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A trencher is dangerous, and a trench can quickly become a very long grave. Trenching safety is critical !
Please read this Trencher Safe Use Guide and OSHA’s Trenching Safety Rules
Take the free online Trenching Safety Awareness class if you do big trenching projects.
Hope this helps you! Check out our new Garden Drainage Guide
Webmasters: You are welcome to link to our Guide to Trenching and Trenchers using this underlined phrase as the anchor text.
|NEW 45" handles
Hand trenching tools and shovels and tips
Homeowners often do manual or shovel trenching because the short run of trench they need for their project does not justify a rental trencher. But even professional trenching crews get out the hand tools when they need to trench in area where their trencher won’t fit, or to clean out the loose soil from the bottom of the trench.
Any spade or digging shovel will do fine for the first foot of trench depth, but after that you will avoid much frustration and backache by using special hand trenching tools and shovels to stand straighter and stay at ground level while digging out the trench.
Locating good used trenchers
Finding a good used trencher takes knowledge, luck, and more luck. Learn what commonly fails and wears out on a trencher. Insist on a test run before you purchase the trencher. Explore hiring a trencher or rental yard mechanic to inspect it.
Trencher chains are expensive! They wear out in TWO ways – worn down cutter teeth are usually obvious, but chain stretch isn't. Please learn how to spot worn trencher chain before you buy a used trencher!
Sources of used trenchers include MachineryTrader.com and Equipment Locator
Trencher attachments for skid steer loaders
Full featured trenchers are available for skid steer loaders
like Bobcat and John Deere
Ride-on Trencher and trench digger suppliers
The ride-on trencher and trench digger is as large as we go here. This article on getting more from your trencher provides great tips for increasing the productivity of your professional ride-on trencher or trench digger.
A variety or ride-on trenchers and trench diggers are produced by Vermeer and Ditch Witch and Maxon
Special purpose trencher applications…
The bed edger trencher does clean shallow trenching for landscaping borders like brick, plastic and concrete edging. Two nice bed edgers are the Trench’N Edge and the E-Z Trench Bedscaper
A wire trencher installs electric dog fences and landscape lighting. The buried wire is placed using with a powered wire trencher like the DMR Wire Trencher or the E-Z Trench wire trencher
The DIY’er with a small yard may want to try this hand wire trencher
Walk-behind trenchers are useful for narrow, medium depth trench in areas with reasonable elbow room. They can be very dangerous – please read this Trenching Safety Guide and get checked for buried utility lines!
This Listing of Walk-Behind Trenchers gives info on most of the small trenchers currently available in America.
Hand Trenching Tips
First let's talk about "Trenching Shovels". These are really clean-out shovels which are designed to scoop the loose soil out of the bottom of a narrow trench. They are usually used after a powered trencher has cut the trench, but can be used to scoop out soil that has been broken loose with a digging bar, pickaxe, or trenching hoe. They are not a good option for digging because the narrow width does not allow you to get your foot on the shovel to push it into the ground. Look at the pictures to the left, imagine trying to stomp on one of those shovel backs
while it is in a 2 foot deep trench - it just doesn't work. But they are great for cleaning out the loose soil from the bottom of a deep narrow trench! For quality trenching and clean-out shovels I recommend looking at: - Structron's fiberglass Trenching Shovel and the Hisco trenching shovels
A more efficient digging tool is a trenching hoe
With a trenching hoe you simply swing the
long-handled tool down into the trench to chop
the dirt loose and then drag the loose soil up
the remaining inclined portion of the trench
like a bulldozer.
(Click on the image to the right to see a
full size picture of this technique)
A 4" wide trenching hoe is best for irrigation and
power lines. A 6" wide trenching hoe is best for
deeper trenches and sewer pipes and drainage