Recommendation for trenching tools?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Classic Lighting, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. Classic Lighting

    Classic Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 512

    After doing about a dozen job, I have decided it's time to stop doing it the hard way with a spade. What does everyone use to trench wire into the ground? I'm looking for everything from hand tools to power tools. Any recommendations?

  2. jshimmin

    jshimmin LawnSite Member
    Messages: 99

    Most of the time you are near structures or plant material that can not handle machine trenchers. Search ebay for "HAND WIRE TRENCHER" and you will see a device that I use when possible. I'll do a dozen a month and they are still done mostly by hand devices.
  3. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    A dozen jobs and ready to ditch the spade? :) As Artie Lang would say: "Whaaa"

    There are a number of different 'shovels' that we use to do our dirty work. You can find them at better irrigation suppliers. Cleanout shovels that range in width from 1 1/2" to 4" with long fibreglass handles work great for trenching in gardens. In sod you want a good sturdy flat spade for slit trenching. Then of course there is the much beloved pick axe for gravel drives and hard pack clay/forest floor, etc.

    Once you have your techniques down you will move much more quickly and cleanly across the landscape than any machine, and do much less damage and clean up after the fact too.

  4. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    Take this as you will.

    This has been discussed in details so flip back thru the pages but.. There is no substitue for good quality digging tools. Keep your spades reasonably sharp. As James said Irrigation tools are a must have. We usually have 5 different types of shovels but my laborers seem to preffer the shorty D handle types as do I.

    I still do much of my own burials. One of our selling points is we hand install everything with care. You can usually never tell we were in there once we are done. I touch up mulch or straw if needed and water down lawns.

    With that said we also have a trench master machine that cuts 1.5 inches wide by 7 inches deep. It makes a bit of a mess on lawns but can be useful in wooded areas we encounter alot. 99% of the time we still grab the shovels and jump in.

    Really the only time I preffer the trencher is when we are prewiring a system before sod goes down. Then it is a lifesaver.

    Hand install your systems. Charge accordingly. Your clients and the landscapes will thank you for it. Keep in mind there is also less damage with hand digging. You are much less likley to cut a phone wire or irrigation line when using hand tools. That in itself is a huge time and money saver
  5. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    What Billy said! All very good points. :clapping:
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    Ok, I'll take the other side to this. I hate the shovel work too and I almost always have the guys do it. I agree with all the points above, and I think that the trencher is overkill, but that is because the ones out there are really made for trenches for small irrigation lines and usually are an inch wide and can go 7-10 inches deep or so.

    we do need a machine that is essentially a souped up modified stick edger that creates a trench 3/8" -1/2" wide and 3-6 inches deep. it would need a good guard for racks and debris and probably an engine in the 60-80cc range, and a 12" carbide sawblade about triple thickness, 1/4-3/8" thick with teeth that you replace.

    my employees and I already cut roots, irrigation,cable and telephone lines that are that close to the surface by using my sharp spade and jumping on it to create the slit we currently bury wire in. If I had a super stick edger, I would at least have the benefit of saving money on labor.
  7. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    David I really wonder how much you would save when you consider these points.

    A gas powered digging machine needs alot of maint.

    Cost of that maint...fuel...consumables such as the blades

    What about clean up ? Nearly no clean up when we slit trench. Just stomp on it and blow it off. When we use the trencher it takes me longer to backfill and make the area look acceptable.

    When using a trencher the area settles later leaving a line. I am sure we have all seen irrigation rutts in lawns long after systems have been installed.

    Check with your liability insurance carrier about using a trencher. I know it affected mine.

    When all is said and done I dont think you will save that much $$ vs hand installing it. If it saved you 50 per job using a trencher I would just charge 50 bucks more.

    Sorry for the long post but we are going out to bury a job we installed last week either Wed or Thursday and I will try to post some pics on our burial techniques. I know i need about 250 linear feet of wire buried and I am guessing it will take me and a helper about 1.5 hours.
  8. Steve B

    Steve B LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56


    Visit If you ask the owner (Andy) he can provide you with a custom wire feeder that is wide enough for 12/2 wire. He made one for me several months ago and it worked great. Dog fences are my primary business, so I already have two of these machines. They have Honda engines, so maint. is pretty much changing the oil twice a year. The blade is 14", 3/8" thick, with carbide blades. It will probably last a lifetime. The machine digs 5" deep. If you're using it in a nicely sodded area, you won't be able to see much evidence where you dug. After the first rain, you won't be able to find any evidence at all. The machines aren't cheap - so it will be up to you if the expense is worth it.
  9. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    Slit trencher, 4" trenching shovel, hoe, leaf rake, determination and a very large water bottle. nuf said...
  10. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    bravo tim. If you dont want to bury wire hire labor... if you dont want to bury wire or hire labor find a different line of work.

    I still like to be able to tell clients its hand installed. That DMR trencher doesnt go deep enough. You said 5 inches but that is probably in optimal conditions.

    Try a nice little D handle spade. Kick it in at about 20 degrees off perpidicular to the sod. Push down... lift up. We like to trench it all first then go back and use the spade like a shoe horn to open the trench and tuck the wire in... 12 inches at bed edges or other probable to cut areas.

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