Locate any gas, water and electric lines that are buried underground in the area where you need to dig around the foundation. Mark these lines to prevent a catastrophe during any stage of the project. If you must dig around these lines, you should do it by hand with a spade. Shut off any line that runs into the building which could cause harm to you or anyone who is working on the project.
Measure the area where you will be digging. Mark the area by pounding wooden stakes into the ground with a hammer to provide a guideline for the width of the area to be dug for your project.
Water the area of the lawn around the foundation the day before you plan to start digging. This will loosen the soil to allow you to remove the sod more easily. Cut the sod in strips using an edger or a spade.
Remove the strips of sod and any shrubbery or perennial plantings from the area around the foundation. Store them in an area on the property that is out of your way while you undertake the project.
Maneuver a backhoe or digger into the area so that the bucket end of the machine is near the building. Lower the boom and carefully dig down into the soil with the bucket. Pull the soil away from the foundation with the bucket and deposit it over to the side of the marked area. Use a spade to dig the area by hand if you are not using heavy equipment.
Dig down into the ground until you are at a depth that is needed for the trench or hole. Dig to the wooden stakes to widen the area.