A trencher attachment in a factory

How To Use Different Types Of Trenchers 

A trencher attachment in a factory

Digging trenches is not easy, but having the right tool makes all the difference. Many trenchers and trenching attachments are available today, but many people don’t know how to use them.

This guide will explore how to use the different types of trenchers and tips to get the most out of these powerful tools. 

What is a trencher?

A trenche­r is a tool used for digging the ground. It can have either a wheel with rim bucke­ts or a boom/ladder with a chain of buckets or scrapers. The machine can move on rubber tire­s or crawlers, and as it moves forward, the ladde­r or wheel rotates to allow the buckets to dig at the front. The e­xcavated soil is then dumped onto a conve­yor belt or chute, which piles it up on either side.

Uses of a trencher

A tractor pulling a trencher attachment
  • Installing irrigation systems. They can dig narrow trenches, enabling farmers to run irrigation lines without disturbing the surrounding soil.
  • Putting in drainage pipes. A trench digger assists installers in digging a channel to fit drain pipes that divert water away from foundations or low-lying areas in the yard.
  • Burying utility lines or cables. A trench digger makes digging a trench easy for those needing to run electrical, cable, or other utility lines underground.
  • Edging or bordering. Some gardeners use a trench digger to cut clean edges along walkways, patios, or garden borders. The tool can assist them in digging down to the required depth in one pass.

How to use different types of trenchers like a pro

1. Manual trenches

Red walk behind trencher in white background

Manual trenchers require some manual labor but can be an inexpensive and effective way to dig trenches. These tools range from simple shovels and picks to more complex mechanical trenchers called walk-behind trenchers. Shovels are best for digging in loose, rock-free soil, while picks help break up compacted soil and rocks. 

When using shovels and picks, start by marking the trench line. Then, dig a pilot trench along one side of the line. Shovel out soil in layers, making the trench broader and deeper with each pass. 

Use the pick to break up large rocks and tree roots in the way. This manual approach requires physical effort, but its benefits are zero fuel requirements and budget-friendliness.

For longer trenches, a walk-behind trencher saves time and effort. These machines run on fuel and have a rotating blade that digs the trench while the operator guides them. The blades can cut 6 to 36 inches deep and 2 to 16 inches wide. 

When digging, the hand trench digger moves the loosened soil to one side of the trench. Some models have an auger that can move the soil away from the trench. Walk-behind trenchers work in most soil conditions except solid rock. 

2. Chain trencher

Yellow chain trencher on tracks

The chain trencher features a rotating chain with teeth that dig into the soil and a conveyor belt that removes the soil from the trench. Appropriate protective gear like steel-toed boots, gloves, eye protection, and ear plugs are needed when using a chain trencher.

An advantage of this trencher is its ability to cut through hard ground where an excavator is incapable of using its digging chain. The trencher can also be adjusted to dig different depths for installing communication and electricity lines, drainage water, and gas pipes.

To operate this trenching machine, first position it where the digging will start. Then, engage the clutch to start the engine and slowly lower the digging chain into the ground using the control lever. As the chain digs, move the trencher along at a steady pace. Move slowly where there is hard, compacted soil and faster if the soil is soft and loose.

Depending on the chain used, the trencher will dig trenches of various widths and depths. Wider chains, like 8 to 12 inches, are good for most utility work, while narrower chains, between 3 to 6 inches, work well for irrigation lines.

Adjust the chain height to control how deep it digs. If digging a shallow trench 12 to 18 inches, raise the chain. Lower the chain if the trench runs 2 to 3 feet deep.

Once large rocks or roots are hit, lift the chain from the ground to clear the obstruction. Then, reposition the trencher and continue digging. 

Upon completing the trench-digging process, lift the chain out of the ground and turn off the engine. Then, dispose of the excess soil to keep the place neat.

3. Wire trencher

Red wire trenching machines outside

A wire trencher is a unique powered trenching tool that cuts into the ground using a vibrating wire that is stretched between two wheels. As the wheels spin, the wire rapidly moves up and down, slicing into the soil. The trencher pulls the wire through the ground using a motor, creating a narrow channel in the dirt. 

