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Choosing Trenchers: 5 Must Ask Questions Before You Trench

2324rtk-4ms133Whether it’s installing pipe, landscape edging, laying cable, or any of the many projects you may be tackling this year. You may find yourself ditching the shovel and heading to your local dealer or rental yard. 

Equipment manufacturers are working hard to provide machines to match any project, but with such a wide variety of trenchers on the market, it can be a little overwhelming to pick the correct machine for your needs.

Five questions to ask to help you choose the right trencher:

  1. How deep and wide will you be trenching?
  2. Where will you be using your trencher?
  3. What are the ground conditions for the area you will be working in?
  4. What is the size of your project?
  5. Tires or Tracks?

How deep and wide will you be trenching?


First, evaluate your trench. With options ranging from 12” to 48” boom length, and 4” to 8” chain widths, you can narrow your selection considerably.

While you may think that a larger machine can accomplish a task more efficiently, you can end up paying too much and cut deeper into your budget than necessary.

At the same time, selecting a machine that is too small has its own negative repercussions. A machine that’s working too hard will create more work for the user and lack overall efficiency, leading to extended time on the jobsite. 

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Where will you be using your trencher?


You don’t want to unload your trencher, and gear up for the task at hand, only to find out that the machine doesn’t fit. Now you’re likely out time and money. It’s important to take your work site into consideration. For example, if you’re trenching for a sprinkler system in a small fenced yard, you are going to want a smaller machine with more maneuverability. Accordingly, in a wider, open area with minimal obstacles, you are free to maneuver a larger machine.

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What are the ground conditions for the area you will be working in?

Soil-profilesGround conditions are extremely important. Choosing the correct horsepower, chain type, and drive system can all be affected by the conditions you will be working in. Dry, loose, or loamy soil will require a less aggressive chain and less horsepower. Whereas clay, hard, or rocky soil call for a machine with more horsepower, and possibly a more aggressive chain, to trench efficiently.

There are several resources on the web to determine your soil type, including this article from Gardener's Supply Company, "Sand? Clay? Loam? What Type of Soil Do You Have? Soil texture defined, plus a simple DIY soil test", and this one from Lawn & Order Landscaping, "The Dirt on Soil Types".

Weather can also be a contributing factor. Consider a recent rain. Wet and muddy soil will likely complicate a job. You may consider a tracked machine, for more stability and traction. Or, perhaps, a ride on machine to avoid operator discomfort.

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What is the size of your project?


Consider the difficulty of your project, and the amount of time you expect to spend operating your trencher. While a smaller trencher may get the job done, you may consider upgrading to a ride on trencher for projects lasting more than a few hours, and with greater trenching distances. Additionally, a back-fill blade accessory can alleviate man hours refilling your trench on larger projects.

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Tires or Tracks?


With track machines offering the added benefits of stability, traction, and performance, they are often a first request. The tracks provide a larger footprint, offering a smoother performing machine, and minimizing turf damage. Tracked machines often weigh more, and withstand tougher conditions than their smaller, wheeled counterparts.

Consider whether you have the space to operate a tracked trencher, as well as the capability to transport the machine. published an excellent article: Todays Walk-Behind Trencher Trends that has some great information about selecting a trencher.

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While there may not be a perfect choice all the time. Asking these questions will get you the BEST choice every time.

Safe-Digging-PartnerRemember to locate and identify any utilities before you begin your project. Always call 811 before you dig. Happy Trenching!

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