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View Full Version : Mini Skid & Trenchers - Help Please


pblc
11-27-2011, 11:51 PM
I'm looking to pick up a second mini skid steer to work on our new irrigaiton crew next year. This will be our first year with irrigation so I'm completely new to the game. We have planned to concentrate on residential installs and small commercial jobs.

As I'm looking at trenchers to buy I see there are all different sizes and types. What size do most use for this type of work - how deep do the irrigation trenches need to go? We are located in the southeast missouri, northwest tennessee, west kentucky area.

Also I'm looking at a mini skid steer to tug the trencher around. Will a 20 horse gas engine be big enough - like on a Bobcat MT50 or Dingo 420... Or would it be smart to go bigger and diesel to complete these tasks.

Do most trench and then hard pipe in pvc or are you ripping and installing a flexible pipe?

Thanks for the help. :usflag:

Irrigation Contractor
11-28-2011, 01:54 AM
We prefer Diesel engines on our equipment. We had a Toro Dingo with the Kohler that ended up needing 3 engines before we scrapped it. We have 2 Toro 320D's with the Kubota that perform far superior to the gas unit. We also just put a Vermeer S800TX and the new S650TX into service recently and absolutely love them so far. Probably the most expensive out of the mini's but the quality is much better that the Dingo's and Vermeer parts support in our area is great. Keep that in mind when you are making your decision.

We liked the Dingo's and it was the machine that kind of created the mini market, but parts support was terrible and even worse the the price's Toro was charging for the parts. Great machine, but just ended up not being tough enough for the rocky soil in our area. We needed something just built stronger and with more power so we ended up going with Vermeer.

koster_irrigation
11-28-2011, 06:47 AM
Maybe you should rent for a little while to see if you are going to be in it for the long haul. I say once you get to about 20 to 30+ irrigation customers, go buy a trencher. You're asking some questions about the installation methods that it seems you should have more confidence in.

-Trench Depth
-Types Of Pipe Installed

These are two real easy questions that will vary depending on where you are located in the country.

We have the 425 dingo since 2004, i think with no less than that.

A Diesel will be my next purchase.

greenmonster304
11-28-2011, 07:42 AM
Can you use a vibaratory plow? If you can it will be alot faster.

I too was looking at mini skidsteers do any of you have experience with bobcat mt50? I want to put a backhoe on it.
Posted via Mobile Device

txgrassguy
11-28-2011, 08:08 AM
I have a ton of experience with mini-skid units, both tracked and wheeled units, gas and diesel.

By far and away the best performing unit was the diesel tracked. In my area the soil is mostly bullet proof clay necessitating a high hydraulic flow rate and trenching no wider than 4".

After smoking three primary pumps in one year in 100*F+ heat I finally wised up and mounted an external hydraulic oil cooler on the unit equipped with a fan = no more smoked primary or wheel motor pumps. If you operate in an area of high humidity or heat this is the single best add-on.

Tracked units crossed trenches easier, didn't become mired as easily, didn't tear up turf as easily plus trenched "smoother" - meaning much less bouncing and tire hopping.

I have rented mini-skid units and mounted a back hoe for retaining wall use and quickly came to the conclusion it wasn't worth the effort. Lack of reach, tipping became a real problem and ripping power seriously lacked in comparison with a dedicated mini-excavator. Plus the pivot arc was restricted and when adding into the equation length in front of the unit plus bucket load weight - tipping and lack of production verse a mini-excavator was readily apparent.

End result? I have one mini-skid unit left, and old Kanga that requires a new primary pump and trencher teeth replaced. Once finished I plan to hang on to this small unit because I can get into tight areas easier than walk behind units plus it easily fits into he bed of a full sized p/u. Also, since it is paid for it can sit in the shop for months on time until I need to trot it out for a job hand excavation would take too much time.

My advice is to rent the tracked Ditch Witch walk behind unit until you have a serious client base wherein rapid response to larger repairs/alterations/installations become necessary. The easiest way to do this is to add up the cost of the rental unit verse buying, amortize across three years and if the numbers come out in your favor then buy.

The down turn in the economy means the larger rental outlets like Sunbelt and RSC are turning over well maintained units at a lower cost so if you absolutely are set upon acquiring a trencher this is the route I would go verse new purchase.

