How to Safely and Effectively Use a Trencher

Trenching EquipmentWant to dig a trench? There is special equipment for that!

In addition to a shovel and massive amounts of strength and sweat, the most effective tool to dig a trench is a machine called a trencher. If you want to lay cable or fiber optics, install a drainage system or place pipes underground, a trencher helps dig holes with consistent width and depth through a variety of surfaces to be cut, including soil, stone and pavement. Most include a mechanism to clear excavated material from the trench, too.

Trenchers range in configuration from walk-behind models, to attachments for a skid loader, to portable hand-held tools. They use different types of cutting elements, depending on the hardness of the cutting surface. Because they involve cutting with teeth, chain or blade, use trenchers with proper care.

Types of Trenchers

1. Rockwheel Trencher: uses a cutting wheel fitted with teeth to move soil. Teeth are made from industrial strength steel or cemented carbide and are changed out or adjusted easily by hand, allowing for multiple cutting widths and depths, as well as ground conditions. The wheel design lets the machine cut at a constant angle to the ground. Excavated materials are cleared from the trench through an ejector system.

  • Works hard or soft soils
  • Work homogeneous, compact rocks, silts and sands or heterogeneous, broken rock, alluvia and moraines
  • Less sensitive to blocks in soil
  • Cuts pavement for road and underground utilities maintenance
  • Cheaper to operate and maintain than chain trenchers

2. Micro Trencher: uses a cutting wheel specially designed to work in tighter spaces such as a city or other urban area. The teeth cut in smaller widths that range from about one to five inches and a depth of 20 inches or less. Excavated material is also less.

  • Works harder ground than chain trencher
  • Cutting through solid stone
  • Cuts trenches with no associated damage to the road
  • Used to minimize vehicle and pedestrian traffic congestion
  • Digs smaller trenches for optical fiber connections
  • Effective for sidewalks, narrow streets
  • Cuts pavement for road and underground utilities maintenance
  • Sometimes radio-controlled 

3. Chain Trencher: uses a chain or belt to cut through the ground. Like a chainsaw, the cutting element moves around a metal frame or boom, which is adjusted at a fixed angle to accommodate different cutting depths. Excavated materials can be removed by conveyor belt.

  • Works hard soils
  • Digs wider trenches for telecommunication, electricity, drainage, water, gas, sanitation
  • Can cut narrow, deep trenches
  • Good for work in rural areas
  • Used to excavate trenches in rock, along with hydraulic breakers or drill and blast

4. Portable Trencher: uses a chain or blade that rotates like a rotary lawn mower to dig trenches. Lightweight and easily maneuverable, these machines are sometimes used in conjunction with other types of equipment to finish landscaping and lawn care jobs.

  • Cuts trenches for landscape edging and irrigation lines
  • Used in combination with a drainage pipe or geotextile feeder and backfiller to lay drain or textile and fill trench in one pass

How to Operate a Trencher in 3 Steps

Step 1: Turn on the engine and warm up the machine. Put the transmission in neutral, make sure the hydraulic pump is off (if applicable), unlock the wheels and move the trencher in place.

Step 2: Once in position to start digging, make sure the wheels are positioned so they work together, start the cutting element spinning and lower it to its first depth, put the transmission in forward, engage the removal apparatus and start digging. Keep the power on full throttle, controlling speed by using the transmission.

Step 3: Once you dig all the down, put the machine in reverse to start moving backward. Most machines will trench in reverse.

Safety Tips

  • Wear protective clothing, eye and ear wear, utility gloves
  • Stand away from the machine when it’s operating (unless you’re the operator) to avoid getting hit by excavated material
  • Before you start digging, locate underground wires or pipes by calling your local utility company

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with excavating your property. We carry a full line of trenchers designed for many types of landscaping, lawn care or digging projects. If you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Categories: Choosing Equipment, Featured Products, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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