How to Use Different Types of Trenchers

How to Use Different Types of Trenchers

Having the right equipment is essential to completing any construction job right. When construction teams need to dig trenches for creating irrigation ditches, laying cables or severing tree roots, a trencher is an ideal machine. Trenchers are heavy equipment designed to dig trenches and provide the power needed for various earthmoving projects.

Jump to a section:

Knowing the types of trenchers available gives you a better idea of which kind to select for your application. Learn more about the types of trenchers and how to use each one.

Types of Trenchers

A trencher is a valuable piece of equipment for construction companies, utility operations or any business that digs trenches. Trenchers come in two main types — walk-behind and ride-on — and offer two different cutting types — wheel or chain. Understanding the kinds of available trenchers helps you choose the best one for your job:

1. Walk-Behind Trencher

Walk-Behind Trencher

The first trencher you can choose is a walk-behind trencher, which allows you to dig in confined spaces. These trenchers are smaller than ride-on trenchers and operated manually. This type of operation makes walk-behind trenchers ideal for work in small areas or enclosed job sites. You can use a walk-behind trencher for small- to medium-sized jobs like digging for landscaping, cable installation or irrigation.

Because walk-behind trenchers require manual operation, they create less damage on the terrain and are less powerful than ride-on trenchers. A walk-behind trencher may not provide the horsepower you need if you have a larger job. However, these machines are ideal for precision trenching. They may also be more affordable because of their compact size.

2. Ride-On Trencher

Another option is a ride-on model that works well for high-performance applications that require greater digging depths. Ride-on trenchers are larger than the walk-behind version and are drivable. This feature makes them ideal for use in large spaces that demand higher horsepower. Construction teams use ride-on trenchers on harder terrain like pavement or rocky soil to create long or deep trenches.

Ride-On Trencher

Ride-on trenchers provide more efficient digging in rugged terrain because of their size, though this makes them unsuited for smaller job sites or hard-to-maneuver spaces. These machines also offer less precision. However, ride-on trenchers require less physical labor from the operator.

3. Wheel or Chain

Both walk-behind and ride-on trenchers come in two different cutting versions:

  • Toothed metal wheel: A toothed metal trencher wheel provides variable cutting depths when working with soft or hard soils.
  • Chain trenchers: Chain trenchers have a chain or belt that can cut through harder ground or dig deep, narrow trenches. This version allows greater control over the depth of the cut.

How to Use a Trencher

The steps for operating trenchers vary depending on the type of machine you're using. However, the basic operating steps for both kinds of trenchers are:

  • Set your speed and boom height, which are usually hydraulic levers.
  • Start the trencher's engine.
  • Turn on the trencher chain or wheel.
  • Disengage the trencher safety, typically located on a handle.
  • Drive your trencher in the right direction, adjusting the speed and depth of the boom as needed.
How to Use a Trencher

Despite the typical steps outlined above, the type of trencher you use may work differently. Here's an overview of the operating differences between the types of trenchers:

Walk-Behind Trenchers

Walk-behind trenchers demand more physical labor than ride-on trenchers since they require manual operation. A walk-behind trencher has a set of handles for the operator to use for steering. The operator pulls the trencher toward them as the machine digs, keeping both hands on the handles. Because they walk backward, operators need to look around for any obstacles in their path.

Ride-On Trenchers

The steering controls for a ride-on trencher are more robust than for a walk-behind trencher. To steer this machine, the operator sits on the trencher and accesses the steering handles and track controls. Operators should always check for debris or obstacles near the trencher and pay attention to the direction of the boom.

Exploring the Many Uses for a Trencher

Exploring the Many Uses for a Trencher

Trenchers provide a versatile, efficient cutting solution for a variety of applications. Take a look at the seven most common trencher uses:

  1. Irrigation ditches: Construction teams frequently use trenchers to dig water and sewer runoff drainage. Underground pipe and sprinkler system installation requires soil removal, and trenchers enable this type of project by digging irrigation ditches. Landscapers also use trenchers to water large sections of land.
  2. Utility work: Trenchers are ideal in utility applications. Gas, electric and cable companies must run wires, cables and pipes below ground. Trenchers are often the solution to this need. Utility companies also dig up the ground using trenchers when they need to reach pipes or cables for repair, maintenance or removal.
  3. Cutting rocks and pavement: Wheel trenchers can dig straight trenches even in tough, rocky ground conditions. Operators use them to slice through dense or solid materials like concrete or pavement.
  4. Creating French drains: French drains are trenches directing surface water or groundwater away from an area. These trenches contain rock, gravel or a perforated pipe. Construction teams save time and simplify the process of building a French drain when they use a trencher.
  5. Severing tree roots: Tree roots can be challenging to cut. Lot clearing operations, landscapers and lawn care professionals can use trenchers to cut plant and tree roots. Some trencher models have a built-in blade designed for cutting roots.
  6. Moving dirt: Walk-behind trenchers are ideally suited for assisting with small-scale earth shoveling tasks. These machines work best when the application requires reaching a depth of 3-4 feet.
  7. High-precision applications: A trencher's maneuverability and controllability make it ideal for digging and cutting jobs that require precision. An example of such an application is creating a trench in rocky ground.
Large Selection of Trenchers for Rent at The Cat® Rental Store

Large Selection of Trenchers for Rent at The Cat® Rental Store

Look no further than The Cat® Rental Store in your area for ride-on and walk-behind trencher rentals at competitive daily, weekly or monthly rates. We feature trenchers, trencher attachments and other products from leading manufacturers and back them with world-class service and support. We'll assist you with product selection and show you how to use a trencher productively and safely. Plus, we'll handle all maintenance and repairs for as long as you have your rental.

Check out our extensive inventory or give us a call at 1-800-RENT-CAT to learn more. You can also get a quick quote online. Rent what you need from a full-service rental company that does whatever it takes.

Find The Cat Rental Store Near You