Cover up attachments aren't worth the metal they are made of in my experience. These things take a very careful operator not to gouge into the soil, in my area they clog with rock spoils, plus excessively spread the trench soil spoils away from rather than into the trench.

If I was to do this all over again I would rent exclusively walk behind tracked trenchers verse a mini-skid unless I had significant landscape work to justify an auger, etc.

Regarding trenching per minute the walk behind dedicated trenchers easily out performed ALL of the mini-skid trenchers at a lower per hour operating cost in terms of more trench per foot, less operation time and required less fuel.

The diesel units were acceptable but cost way more than the gas powered mini-skids. Were a bit heavier too but ran a ton cooler than the gas units. It wasn't uncommon to see temperature differences at the platform of 30*F when trenching into verse down wind on a gas powered unit. You would literally sweat more when the wind blew the engine heat across you - and on the sites where we were next to a rock faced house - forget it. It was like being in a sauna.

pblc
11-28-2011, 10:12 AM
We already have a Dingo 220 - the wheeled gas version. That we run on the landscaping crew. This would be an add on that we could use in both crews. However.... I don't buy brand new equipment. I'd be looking for a good used machine. I think I'd like another mini because I could use on both crews - more hours on machine = more dollars made via machine = quicker payback period. With the dedicated trencher if irrigation didn't roll as well as hoped or there is some lull, then we have a machine we cant utilize as much.

FIMCO-MEISTER
11-28-2011, 10:48 AM
You could always get a bunch of unemployed people and start off hand digging. Your selling point would be "we cut the sod out and reinstall." When I started in the biz lots of companies were doing it that way.

Wet_Boots
11-28-2011, 11:46 AM
Does anyone out there use a sod-cutter in advance of trenching?

DIXIECONTRACTING
11-28-2011, 01:44 PM
I have a Dingo 425 wide track and pull all of my pipe with it and never a problem. I also bought a bobcat full size 8"x3' trencher with crumber and welded a dingo plate to it and use that also with no problems. I love it never need to fix grass after doing a job with it even in wet conditions.

txirrigation
11-28-2011, 01:54 PM
Does anyone out there use a sod-cutter in advance of trenching?

Honestly cutting the sod and replacing it is the BIGGEST sales ploy ever. If there is St. Augustine the grass will grow over the trenches faster than if you cut sod and put it back.

Reason being the sod you cut WILL DIE, then the grass has to grow back into the dead "sod" before it looks right again. I did two houses side by side last year and cut sod on one and just backfilled the other. The house we backfilled only looked much better after three weeks than the one we cut the sod on.

My suggestion is IF the home owner must have sod laid to buy 1-2 pallets of new sod and cut it in.

------

Mini Skid-

I have a Kanga 526 Diesel tired unit and the thing runs like a rock. They do not make the Kanga anymore but I wish that they did. I had one down time day last year, and we trenched 150+ systems with it. I too put an external cooling system on the Kanga and it has been awesome.

I am either going to buy a Vermeer 600/Boxer 427/Ditch witch tracked diesel mini here in the next month or so. Tracked diesel is definitely the way to go although it costs much more.

------

Trench Depth-

For us the state regs state that the top of the pipe must be no less than 6" deep. Therefore we end up trenching about 9-10" deep because each trench will have a few pipes in it. On commercial jobs we usually run a rock saw and go about 12-16in deep.

We have never plowed pipe, but I have heard it is much faster. Plain and simple, where I am there is no such thing as plowing. We keep a jack-hammer as a regular tool on each install truck. There is usually 3-5 in of construction grade dirt sitting on limestone.

DanaMac
11-28-2011, 02:12 PM
Reason being the sod you cut WILL DIE, then the grass has to grow back into the dead "sod" before it looks right again.

I don't understand this statement. If grass will die when cut with a sod cutter, then how do they create..... sod? They cut the grass at the farm with the cutter, machine rolls it up or stacks it, and you lay it back down. What am I missing? We primarily have kentucky bluegrass here.

txirrigation
11-28-2011, 02:34 PM
I don't understand this statement. If grass will die when cut with a sod cutter, then how do they create..... sod? They cut the grass at the farm with the cutter, machine rolls it up or stacks it, and you lay it back down. What am I missing? We primarily have kentucky bluegrass here.

