What's Included In Your Rock Clause? Make Sure You Check Before You Sign Your Contract

Posted on: 9 May 2016

In any excavation project, there is always the potential for obstacles, delays and other circumstances that can make your project go over budget. Because of this, the contractor will usually include what's known as a "rock clause" in your contract. This clause includes costs that you will have to pay if things go wrong or if the project requires extra labor. You might assume that some of these things are included in the job, but they might not be. Here are some items to look for in the fine print before you sign.   

Hitting Rock

Hitting rock when digging is common (which is why it's called a "rock" clause), but dealing with it can be expensive. Some contractors calculate an approximate removal cost per foot of rock while others use a cost per day. Since rock removal can involve additional machinery, rubble disposal and tons of backfill, the additional cost can be significant. If you assume that they will fill a hole with materials they excavated, but they actually have to bring in a jackhammer, conveyor, and extra fill, you need to be prepared for the additional cost.

Hitting Water

If the water table is high or if it rains excessively and fills the hole, someone will have to pump the water so the job can continue. If the water is weather-related and not due to an underground spring you may simply have to wait until the rain stops, but it could set the project back days or weeks. Make sure your contract outlines who is responsible for any additional costs.

Unexpected Things

Old foundations of previously unknown buildings, construction debris, toxic waste or historical artifacts can all thwart your project's timetable. You'll have to follow your state's rules for dealing with potentially harmful waste or for possible archaeological sites. There can also be legal complications if the conditions are something you should have known about, for instance, if a long-demolished barn or outbuilding is shown on your deed or survey.

The excavation contractor (such as one from Haas Construction) is usually prepared for ordinary contingencies such as small boulders, and this should be reflected in the contract. However, you may end up paying for overtime or additional machinery for major surprises. Some parts of the country are known for having solid rock or limestone close to the surface, so consider what might be in your yard. Examine your contract carefully and never hesitate to ask the contractor about possible additional costs, such as damage to your driveway or landscaping, or how both major and minor contingencies will be handled.