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Choosing the Best Trencher Chain

When purchasing or renting a trencher, it’s important to know the machine’s capabilities. The size of the machine and boom length will determine the type of work the machine is built for. Another important consideration before the job: chain type.

Chain type is a variable option on trenchers. When we refer to chain types, we are talking about the style/design of the chain according to the type of teeth and the amount of spacing between each of these teeth. Read on to learn about chain types and the best soil conditions we use them in:

Combination Chain20210708_ComboChainDrawing

Combination chains are the most popular and versatile chains we provide. These chains have alternating cup and shark teeth, with a tooth on every station. The shark teeth are sharp and tough with the ability to break through moderate to tough ground conditions, like compact and rocky soils. The cup teeth are evenly interspersed between the shark teeth, and their cupped shape scoops dirt during trenching, actively cleaning the trench. This is a good, all-around chain for normal to tough digging conditions.

Cup Chain


We offer two different options for cup chains: double cup chains and single cup chains. While both are made only with cup teeth, the spacing between the teeth gives chains different advantages in certain soils.

The first is a standard or “double cup” chain. This chain has a cup tooth on every station, and it excels in sandy soils with little rock.Recommended for light or “good” ground conditions, the scoop shape of the cup teeth are excellent at removing the loose soils from the trench, where shark teeth would allow the loose soils to refill the trench.


Our second cup chain is the skip cup or “single cup” chain. This chain has a cup tooth on every other station. This chain is recommended for wet soil conditions, such as gumbo or clay. The larger gap between the teeth allows the soil to dislodge when exiting the trench. This prevents the wet, sticky, soils from clogging the chain.

Shark Chain


In the same style as cup chains, shark chains are made only with shark teeth. We offer this chain in both a welded and bolt-on option. Both of these chains are productive in tough, compact soil conditions. The shark teeth excel at breaking up soils such as limestone and hardpan, removing dirt where the chances of loose soil refilling the trench are slim. The bolt-on chain provides the option of replacing the individual teeth as needed.

Rock Chain20210708_RockChainDrawing

Rock chains, or “bullet chains”, should be reserved for the toughest of soil conditions. With a rock tooth on every station, this chain is designed to break through extremely compacted or frozen soils. These aggressive teeth chomp through rocks and frozen ground, but they are not effective at removing lighter soils.

For more information on choosing the correct trencher for your conditions, refer to this article: Tracked vs. Wheeled? Selecting a Trencher.

Our parts and tech department is always ready and willing to help with any questions you may have. To speak to a tech or to order replacement chains, teeth, or parts call: 1-800-525-7348. Always remember to call before you dig!


This post was originally published in July 2020 and has been refreshed and updated.