Just like irrigation, when a professional sod company cuts the sod on flat ground with the correct equipment it turns out great.

When irrigation companies cut sod with a little crappy sod cutter that doesn't cut deep enough and it is on all different kinds of slopes is turns out bad. They end up basically scalping the grass off the ground instead of cutting a few inches of earth with it.

There are 2-3 smaller companies that do that around here, and it always looks like crap. The larger companies flat out refuse to do it because you get so many complaints that the grass died.

I always suggest to back fill, and let the grass grow back over it. If it is Bermuda, or KBG, I suggest to the home owner to seed the trenches. Even if you do not seed the trenches eventually the Bermuda will grow back over it. Not sure about KBG.

Wet_Boots
11-28-2011, 03:00 PM
Bluegrass is what I'd visualize for sodcutting, but I would agree that the idea isn't practical. Warm weather quickly grows back the grasses specific to those climates, and colder climates are more likely to have installers using plows.

muddywater
11-28-2011, 05:36 PM
If you are buying used i would try to get a dingo 425 or a bobcat mt55. They seem to be the best value. You should be able to find a 425 for 5-6k with low hours and a mt55 for $7500 with low hours.

We trench 12-18". I have good luck with bradco and dingo trencher attachments.

greenmonster304
11-28-2011, 06:44 PM
Does anyone out there use a sod-cutter in advance of trenching?

If I have to trench across existing lawn I will offer sod cutting as an option. http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=234709&highlight=This+is+how+I+do+faucets
Posted via Mobile Device

txgrassguy
11-28-2011, 06:54 PM
I have cut sod first a time or two. Usually in response to a client's request or in one instance just to shut the old biddy up. Had a real temptation to chuck her sorry ass in the mainline with all that pipe.
Regardless, if the sod cutter gets trotted out - I get more money. So I couldn't care one way or the other.

Wet_Boots
11-28-2011, 07:11 PM
One reason to keep the old Pipe Piper around, is that, with the attachment, it's a kickass sodcutter.

FIMCO-MEISTER
11-28-2011, 08:23 PM
The way to cut sod is to use a flat shovel and get two guys on each side of the ditch. Cut deep and lift it out. First though you need to put in stakes and run a string line to keep the ditch straight. Not much more to dig out after that. It's described well in the
ABCs of LAWN SPRINKLER SYSTEMS
http://www.amazon.com/ABCs-of-Lawn-Sprinkler-Systems/dp/0317347772/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322529614&sr=1-1

Mike Leary
11-28-2011, 08:42 PM
Manpower is a waste of time and money. If you're trenching into an existing landscape, this "little trencher that could" is the answer, we've had two of them:

slemon
11-28-2011, 09:05 PM
Reason being the sod you cut WILL DIE, then the grass has to grow back into the dead "sod" before it looks right again.
I cut sod when I was doing installation in my yard. It was laying for a week in 90F heat. I thought it was dead too but after about 2 weeks it greened up.

GreenI.A.
11-28-2011, 09:07 PM
I run a dingo 425. I bought it used originally to use as a mini skid because alot of older homes in the older parts of Boston have to much limited axcess to get my full size skid in. After having the mini skid for a couple of months i sold my trencher and bought a trencher attachment and pipe puller attachment for the dingo. Both work great. My only complaint is that it is to slow when using it as a skid with a bucket or plow on it.

ARGOS
11-28-2011, 10:32 PM
I have owned and used multiple minis and skids. I recently sold a lot of equipment, but kept my Thomas 85 because it was really handy. The Thomas has a 36" foot print and a 20 hp kuboto engine. I can squeeze in tight spaces and still have the power and convenience of a skid. Down side is that it is not tracked and the power exceeds its size. Compare to a mini I think the biggest down side is that it has tip over potential. Personally I would take a tracked mini first (toro dingo) and a wheeled skid over a wheeled mini. You not gonna find a tracked skid as small as a tracked mini, but you will find a wheeled skid as small as a wheeled mini.

