How to Use an Excavator to Dig a Trench

There are many different types of digging projects that can be performed on commercial and residential properties. From installing fence posts, removing broken water pipes or placing in septic systems, you need the right equipment based on the size of the project and the type of digging that will be performed.

Small projects such as installing irrigation systems or placing in posts for fences can be performed using handheld equipment such as shovels, post hole diggers, and augers. Trenches used for underground pipes for gas, water or sewer systems, or when installing electrical cables, will require larger heavy equipment such as backhoes, mini excavators, track loaders, and track hoes.

Before the Dig

You need to plan all the details before one shovel attachment lifts up off the ground. If you are excavating already existing pipes and electrical cables or placing in new lines, you have to know what is under the ground before you dig. You can contact your local utility companies or get in touch with Ontario One Call to figure out where gas, water, sewage and electrical lines are located.

Once you know there will be no pipes or lines in your way, you can begin the planning phase for the trench. Decide on how deep and wide the trench will need to be as well as the length. Then you can figure out the types of equipment and shoring materials will be required.

Inspect the Worksite

Perform an inspection of the entire worksite. If the trench will be a small part of a larger development project, decide on the route that the excavator will take when digging a trench to avoid other worksite traffic if dump trucks, skid loaders, and workers will be doing other work at the same time.

Ensure that other equipment and materials are moved from the trench worksite. Also determine if any damage will occur to nearby structures, sidewalks or driveways as well as trees, shrubs and other landscape elements. Create a pathway through the worksite to move the excavator to the digging site if you are renting the equipment from a heavy equipment rental company. Leave room for the rental excavator to be unloaded and loaded on the trailer before and after the trenching project.

Perform an Excavator Inspection

Before using any excavator or heavy equipment, perform a full inspection of the machinery. Fill up engine coolant and engine oil levels. Check hydraulic hoses for loose connections or split lines. Also, lubricate pivot points. Familiarize yourself with the excavator controls so you can efficiently operate the machine.

For residential homeowners who have never operated an excavator before, consider hiring a professional who can perform the work safely. An experienced excavator can work the controls in the appropriate manner. You can hire operators from heavy equipment rental companies based on an hourly rate for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours.

Excavating Trenches

Topsoil Layer Removal

Carefully remove the topsoil layer, up to a depth of 4 inches to 8 inches, as it can be returned to the area after you backfill the trench. Keep it away from the rest of the earthen materials that will be excavated so it doesn’t become contaminated. You can over-seed the topsoil layer if you plan to store it for long periods of time do to the length of the excavation project.

Dig to Desired Depth for First Cut

The first cut into the earth should go down to the full desired depth of the trench. Dig into the soil and remove it in layers until reaching the required depth point. If the trench will have to go at a deeper depth, then you will need to bench the excavation.

Benching involves digging in tiers and removing twice as much soil — widthwise —  as the actual trench. This technique is done to take the load pressure of the soil off the walls of the trench. Normally, a wider shovel bucket is used on the excavator machine to create the bench at intervals of 2 feet to 3 feet in space. Then the excavator with the narrower bucket will continue down to dig the trench to the desired depth. If you are using only one excavator for the job, you will have to dig out the trench walls on the left and right side.

Move Soil to Safe Location

Soil that is removed from the trench should be deposited in a location away from the trench so the soil doesn’t collapse the walls or fall back into the trench. Once your work in the trench is completed, you can move the soil back into the trench to backfill it.

Check Soil Conditions

Soil conditions can impact how long it will take to dig the trench and whether the trench walls will be able to support the weight of the soil. You can also see whether you will have to deal with excessive surface water entering the trench and making the trench walls unstable. Consider these trench wall techniques to keep workers safe and to prevent the trench from caving in.