Users should inspect the area before operating a wire trencher to ensure no hidden utility lines. This is because striking an underground cable or pipe can cause injury. Operators should also wear protective gear like steel-toed boots, gloves, eye protection, and ear plugs because the machine can throw dirt and rocks and can be pretty loud.

To start trenching, move the wheels slowly over where the digging will occur. As the wire cuts into the soil, it will create a trench. Users can adjust the wire tension using the tension adjustment bolt to increase or decrease the depth.

Control the mini trench digger steadily and make multiple passes to reach the desired depth for the best results. Once finished, clean the wire and wheels to prevent built-up dirt from hardening, then store the trencher upright in a dry location.

4. Wheel trencher

Red tractor with blue wheel trencher

A wheel trencher is another type ideal for digging long trenches to install irrigation pipes or drainage. To properly operate a wheel trencher, users should pick a wheel equipped with digging teeth that match the soil conditions and project needs. 

More complex soils require sturdier teeth, while softer soils need less aggressive teeth. They should also remember that wider wheels provide greater stability on uneven terrain. Considering the wheel size and tooth type will allow the irrigation trench digger to efficiently and effectively dig through the soil on the work site.

Check that all parts like the digging chain, digging wheel, and conveyor are in good working order and perform any necessary maintenance before beginning to trench. Once the check is complete and no issues are detected, set the trenching depth and width based on the project’s required specifications. 

Operating the wheel trencher is straightforward. One needs to move it along the desired path. The spinning digging wheel breaks up the soil while the conveyor transports the soil away from the trench.

To achieve a credible trenching job, move the wheel trencher slowly and adjust the speed based on soil conditions. Hard, rocky soil requires slower movement than working on soft soil.

Make multiple passes when digging wider or deeper trenches, applying light and even pressure. Operators should also trench with the slope of the land because trenching at angles can strain the machine, thus reducing its lifespan.

Stopping clearing debris caught in the digging wheel or conveyor will help prevent damage. When done digging, refill and compact the trench with the conveyor.

5. Trenching attachments and accessories 

Skid steer attachment on an excavator

There are also attachments and accessories designed for tre­nching, which allow operators to dig narrow trenches precise­ly. By connecting them to mini excavators or skid ste­ers, operators gain full control over the trench’s width and depth.

When utilizing these tools, it is essential to select a width corresponding to the required trench width. They come in various sizes, ranging from 6 inches to 36 inche­s wide. If the tool is too wide­, it will cause unnecessary soil disturbance­. Conversely, if it is too narrow, the proper support for the pipe­ or cable being installed may not be achieved.

Once you attach the trench hole digger, its depth using the e­xcavator’s boom and dipper controls, begin with a shallow de­pth and gradually lower the powered trenching accessory into the ground while moving forward. Check the depth frequently with a measuring stick to ensure an even trench bottom.

Moving slowly when using attachments to maintain control and get an even cut is essential, as sudden movements can cause the trench walls to collapse. They should be lowered smoothly into the ground while the excavator is moving forward at a steady pace.

After the pipe or cable has been placed in the trench, use the excavator to backfill the trench with the removed soil and place the soil in even layers, tamping down after each layer. Once full, drive the excavator tracks over the trench to compact the soil. Ensure the ground is level and compacted to avoid dips or weak spots.

Remove the attachment from the excavator and clean the built-up soil before storage. Built-up debris can prevent the skimmer from cutting correctly on subsequent use. A quick scrape and rinse will help keep the skimmer in working order.


The type of trencher of choice depends entirely on the job at hand. Whether needing to dig narrow trenches for laying pipe or wide ones for installing retaining walls, there’s a trencher out there to get the work done quickly and efficiently. With multiple options available, experts and do-it-yourselfers can find an affordable solution to tackle their trenching to-do list. Visit Alibaba.com and find a suitable trench digger for sale today.





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