Ps. We almost always use a sod cutter. Works great. Might be a regional thing.

txgrassguy
11-29-2011, 11:45 AM
Manpower is a waste of time and money. If you're trenching into an existing landscape, this "little trencher that could" is the answer, we've had two of them:

Mike, those disc type trenchers don't work in C. Texas. Won't cut rock and hard clay based soils. They are good for outlining landscape beds though, however for the cost I can get two beaners to define edges without the noise.
Taco fueled exhaust fumes are a problem sometimes but there is almost always a decent breeze - I just have to remember to stand up wind.

RandalatA1Sprinklers
11-29-2011, 07:27 PM
I'm looking to pick up a second mini skid steer to work on our new irrigaiton crew next year. This will be our first year with irrigation so I'm completely new to the game. We have planned to concentrate on residential installs and small commercial jobs.

As I'm looking at trenchers to buy I see there are all different sizes and types. What size do most use for this type of work - how deep do the irrigation trenches need to go? We are located in the southeast missouri, northwest tennessee, west kentucky area.

Also I'm looking at a mini skid steer to tug the trencher around. Will a 20 horse gas engine be big enough - like on a Bobcat MT50 or Dingo 420... Or would it be smart to go bigger and diesel to complete these tasks.

Do most trench and then hard pipe in pvc or are you ripping and installing a flexible pipe?

Thanks for the help. :usflag:

Here in Wisconsin we use poly pipe (blue is the best). Usually 1 1/4 main and 1 inch laterals. I have done big commercial jobs with 2 inch class 200 mainline that was looped. Big resort with hundreds of heads and needed every pound of pressure running up and down hills.

RandalatA1Sprinklers
11-29-2011, 07:30 PM
I'm looking to pick up a second mini skid steer to work on our new irrigaiton crew next year. This will be our first year with irrigation so I'm completely new to the game. We have planned to concentrate on residential installs and small commercial jobs.

As I'm looking at trenchers to buy I see there are all different sizes and types. What size do most use for this type of work - how deep do the irrigation trenches need to go? We are located in the southeast missouri, northwest tennessee, west kentucky area.

Also I'm looking at a mini skid steer to tug the trencher around. Will a 20 horse gas engine be big enough - like on a Bobcat MT50 or Dingo 420... Or would it be smart to go bigger and diesel to complete these tasks.

Do most trench and then hard pipe in pvc or are you ripping and installing a flexible pipe?

Thanks for the help. :usflag:

Mainline 12" deep so valve boxes fit right in with no cutting, laterals are 8-10"

Mdirrigation
11-29-2011, 08:34 PM
Trenching and cutting sod , sounds like like mid 1970's methods . Vibratory plows around here since the early 1980's . I did a demo with a dingo with a plow on it , way too slow .
I have a trencher on a burkeen plow , I have used the trencher 2 times in the last 5 years , Once to lay in some 4 inch pipe , and once to trench for an electrician .

Irrigation Contractor
11-29-2011, 10:17 PM
I would love to plow, but the rock down here is on 99% of the jobs that we do. We like the Dingo's but they just do not hold up in the rock and I spent almost $13,000 on parts and chains for just 2 - 320D's this past season. This is one of the reason's we have to charge what we charge and we do the repairs in house.

Pulling pipe is so much faster than trenching, but add enough rocks to fill the bed of an import pickup truck on your average 12 zone system and we have to have equipment that may seem to be over kill by you guys up in the mid-west.

Most people that do irrigation do not need welders and plasma cutters either, but we use them on a weekly basis. LOL

FIMCO-MEISTER
11-29-2011, 11:21 PM
Plasma cutters? I don't even like the sound of that. What state are you in?

txgrassguy
11-30-2011, 02:45 PM
This thread is bad luck - I just smoked another hydraulic pump.
Wash plate was scored all to hell - talked to the guys and found out they decided to "add" hydraulic fluid which wasn't - it was a bucket of used oil from my tractor.
I swear if there was a bounty on dumbass employees I could retire tomorrow.

Wet_Boots
11-30-2011, 03:22 PM
Refuse like that has a way of getting into places you don't want it.

Mike Leary
11-30-2011, 06:24 PM
I just smoked another.

