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Trencher vs. Pick & shovel

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by KindGardener, Aug 30, 2001.

  1. KindGardener

    KindGardener LawnSite Member
    Messages: 186

    I've installed a few sysytems, using my maintenance crew to dig trenches for irrigation pipe.

    My questions are:

    When does it pay to rent a trencher?

    Should I listen to the guy at the rental counter when he says "dont try to use it if there are ANY tree roots". (that's fine for new contstruction, but not on older homes... )
  2. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,931

    I've been in that boat before. Hede some sound advice, if your going to continue doing irrigation, forget the crew and buy yourself a small trencher. New, it's going to run you around $2000, but will pay for itself real fast. Second, Now take your crew, and go do more maintenace acounts while your doing the trenches.

    What use to take us a day to trench, we now do in 2 to 3 hrs. I'm able to do more work, at the same time make more of a profit.

    If you intend to do this kind of work, get the machines. They always show up for work, never complain about backaches, most of all, they listen to you.

    If you don't want to put out a lot of money, get a used trencher from a rental yard. A good place to start out is United Rental's, though they are on the high side. Start with a used machine if you don't want to put out alot. I bet you will tell yourself, why didn't I do this before.
  3. fivestarlawnken

    fivestarlawnken LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 438

    The trencher is really the only way to go without killing yourself.Years down the road the machine will still be alive and kickin and so will you and your employees.:p
  4. KindGardener

    KindGardener LawnSite Member
    Messages: 186

    John - thanks for the comments. Over the past year, I've found your posts to be consistently worth reading!

    What brand do you recommend. I have similar size constraints as you (small yards, limited access, etc).
  5. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,931

    I am now using a trench master by brown industries.See pic... I will be buy something that is better than this machine, but for now, let's just say I made more than the cost of this machine in the last two weeks. Having the machine does make a difference. I use to use a trailer to haul this around, but now have a good set of ramps and take in back of work truck. If you do good work, expect the machine to pay for itself in at least 6 months. If money is an issue, look at sheffield financial. Most dealers have a working relationship with this company. Can take a loan over a year, 2 years, 3 years. They can give you an answer in less than an hour if you qualify. As to brand, I would look into what your local dealers can get and service for you. Expect to pay somewhere around $2200 for a basic machine like mine.


  6. KindGardener

    KindGardener LawnSite Member
    Messages: 186

    So how does THAT work out... I can see ripping through a front lawn full of dead crabgrass, bu how 'bout when you are in an existing landscape that has, say, a mature carrotwood tree (with a 3-4" thick mat of roots that a pick bounces off of!) and you really have to trench 3' from the trunk, or say, a Queen Palm that has a thick thatch that extends out from the trunk.

    The rental place says "no way" in these situations. I want to know what will this equipment actually stand up to? (do the situations I describe constitute abuse?)
  7. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,931

    A matt of root that thick is no problem. Look at this this way, would be the same thing as going through heavy clay rock soil that we have up here. It will take you sometime, but a lot faster than doing it by hand. I will forewarn you that you can break teethe on blade\chain this way. Hence, the reason they will call it abuse.

    Now a root that is 3" or more is something else different.That is a one time thing that you will have to use an axe and pick to get through. Nothing that I'm aware of will go through somethig that big. I WOULD NEVER CUT A ROOT THAT BIG. You have to dig under the root or notch the root with an axe.(I still wouldn't do it this way.) With out seeing a pic, I couldn't tell you how to do it.

    There are some things that still have to be done by hand.(pick, shovel and axe). Even when working around main water lines, gas, ect.. should be done by hand when within 2 ft of water and 4 ft of gaslines.

    Why do you have to go so close to tree. Why not use dummy pipe(flex pipe)? Is the ground always going to be dug up in this area? if not, this is a viable option.
  8. KindGardener

    KindGardener LawnSite Member
    Messages: 186

    Thanks for the info. I guess I was hoping to hear about a trencher that worked like a stump grinder.

    I actually used a rental Praxis to "grind" the top 6" of that yard that had that mat Carrotwood roots. Worked well - it was silty soil so I added several yards of mulch. The owner has planted lots of small natives & perennials.

    I've only been doing irrigation installs for a year - I pretty much work with just 3/4" & just started using black flex funnypipe.

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