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Seeking good handbook for estimating earthworks


Aug 1, 2017
Saskatoon, Canada
Hi HEF - Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, (pick your favorite holiday, if you are lucky enough to get one!)

Background - farm kid-turned-engineer, worked in a number of fields for 25+ years, now working in scheduling construction.
I typically work for mine owners, planning $100M projects. I support the project team (including design engineers) in answering in some detail "how long will it take". But we typically to that work well in advance of ANY discussion with contractors. We rely on experience (myself, engineering, and higher level construction management) to come up with time estimates. One offshoot that I see is that there is little "out of the box" thinking. In the schedule, it makes a lot of difference if we make a shallow pit for drilling fluid with a dozer versus digging something deeper with an excavator. And it makes a lot of difference if we can have the earthworks contractor do that pit during site prep in summer versus having the driller do it when they mobilize in winter.

I see that there are a number of excavation handbooks that would have some good info about what machine would be suitable for a specific type of earthwork, what size would be optimal, and probably some information about productivities, etc.

Can anyone recommend a book that they use or are familiar with? I can buy something for $10 on ABEBooks, but if it dates to when a TD-20 was state-of-the-art, or the solution to every problem is a Terex TS14, that will be interesting to me, but probably not as useful as something more current.

Thanks in advance


Jan 21, 2007
Running what I brung and taking what I win
The Cat Performance handbook might fit the bill.

If you are planning $100M projects you might want to get your excavation contractor involved earlier in the game if design build is a project delivery option, instead of relying on a book. Proven, experienced contractors are worth their weight in platinum compared to what's been written down in a book. However your mileage may vary depending on the contractor pool you can choose from.

IMO negotiated projects, instead of the traditional design-bid-build projects, produce a better quality product at a market rate price. Bringing in the key constructors in a project early in the design phase can yield not only cost savings via VE but a time savings on the schedule as well.