  • Trench Deeper than 3 Feet: Shore trench walls using plywood sheets and posts.
  • Loose Soil: Perform benching along the sides of the trench
  • Large Trenches more than 3 Feet Deep:  Place in sheet pilings and steel trench boxes
  • Excess water: Install a diaphragm pump and sock pipe to divert water away and remove water from the trench

Check Trench Depth

A laser level can be used to check the depth of the ditch. You can also use a builder’s level. You should do this before walking the excavator forward to dig out another section of the trench so you don’t have the walk the excavator back and risk the chance that the machine’s heavyweight will cause the trench walls to cave in.

This step is also very important if you plan to place in gravity-assisted sewage lines. One end of the trench will be deeper than the other so that water and sewage can travel through the installed pipes. Having the trench graded at the right level will ensure the pipe system is installed correctly.

Once the trench is completed and the depth has been checked, examine the embankments to ensure that they will be stable during the installation process of the materials that will go into the ditch. Shore up any unstable areas and work on smoothing and grading the bottom of the trench manually with shovels if necessary.

Finishing the Project

The final part of the trench excavation involves installing the wiring or pipework for the project. Then you can remove the plywood or steel trench boxes used to shore up the trench walls and backfill the trench using the removed soil. If it is a deep trench, you should refill it in layers and then tamp it down. So you can fill in 8 inches to 10 inches of soil into the trench and then compact it before adding in the next layer. After the trench is filled, you can replace the topsoil and perform landscaping.

Now you know how to excavate a trench for residential and commercial projects. If you have any questions regarding the type of excavator you need, or require an experienced operator to handle the excavation process, contact equipment rental company Rent1.


How Much Do Excavator Operators Earn for a Living?

For people who love working with heavy machinery in the great outdoors, a career as an excavator equipment operator may be to your calling. An excavator operator handles excavator equipment for commercial and industrial use or will rent out their services to residential homeowners who need the experience of an operator to perform small jobs on their properties.

Here at Rent1, we are a heavy equipment rental company that provides excavators, skid steers and other machinery for commercial, industrial and residential clients. We offer over 60 rental machines that are practically brand new as we sell off our old equipment after a few hundred hours of use (or less). On occasion, we are contacted by people wondering how to become an excavator operator as they are curious to learn how much they could make as their hourly and yearly salary.

If you have been wondering what an excavator operator can make in Canada, here is some helpful information to use. You can learn how much an excavator operator can earn in Canada, the required experience, and the types of tasks that they may have to perform.

Excavator Operator Requirements

Excavator operators have a variety of job tasks to perform based on the company they work for and the industry. Their main tasks may involve digging holes and trenches, moving materials and debris, clearing land, landscaping and demolishing. An excavator operator can work in harsh conditions such as rain, sleet, and snow. They may also work in remote locations such as mines and forests. They have to be able to handle extreme conditions such as cold, heat, noise and dust. Some of the industries where excavator operators may work in include landscaping, agricultural, construction, mining, energy, alternative energy, and demolition.

Excavator operators need to have good communication and team-building skills. They may work alone or as a team on large construction and development projects. The operator needs to constantly be aware of the environment they work in and the changing conditions that can impact their work productivity and output. Mechanical skills are also desired as the operator should possess attention-to-detail, have good eyesight and be in relatively good shape. In addition, excavator operators have to fully understand all safety protocols and policies set forth by their company as well as local operator codes.

Excavator Operator Education

A person can become an excavator operator with simply a high school diploma or equivalent. They will learn the skills through a formal apprenticeship and on-the-job training. Other people may also obtain college-level classes in mechanics or construction and obtain hands-on-experience when attending a trade school. Formal training may open up more job opportunities for a person to find the salary and company that will be the perfect fit for them. Licensing, certification and possessing a commercial license may be required for some heavy equipment operators.

Excavator Operator Salary

An excavator operator in the Canada area can earn an average rate of $18.66 per hour to $35.91 per hour depending on the industry and work requirements. The average hourly salary is normally about $26.04 to $27.71 in Canada. Annually, an excavator operator in Canada can earn about $39,824 a year to $82,520 a year. The national average year-end salary is about $57,000.

