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Mini Skid & Trenchers - Help Please

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by pblc, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. pblc

    pblc LawnSite Member
    from South
    Messages: 232

    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:
  2. Irrigation Contractor

    Irrigation Contractor LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 423

    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.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2011
  3. NC_Irrigator

    NC_Irrigator LawnSite Bronze Member
    from NC
    Messages: 1,445

    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.
  4. greenmonster304

    greenmonster304 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,675

    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
  5. txgrassguy

    txgrassguy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,083

    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.
  6. pblc

    pblc LawnSite Member
    from South
    Messages: 232

    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.

    Messages: 18,668

    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.
  8. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,552

    Does anyone out there use a sod-cutter in advance of trenching?

    DIXIECONTRACTING LawnSite Senior Member
    from NY
    Messages: 283

    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.
  10. txirrigation

    txirrigation LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 977

    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.

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