erosion control can land a project manager in some trouble. After all, erosion harms the environment, and officials expect project owners to take responsibility for this matter.

You could implement many different tactics to reduce erosion on a construction site. But, of course, those necessary for each construction site will differ greatly.

4. Drainage

Due to the shifting of soil, removal of the topsoil, and digging into the deeper layers, water can seep up from the ground.

Stormwater may also accumulate on the ground’s surface due to bad weather during or before construction.

This accumulation causes many problems for construction services. For instance, excess water can damage the equipment and cause the soil to be unsteady.

Drainage systems are necessary to remove any excess water from the site.

There are several types of drainage systems, and many projects may need more than one system for effective drainage.

Surface Drainage System

As the name implies, a surface drainage system removes excess water collected on the ground’s surface.

This can be from water coming up to the surface from underground sources or rainwater collected on the surface. It can also remove water used during the construction process.

Every construction site should have a good surface drainage system in place. This can consist of a series of strategically placed drains, channels, ditches, slopes, or trenches.

A surface drainage system is made by simply moving soil around to encourage water movement through the pathways created from the dips and hills of soil.

Subsurface Drainage System

Water drainage is sometimes beneficial to install beneath the top layer of soil. The most popular type of subsurface drainage system is the French drain.

This is a system of perforated pipes under the ground’s surface covered in gravel. Unlike surface drainage systems, this removes the water without being visible.

It also results in a dryer and cleaner job site.

Slope Drainage System

A slope drainage system works if you have some downward slope to your property. You can route your drainage system to the top of the hill, where there’s a large pipe.

This pipe runs down the hill, leaving your water at the bottom of the hill. This can either result in a lagoon or natural water feature. Or, you may need to install additional drainage methods there as well.

5. Utility Installation

Before attempting the landscaping finishing touches, it’s time to install the utility lines.

Now, this step highly depends on the purpose of your commercial project. It could include many utilities, such as gas lines, water systems, wastewater and septic systems, and electrical wiring.

Much of this will require collaboration with local utility companies and municipalities.


To have your gas main line installed, you’ll contact your local gas utilities office and schedule a service installation.

The gas company will require some important information before they can proceed.

This includes your required gas load, the location of your utility trenches and routes, and the requested location of the gas meter.

Water Systems

The water main and fire protection lines will be installed underground before connecting them to the commercial building.

These lines will need to be pressure tested to ensure there aren’t any leaks. Of course, it’s much easier to fix these leaks before the water is fully connected than to deal with them post-connection.

After proving the pipes are sound, they’ll undergo decontamination. This happens through a process of chlorination and dechlorination of the pipes.

Once flushed out, the pipes will connect to the city’s water lines. Afterward, the pipes will undergo bacteria testing of the water coming through them to ensure safe drinking by the end user.

Sewer and Septic Systems

There must also be a separate system that removes the wastewater from the structure. Often, there are both storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems in place in a commercial project.

Storm sewer is usually cared for by a drainage system discussed in the section above.

Sewer systems for commercial projects can sometimes be conventional gravity systems. However, this isn’t the norm.

Most commercial sewer systems are either large tanks and pumps or industrial treatment systems. The latter is much more expensive but worth consideration.


Electrical conduits for your project are often installed in the same trench as your phone and cable to route your wires through. However, all conduits should lay flat on the ground.

Like gas installation, you’ll need to work with your local electrical company to complete this process.

Remember: there are many regulations to follow in each municipality. For instance, the size of the conduit, where it can be routed, and even how many bends there can be (and to what degree).

6. Leveling and Stabilizing

The moving and digging of soil during site preparation are now complete. Next, it’s time to level and compact the soil for subgrade stabilization.

This will ensure less shifting or caving during the foundation pours and structure erection.

Unlevel or unstable soil beneath your foundation is one of the major causes of structural damage to buildings. That said, take extreme care to ensure that a professional, experienced contractor tackles this process.

7. Creating Roads

Another important aspect of sitework is the creation of roads. This provides safe access to the site for the heavy machinery needed to complete the project.

Of course, the specifics depend on what’s decided on during planning. Sitework may include creating parking lots and asphalt paving of the roads leading to the front entry.

Curbs and sidewalks can also be laid out or left to be completed after erecting the building.

More landscaping can also occur during this process as the last finishing touch before construction begins.

Still in the bidding phase? Discover the ins and outs of the process in the Project Owner’s Guide to the Construction Bidding Process.

Each step of the sitework process is an essential part of site preparation. In fact, there are so many steps and factors to consider in each of the seven steps that it’s wise to keep and follow a checklist.

Without proper sitework, you could be facing thousands of dollars in damage to the property — or worse.

Taking the time to ensure that sitework is done well will lay a solid foundation for a successful project that’ll last decades to come.

We’d love to chat about sitework construction and the role it plays in your upcoming construction project. Reach out to us!

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