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Hydraulic Trencher

Big Trench? Small Trench? There’s a Machine for That!

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ave you got a pick and shovel in your garage or garden shed? How would you feel about pulling them out to dig a trench? It sure sounds like hard work … and that’s because it is!  I would happily assume that this scenario was a significant contributing factor to the development of the first trench digging machine.  As is the case with machinery, once the concept has been developed, many variations become available for different circumstances.  Below are a few examples of how trench diggers are commonly used.

What Type of Pipework Are You Laying?

There are three important questions which you must know the answer to before you can select the appropriate trench digger for your pipework

1. How wide does the trench need to be?  This is usually determined by your pipework.  Keep in mind that if your pipework will require bedding sand and compaction, like a 100mm (4”) storm water pipe for example, then you need room around the pipe for this to be possible and the trench width will have to be more like 150mm (6”).

2. How deep does your trench need to be?  Again, the type of pipework you are laying mill most likely determine this.  For example, electrical cable must be laid a minimum of 600mm below the surface and have a warning barrier such as orange underground warning tape to alert people conducting future excavations to the potential presence of live power.

3. How long does the trench go for?  Some trench diggers may meet the first two requirements but would take too long to do many meters of trenching and a larger, faster trench digger may be more suitable for the task.

Lawn & Garden Irrigation Pipework

Typically, polyethylene piping (poly pipe) is used for irrigation systems and this often 13mm in diameter, about the width of a garden hose however some larger irrigation systems may have a pipe diameter up to 50mm. Irrigation systems are usually installed between 150mm and 250mm underground and after planning where the trenches for your irrigation system need to go, you will have an estimation of how many meters of trenching is required.

Trenching equipment, such as an irrigation trencher will certainly make this task a lot easier.

Electrical Cable & Pipework (Conduit)

Electrical cable installed underground is often run through a PVC conduit which has common diameter of between 20mm – 32mm.  This can be run at 450mm below ground surface whereas electrical cable not run through a conduit must be installed a minimum of 600mm below the surface.  Common reasons for laying electrical cable is to provide power from the house to the shed or to a water tank pump.

For shorter distances like this, the aptly named “Sparky (as in Electrician) Trencher” otherwise known as a hydraulic trencher is a tried and tested, easy to use machine which will take care of this with ease.  It is also suitable for meeting the Telstra specifications for telephone cable trenches.  Irrigation jobs which running in excess of 20m often choose to use this trencher as it does the job faster than the irrigation trencher.

Stormwater & Sewage Pipework

These pipes will range from 90mm – 150mm depending on their intended purpose and plumbing pipework need to be laid a minimum of 900mm below ground.  This could be anything from running a new stormwater pipe to replacing earthenware sewage pipes or excavating a new house pad for the under-slab pipe network.

A Kanga hydraulic trencher is fast and powerful which makes it great for long straight runs with minimal intersecting junctions.  For this reason, it is also often used for electrical conduit which is being laid over a vast distance.  Where 150mm pipes are used or there is a network of pipes to be joined, an excavator is often the best machine for the job.

Depending on the access width available to the area where the work is to be completed, a 1.5T compact excavator is perfect for this task or even a very narrow 1T compact excavator could be used.


Once you have your pipework laid in bedding sand and are backfilling the trench with displaced soil, compaction is  often required to prevent future sinkage along the trench line. A 60kg plate compactor or hand rammer are a good option to get the job done faster. If the base of the trench requires compaction, an upright rammer will be up to the task.

A Word of Caution

Make sure you know how to use the machinery before commencing work.  This could be from reading the operating & safety instructions, receiving instructions from a hire yard or working with someone who is familiar with the machinery. Finally, make every effort to establish where the existing utilities are before you start digging as this should help you to avoid any nasty accidents which add to your jobs list.  Dial before you dig is a great free resource to home owners which helps with this type of information.

If you need any advice on which piece of equipment is most suited for your project, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

If you would like any guidance or have any questions, please do not hesitate to talk with our friendly team at the Hire Desk. Copyright Centenary Hire 2019. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be used without consent from the author. See below for more details.

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Centenary Hire is a Tradesmen & Weekend Warrior’s best friend. Our ever-increasing range of hire equipment consists of modern tools, machinery, scaffold, access equipment and site services all of which are aimed at helping you get the job done right – the first time. Our friendly staff can help you to choose the right equipment for your project or you can view & book your equipment online now at www.CentenaryHire.com.au. Drop into our store at Sumner Park or request an equipment delivery as our efficient transport service extends well beyond the limits of Brisbane on a daily basis.



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