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All the Ways to Dig a Trench

Thu June 14, 2018 - National Edition

There are a lot of different ways to dig.
There are a lot of different ways to dig.

If you find yourself asking how to dig a trench we will highlight many different ways to dig a trench with a ride-on utility tractor. These attachment-carrying tractors can be changed from a vibratory plow, rockwheel or microtrencher to a chain trencher. You also have the option of a center-mount, sliding-offset or sliding-offset with conveyor chain trencher on some models.

For even more jobsite versatility, the front can be outfitted with a backfill blade, backhoe attachment or reel carrier.

According to Jon Kuyers, senior global product manager at Vermeer, each trenching attachment is purpose-built to maximize contractors' productivity based on ground conditions, trench depth and width, as well as what utility or product being installed in the ground. "Trencher attachments increase the versatility of the machine and give contractors the ability to choose the most efficient way of getting their job done," he said.

Understanding the uses and advantages of all the different trenching attachments will help you plan jobs better, and should be part of your considerations when adding a new tractor to the fleet since many attachments are only available on larger, more powerful utility tractors.

Rear Attachment Options

  • Center-mount trencher: This is the most widely used attachment for digging a trench. Depending on the size of the tractor, there are several boom sizes and chain types.
  • Sliding-offset trencher: When you have to trench near an obstacle, like a building, fence or a curb, a sliding-offset trencher will make the job easier than a center-mount trencher. 
  • Sliding-offset with conveyor trencher: The conveyor on this trencher option will move the spoils to one side of the trench, which is particularly helpful when installing pipe on-grade or digging building footings. You will get improved visibility for inspections and reduce the spoils falling back into the trench when dropping in the utility. This method also makes it easier to backfill or remove spoils. 
  • Vibratory plow: Ideally suited for installing cable, the vibratory plow buries the utility as it cuts through the ground in one easy step, and with minimal surface disturbance. There are a range of plow blade options available. 
  • Trencher/plow combo: For greater flexibility, the trencher/plow combination attachment will allow you to switch from one to the other without having to swap out attachments. This option works well when you're working in ground conditions that fluctuate.
  • Rockwheel: When the ground's too hard for a plow or trencher, it's time for a rockwheel. This attachment cuts through rocky areas at depths of 4–12 in. or 24–52 in. depending on the type of rockwheel.
  • Microtrencher: The newest way of trenching, microtrenchers cut through hard surfaces like asphalt to make it easier to install utilities where directional drilling or conventional excavation is not appropriate. The trench width is narrow, helping to reduce the amount of restoration work that needs to be done after the utility is installed. 
Front Attachments

With the right rear attachment selected for the job, it's time to turn your attention to the front of the tractor. "Front attachments add flexibility on the job," said Kuyers. “These attachments are designed to help the operator get more done without having to bring in another machine."

  • Backfill blade: After you've installed your utility line, you can backfill the trench with the same machine.
  • Backhoe: Some jobs call for open excavation, so having a backhoe attachment helps to reduce the number of machines you need on a job.
  • Reel carriers: When you're using a vibratory plow, a reel carrier attachment is a must-have. It will hold your cable line or poly pipe when preparing to install. 

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to dig a trench with a ride-on utility tractor. Kuyers said that consulting with your local Vermeer dealer can help determine which attachment is best suited for the type of utility being installed and ground conditions in your area.

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