This pay rate was compiled from April 2018 annual data, as certain industries may pay less or more than this annual average rate. In addition, some companies will need the excavator operator to work weekends, overtime and night shifts. An excavator operator who works overtime could possibly earn $14.29 an hour to $50.50 per hour in additional pay on top of their hourly rate.

Factors that Impact Excavator Operator Salaries

There is a range of different factors that can impact how much an excavator operator makes in Canada. The location and sparseness of qualified operators can make the salary more competitive, as an excavator operator may be offered additional benefits. In addition, the type of industry may also increase the hourly rate. Excavator operators who will work in more dangerous areas or work environments, such as mining, construction or energy industries, could possibly see different hourly rates versus an excavator operator working in landscaping or grading jobs.

The job experience will also impact excavator operator salaries. Excavator operators who have worked in this industry who are in a late-career position could see an increase in their annual $57,000 salary by up to 10%. A mid-career excavator operator could actually see a decrease in the annual year-end salary by 1% while an entry-level operator’s salary could be decreased by more than 8%. An experienced excavator operator who isn’t entering their late career can see an increase in salary by up to 5%.

Another factor that may increase an excavator operator’s salary is his knowledge of other heavy equipment. If the operator also knows how to use track loaders, skid steers, and loaders may also be compensated by their particular company for having this additional knowledge and experience. This compensation is due to the fact that the company would not have to spend more money or time hiring another worker to operate the other heavy equipment. Also, the company won’t have to spend more time training the excavator operator on how to use this other equipment. Having an understanding of safety compliance may also have an impact on how much a person can earn as an excavator operator.

Excavator Operator Opportunities

There are many industries out there that have the need for an excavator operator. If there is no one specific industry that a person would like to work for so long as they can get into the cab seat of an excavator, they may decide to work at a heavy equipment rental company. Heavy equipment rental companies work with a variety of industries such as farming, mining, construction and landscaping as these businesses provide experienced heavy equipment operators and reliable machinery for different projects. Excavator operators working for heavy equipment rental companies may also help residential homeowners who are in need of an excavator yet are not confident enough to drive the heavy machinery themselves for several hours.

Renting an excavator and an operator is desired by many commercial and industrial companies for short-term and long-term work. This work opportunity can be a great benefit to excavator operators who are looking for temporary or extensive projects based on their salary objectives.

If working with your hands and with heavy equipment at various work sites is something that you are interested in, consider becoming an excavator operator. The chance to work in such an environment as part of a team can provide you with a satisfying career.


Excavator Rental Rates: Renting Heavy Machinery for the Job

When it comes to heavy equipment needs, homeowners and contractors require the right machine for the job. You may need to move loads of stones for landscaping or driveway use, excavate a trench to lay in pipework, clear out a construction site, or place in grading.

Owning the heavy machinery may not be in your construction budget if you are a contractor, miner or landscaper. In addition, you may work at various job sites where you only need an excavator or track loader for a short length of time. For residential property owners, buying such heavy equipment is not feasible for your means as you may only need the machine to perform one specific project for a few hours.

Renting heavy equipment from a reliable and trustworthy heavy equipment rental company offers the cost-effective solution that residential property owners, contractors, farmers, miners, landscapers and others need for specific work tasks. Here at Rent1, we offer a wide variety of heavy equipment, from mini excavators to skid steers, that will fit your project and your budget.

One common question we often hear at our company is, “how much does it cost to rent an excavator per hour?” The answer will depend on the type of excavator you need, the delivery costs, and a minimum per hour rate for the machinery and the operator. Check out our following guide to learn about our heavy machinery and operator rates.

Heavy Equipment Hourly Rental Costs

Our heavy equipment rental costs are based on a minimum per hour rate of 6 hours. We require a minimum per hour rental rate to cover the fuel, transportation, operator pay and delivery charges. In addition, most projects that require our heavy equipment usually last up to 6 hours or more, which is close to a full 8-hour work day. Hourly costs will vary based on the type of equipment that you are renting. We offer mini excavators, compact track loaders and skid steers on an hourly rate.

