When Should You Use Hydrovac Excavation Instead Of A Backhoe For Digging A Trench?

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Hydrovac excavation, also called hydro-excavation, is a method of using pressurized water and a powerful vacuum to quickly remove soil from the ground. The pressurized water penetrates the soil, which turns it into a slurry. The resulting slurry can be easily sucked up into the hydrovac unit using its vacuum, where it's stored in a holding tank for later disposal.

When compared to the traditional method of digging a trench using a backhoe, hydro-excavation is faster and much more precise. Hydro-excavation can be targeted to create deep, narrow trenches, which is impossible to do with a backhoe. If your next job requires you to dig a trench, whether you're placing pipes in the ground or creating a drainage system, read on to find out when you should be using hydrovac services instead of relying on the traditional backhoe.

You're Excavating Frozen Soil

One of the biggest advantages that hydro-excavation has over traditional digging is that it can easily create trenches in frozen soil. Frozen soil doesn't break apart easily, so attempting to dig through it with a backhoe is like trying to dig through pure concrete.

In order to create a trench in frozen soil, you'll need to thaw it out first. Thankfully, this is very easy to do with hydro-excavation. A hydro-excavation machine can use heated water instead of cold water to heat up the soil to the point where it breaks apart easily, and the resulting slurry can be rapidly sucked up into the hydro-excavation machine.

If you need to dig a trench during the colder months when the ground is frozen, hydro-excavation will often be your best choice due to its ability to thaw the soil as it digs the trench.

You Need to Avoid Damaging Utility Lines

Hydro-excavation is commonly used in jobs where construction crews need to avoid damaging underground utility lines. While local utilities offer services to mark underground utility lines, they may not be aware of them all. In some areas, the location and depth of utility lines buried in the ground may be completely unknown.

When you need to avoid damaging buried utility lines, hydro-excavation is your best option. A hydro-excavation machine can be set to use the minimum amount of pressure necessary to turn the water into a mud slurry, which minimizes the risk that any buried utility lines will be damaged. Vacuuming up the slurry also has a very small risk of damaging buried pipes or cables.

In comparison, a backhoe will very likely break a pipe or sever cables if it accidentally hits one while it's digging, which can lead to your business incurring fines and losing time on the job while you wait for the utility company to repair the damaged lines. Using hydrovac excavation to dig a trench will greatly reduce this risk to your business.

You're Leaving Your Trench Open

Finally, hydro-excavation is a great choice when you're planning on leaving the trench open after you dig it. When you're digging a trench with a backhoe, all of that soil will be left on the job site. You'll need to collect it (usually using hand shovels), load it into a truck and have it dumped somewhere else once the job is finished. This takes time, and you'll have to pay dumping and transportation fees to dispose of the excess soil.

When you use hydrovac services to dig a trench, however, all of the soil is vacuumed into the machine while the trench is being created. It still needs to be disposed of, but you don't need to manually load all of the soil into a truck and contract another truck driver for disposal. Ultimately, using a hydro-excavation machine to dig an open trench greatly simplifies the process of figuring out what to do with all of the leftover dirt.

To learn more, contact a resource that offers hydrovac services.