We're lucky, the border patrol guys that stay in our park bring us gifts daily. :dizzy:

Irrigation Contractor
11-30-2011, 07:42 PM
[QUOTE=FIMCO-MEISTER;4230450]Plasma cutters? I don't even like the sound of that. What state are you in?[/QUOTE

We are in TN and I am not kidding. I used to live in Chicago and we pulled poly, but that was way back when I helped my dad back in the early 80's.

When I moved to TN 18 years ago, irrigation was not very popular so I called a guy to price my house. He wanted $6000.00 for a 7 zone system. The other guy told me "If you have to ask the price, then you cannot afford it". So we installed my house, parents, and brothers house. Then the neighbors all started to ask for a price and that is how I got started, this was also when the economy started to boom.

I did most of the systems myself for the first year and it would take me all day to just trench a 7-10 zone system with a walk behind. Then clean all the trenches, load and haul off all the rock to a point where we often need to bring in some topsoil to fill the trenches because we removed so muck rock. The builders are getting better at scrapping the yards down now and putting in 2-6" of top soil so it is better.

I saw a the Dingo one day after killing my back in 100 degree temps, did a demo and bought it right off the trailer. It usually would take 4-10 wheel barrel loads of rock for each job and the Dingo with a bucket was a life saver and we have been using mini loaders ever since.

The equipment takes a beating, I mean when you have to run full welded shark chains daily you can imagine the repairs needed. It is to a point where we cannot use the "crumber" or auger because they shear off pulling up all the rock. My best install foreman all know how to weld and we keep a stick, mig and tig welder ready to go in our fabrication area. We have cutting torches, band saws, plasma cutters and hoists to just work on the machines.

We always joke about the videos Toro, Vermeer and Ditch put out when showing one of their machines trenching. It always looks like a farm somewhere in the mid west with nice black top soil. Our area is more orange, yellow and add some grey for the rock:rolleyes:

txirrigation
11-30-2011, 08:18 PM
This thread is bad luck - I just smoked another hydraulic pump.
Wash plate was scored all to hell - talked to the guys and found out they decided to "add" hydraulic fluid which wasn't - it was a bucket of used oil from my tractor.
I swear if there was a bounty on dumbass employees I could retire tomorrow.

haha x2. My guys brought the kanga back in today with a snapped arm on the kanga. I do a lot of my own welding repairs, but this one is going to the welding shop.

FIMCO-MEISTER
11-30-2011, 09:27 PM
Yeeesh I. C. that sound you heard was TX contractors dropping at the thought of 6,000.00 for a 7 zone system. I know central TX has some serious rock but I doubt they get anywhere close to that price wise.

Mike Leary
11-30-2011, 09:40 PM
the thought of 6,000.00 for a 7 zone system.

Works for me.

txirrigation
11-30-2011, 10:17 PM
Yeeesh I. C. that sound you heard was TX contractors dropping at the thought of 6,000.00 for a 7 zone system. I know central TX has some serious rock but I doubt they get anywhere close to that price wise.

No that sound was the last trailer full of my stuff slamming shut in route to TN. I will have to buy a small bus...errrrr... tin can to haul my swim team* up with me. How is the I.C.E presence in TN? My take a while for my guys to get bootleg I.D.'s.

That's almost a grand a zone... sign me up buttercup.

We have serious rock, that is why every irrigation co worth it's salt has 1-2 30k rock saws. I tried the earth saw attachment, and that lasted about 2 installs before the limestone chewed it up and spit it out.

*Border of Mexico and TX has a river... put one and one together.

Kiril
11-30-2011, 11:24 PM
Works for me.

1K/zone .... sounds about right to me.

Irrigation Contractor
12-01-2011, 01:12 AM
I need to clarify that the price was back in 1998. When I got in it around here, most commercial sites did not get irrigation let alone a model home or your average house. Like me, many people move to TN to get away from big city taxes and all the other problems that come with it. These transplants are used to irrigation and started complaining to the builders that they wanted to buy a house with irrigation and the cities began to put urban enviromental agencies in place forcing the rise of irrigation and its popularity. As the popularity grew came a flood of new companies and most do not know how to sell quality so they use the easy way by making it all about price.

