Working on a trenching project means different things to different people. Applications vary as much as the required trench depth and width.

To some, a trench needs to be several feet wide and deep to place a culvert for drainage. For others, it is a shallow channel in which they can bury low-voltage wiring or water lines for sprinkler systems. Just as the applications vary, so do the solutions to efficiently tackle these applications. Mini-trenchers can offer versatile equipment solutions that can take on a wide variety of applications and provide quick results.

Some landscape contractors appreciate the easy handling and operation of small trenchers over manual digging or using a large, chain-driven trencher, which can cost almost 10 times as much as a mini-trencher.

Mini applications

Mini-trenchers can offer operators a solution for shallow trenching, especially in the Southern states where frigid temperatures are not as common.

Shallow depth trenching, about 12 inches deep and 2 inches wide, works for a variety of applications from sprinkler systems to electric underground dog fences to cutting trenches for propane. It also takes on surface root pruning and installing plumbing and drainage lines, as well as low-voltage wiring, such as for a satellite dish, cable or phone lines or landscape lighting wires.

Speedy ROI

Compared to bulky-to-maneuver and intimidating chain-driven trenchers or the back-breaking work of shoveling by hand, mini-trenchers can cut through tough soils without strain. They can be easy to handle, offer fast cutting speeds, cut cleanly and reduce worksite damage — all benefits to an operator’s efficiency.

Safety and simplicity will further impact efficiency. Mini-trenchers that allow operators to push the unit by walking forward rather than backward give users full control and enhance safety by enabling consistent sight of their travel path. Some forward walking units cut as fast as 30 feet per minute, which helps customers accomplish tasks quickly, especially when compared to larger chain-driven trenchers. Using a mini-trencher can save time and trench 20 percent faster than chain-driven units.

Trenching is only half the job. Backfilling and cleanup requires time and effort as well, so it’s important to look for designs that minimize cleanup. Search for a mini-trencher that piles dirt neatly to one side. This can reduce backfill times by as much as 50 percent over those models that kick it out to both sides. Not only does that cut backfill and cleanup time, but it also creates less of a mess. It minimizes soil cupping since the trench is narrow and allows for the area worked to rehabilitate back to its natural state quickly.

Consider mini-trenchers that feature pneumatic tires that don’t affect turf. Contractors won’t have to spend extra time repairing damaged turf caused by tracked machines, skid-steers or other self-propelled units like chain-driven trenchers.

When an operator can push a mini-trencher by walking forward rather than backward, it gives the user full control and enhances safety by enabling consistent sight of the travel path.

Look for features that simplify maintenance and reduce downtime

Mini-trenchers that feature replaceable blades and teeth can give contractors more options for different soils. A mini-trencher with heavy-duty rock teeth can easily handle tough, rocky soil areas and cut through asphalt. The same mini-trenchers also come equipped with a cutting blade option suited for loose, sandy soil types.

Required maintenance also impacts overall value and ROI. And it could mean the difference between staying productive on the job and experiencing downtime waiting on lengthy repairs. Mini-trenchers that incorporate a built-in slip clutch guard the drive train from shock if the trencher hits a rock or obstacle by stopping the blade from turning, protecting the equipment. It also protects the cutter teeth and belt from excessive wear and damage. Look for models that feature bolt-on blades or cutting teeth, so replacement will be simple and inexpensive. Some models weld teeth directly on the cutting wheel, causing the entire wheel to need replacement when a single tooth is damaged.

Final cut

Mini-trenchers are a versatile and valuable tool for a wide variety of landscape applications. These units help operators decrease damage and get trenching projects done quickly. Just because they are mini doesn’t mean users will see a small return on their trencher investment.