Recommendation for trenching tools?

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

  1. Steve B

    Steve B LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56

    It will go 5 inches in less than ideal conditions, but it takes more work (just like a spade takes more work when conditions are dry or rocky). More work in that you must lean on the machine a bit and go in 1st gear rather than 2nd.
  2. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    code is 6 inches. I know there are times you wont be able to hit 6 inches in certain conditions but we always try to push that a bit deeper when conditions allow.

    Some areas you should be either deeper or in a conduit.

    Transitions from turf to beds

    Concrete punches especially at turf areas... edgers can go deeper than you think and even deeper when they use a string trimmer.

    Seasonal planting areas.
  3. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,552

    Surprised no one has mentioned a demo hammer yet.

    My Bosch SDS-Max hammer with clay spade is essential in dry, hard, compacted clay soils. The other bits, chisel and bull point, work well for chipping out concrete overpour and are much easier on the operator for breaking out rocks than a pick or bar.

    One can usually be had for $700 to $900, maybe less in this economy. Makita, Hitachi, DeWalt and Hilti offer good ones too.

    They won't cut roots, but sometimes a Sawzall will if loppers and a hand saw aren't big enough.
  4. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    we slit trenched a system today. 250 linenear ft of feed cables and I would say about 50 total ft of runs off the main feed. It was 3 T's but we wound the cable along the beds. Proper cable routing can significantly decrease your burial time.

    2 guys total... sharp spade... heavy foot. 1 hr and 20 min bury time with moderate roots in a wooded type setting.

    I cut the slit and helper put the wires in.

    You guys shying away or not wanting to use a spade... are you wearing footware proper for digging? I would hate it too if I were in Nike's. I like the caterpillar i Tech boots. Very comfy
  5. Classic Lighting

    Classic Lighting LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 502

    Hey guys, great posts. I'm learning a lot about trenching.
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    It amazes me you guys are so passionate about grunt work.

    I think you guys need to come down here and put in wire in the ozark mountains. there is no soil or dirt here that was not brought in. we have rock connected by red clay. trenchers here break regularly. unless you bring in 6 inches of topsoil for your lawn, which 95% of the folks just lay bermuda sod over rock, that spade is not going in more than an inch, and that is if a 300 pound farm boy jumps on both steps.

    I agree that the spade can work quickly if you are in a bed or lawn area where it has topsoil. sand soil is easy.

    The fun part of this job is creating effects on homes, rocks, and plants. the more time I spend on that and the less on grunt work, the happier I am.
  7. Steve B

    Steve B LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56

    That's a good point David. The soil conditions vary greatly and make a huge difference. We've got lots of rocks and clay, but it isn't as bad as what you describe!
  8. Hanau

    Hanau LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,568

    I've rented a Vermeer LM42 6 times to do big trenching. The things an animal. The best lawn size trencher I've ever used.

    So I looked at buying one. They're $40,350. I'm still renting one when I need it.

    What I do have is one of the small Vermeer walk behind trenchers. Gas engine, pull start. Faster than a shovel, not as fast as a lawn plow. Thay're between $4K and $6k depending on what size you get. For what they are they're ok. Not very maneuverable, not very powerful, not heavy enough to get good traction.

    I also have a trenching attachment for my MT 55. It works, just not very fast. The MT 55 is kind of like a Swiss Army Knife. It does a lot, it just doesn't do everything great. It seems like the hydraulics just don't flow fast enough to keep a trencher or stump grinder working as fast as they should. A MT 55 will set you back around $20K+ w/ attachments.

    A good trench clean out shovel is indispensable. Structron is a great brand if you want a good trench clean out shovel.

    I've also used a Ditch Witch ride on trencher. Almost every rental yard in the world has one. They're good for long runs. Slow, but steady. Not sure on cost. I'd guess as much as a LM 42, in which case I'd buy the Vermeer.

    Scout around for a decent used walk behind trencher. They're not great, but if you can find a used one for around $2K you can get your feet wet without having a huge note.

    If you're digging trenches all day, everyday there is a ton of specialty equipment out there for you to try. If youre just using it for landscaping a couple times a week I've found that figuring a rental price into the bid is the best way to go.

    Your mileage may vary.
  9. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    The trenchers your talking about seem like overkill for lighting.

    We have alot of rocky clay here too. It varies by yard depending how the site was prepped. Yesterday we got lucky. There is no substitution for a heavy foot. If your using labor put the biggest guy on the shovel. I know I can kick thru roots over an inch in diameter.

    By the time you go to the yard... pick up your rental... use it... clean it... return it there is a chance you could have already done the job considering backfilling is just as time consuming as digging it by hand the first time.

    I wish I would have taken a moment to take some pics yesterday
  10. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,170

    I can't speak for other guys, but probably 70%-80% of all our wiring is dug and buried right next to the fountation of the house, (less likely to get located by an errant shovel). Anyway, the digging in the backfill of fountations has always been easy by shovel and you could never get a piece of equipment to do it anyway. The only time I rent any equipment is if, like Billy has mentioned with new construction or if I have some very long runs in grass or if I am putting UF down deep with a cable plough. I don't usually ever trench in existing grass, I only will use a cable plough. Just watch those irrigation pipes you are bound to destroy in the process. I would love to have a lineward cable installer, but I just can't justify the expense when I use them so infrequently.

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