Mini Excavators

Mini excavators are perfect for those small and medium digging jobs, as well as large trenching work where site space may be restricted and cannot accommodate larger excavator machinery. Our mini excavator hourly rental rates include the operator, mini excavator, and a hydraulic thumb. There is a 50% delivery discount on our mini excavators.

  • John Deere 17D Mini-Excavator: $80 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 27D Mini-Excavator: $90 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 35D Mini-Excavator: $90 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 50D Mini-Excavator: $110 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours

Skid Steers

Skid steers are used to carry loose soil, stones, sand, snow, construction materials and debris anywhere at a commercial/industrial site or private property. You can also grade land, install fences, perform landscaping projects, as well as load dump trucks. The hourly rate for a skid steer includes the machinery, operator and fuel. There is a 50% delivery discount on our skid steer rentals.

  • John Deere 313D Skid Steer: $85 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 315D Skid Steer: $85 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 317D Skid Steer: $85 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 318D Skid Steer: $95 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 320D Skid Steer: $95 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 325D Skid Steer: $95 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 326D Skid Steer: $100 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 328D Skid Steer: $100 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 332D Skid Steer: $100 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours

Compact Track Loader

A compact track loader can perform all the same work as a skid steer. Yet these machines have high flotation rubber tracks instead of wheels. A compact track loader is ideal for projects on worksites with poor ground conditions or on sensitive surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways. So you can move materials and debris or use the machine to grade land. Just like our skid steer rentals, there is a 50% delivery discount on our compact track loaders.

  • John Deere CT315 Compact Track Loader: $95 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 319D Compact Track Loader: $95 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 323D Compact Track Loader: $105 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 329D Compact Track Loader: $105 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • John Deere 333D Compact Track Loader: $115 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours

Heavy Equipment Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Rentals

In addition to offering hourly rates, we also provide daily, weekly and monthly rates for some of our heavy equipment rentals for regular residential use and for corporate and industrial use. Equipment available for daily, weekly and monthly rentals include:

  • Full Excavators
  • Crawler Carriers
  • Loaders and Teleloaders
  • Backhoes
  • Articulated Dump Trucks
  • XUV/UTV Utility Vehicles

Heavy Equipment Operator Costs

You may own the heavy equipment, but you are without the machine operator who can expertly use it to finish the job. Here at Rent1, we have experienced heavy machine operators who can efficiently perform small and large projects as they can save you time and money So whether you are inexperienced at operating the heavy equipment rental or your regular operator is out sick or has a family emergency, we have the professional at the hourly rental rate that is perfect for your budget.

  • Mini Excavator Operators: $80 to $110 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • Skid Steer Operators: $85 to $100 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • Loader Operators: $95 to $115 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • Dozer Operators: $110 to $150 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • Crane Operators: $110 to $150 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • Roller Operators: $110 to $150 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours
  • Grader Operators: $110 to $150 per hour for a minimum of 6 hours

Our operators can be used to perform the following project types.

  • Utilities (electric, gas, telecom, fiber optic, cable)
  • Water line
  • Sewer line
  • Site preparation
  • Foundation: commercial, high rise, industrial, residential
  • Land clearing
  • Drainage
  • Demolition
  • Specialty indoor excavation, concrete removal, etc.

Delivery Rates

Our delivery rates are based on location. These prices include delivery to and from the worksite. Additional delivery rates may apply as you may also be eligible for delivery discounts.

  • Surrey, Langley, New Westminster, Delta, Coquitlam: $75
  • Ladner, Tsawwassen, Richmond, Vancouver, Poco, Port Moody, Burnaby, Coquitlam, White Rock: $85
  • North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Mission: Call for delivery rate

Rent1: Your Heavy Machinery Rental Company

When you need heavy equipment for residential, commercial, agricultural or industrial projects, don’t buy used equipment when you have access to over 60 new rental machines that are a part of our fleet. Call us today at 604-442-RENT (7368) for equipment, operator and delivery rental information and pricing.