We have a good run for about 5 years at $800-$1000 for a 13 gpm zone, but then the landscapers decided that it would be ideal to get into installing irrigation and give it away for cost to get the landscaping portion of the job. So prices quickly went down to as low as $375 a station and around here you just cannot make money at that price and still be a legit company doing things the right way. It is just impossible to operate, pay taxes and just overall do business on the up and up. We have hovered around the $600.00 plus mark this past year, but of course that number is just a generic price for conversation sake.

Many of the guys that were low balling are gone now, so the prices are actually making a come back in this shitty economy and is the one plus out of the last couple years. We have very few "real" irrigators left around here and the few of us left get paid right once they try all the others.

It was really frustrating back in 2006-2007 watching prices going down, meanwhile we were so busy we turned work away due to lack of labor. When 2008 came, all of our loyal builders came to us and said "Thanks, but times are tough and we are getting prices much less than yours". We know our costs since we use Rain Cad and we draw 80% of our installs so we told them that we could not drop the price and they dropped us.

After 12-18 months of pure frustration with the low ballers they started coming back which put us in a good position to get what we are worth. All of you know what it costs to not only run good install crews, but good service techs all having locators, remotes and all the other goodies. A lot of guys can install and do a decent job at it, but it always comes back to high quality service and quick response times.

arbor pro
12-01-2011, 12:53 PM
I'm looking to pick up a second mini skid steer to work on our new irrigaiton crew next year. This will be our first year with irrigation so I'm completely new to the game. We have planned to concentrate on residential installs and small commercial jobs.

As I'm looking at trenchers to buy I see there are all different sizes and types. What size do most use for this type of work - how deep do the irrigation trenches need to go? We are located in the southeast missouri, northwest tennessee, west kentucky area.

Also I'm looking at a mini skid steer to tug the trencher around. Will a 20 horse gas engine be big enough - like on a Bobcat MT50 or Dingo 420... Or would it be smart to go bigger and diesel to complete these tasks.

Do most trench and then hard pipe in pvc or are you ripping and installing a flexible pipe?

Thanks for the help. :usflag:

left you a pm. call me if you'd like to chat about minis and/or attachments. I still have my sk650 for sale (buyer's financing fell through) and have reduced the price on it. AP

pikewillis1
12-05-2011, 06:25 PM
Call Everett to get a list of used Dingo and attachments that he has.

I know hes got a couple used dingos and a used vibratory plow and trencher attachments

arbor pro
12-06-2011, 10:05 AM
left you a pm. call me if you'd like to chat about minis and/or attachments. I still have my sk650 for sale (buyer's financing fell through) and have reduced the price on it. AP

my phone is (605) 228-9350.

I have 2008 sk650 with 420 +/- hrs, a trencher, broom, stump grinder, grapple and auger. Just sold my vib plow but I see others advertised for around $2500 and could help you find a good used one. Vib Plows work great on a sk650.

scott

Northern Irrigator
10-19-2013, 11:50 PM
I am a long term irrigation contractor and we have typically been a Case Maxi user (we have 5), but have smaller and larger equipment up to a Case 660, mini excavator, etc. We have been doing a lot of drainage work the last couple of years as well and have loved our mini skid, but have had BAD luck trenching with it. It has been underpowered and the trenchers have not held up well. Our other problem is that with a SKID steer the machine is not articulated and you can't turn easily. I am looking a bit at a ditch witch Zaan r300 to add to our fleet as I have heard good things from other irrigation contractors. We are demoing a tracked zaan in the next couple weeks as well as an sk650. Does anyone have any knowledge or opinions on this? We plow and we trench for for irrigation, and I'm told the zaan needs to have a low lift to plow, but we want a high lift and a trencher combination for drainage work. Can anyone tell me about their experiences with mini skid plowing/ trenching and the ability to turn?

TPendagast
10-20-2013, 07:59 PM
Zahns rock! Demoed one... havent talked owner into getting one yet, but my gosh! awesome unit!

Northern Irrigator
10-20-2013, 08:54 PM
I was told by another contractor that they tear up less and can get into areas that you can't get anything else into. He said with the 4 tracks it pulls like nothing else and cornered tighter and better. I just am having trouble getting over the gas motor and smaller HP for the same money...