If you are digging a trench in your lawn, hand tools such as trenching shovels, mattocks, hoes, and rakes are key to transforming back-breaking labor into easy work. When tackling a long trench (more than 250 feet), you should opt for a walk-behind trencher that will take care of the work quickly and easily.
When using any manual or power trenching tools, make certain to take safety precautions and check with local utilities to ensure your trench will not rupture any underground water, sewer, or power lines.
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7 Useful Tools for Digging a Trench
Each of the tools below is a high-quality item that will make the job of digging a trench that much easier. Whether you’re digging deep trenches, breaking through rocky soils, or cutting through tree roots, the tools on this list will cover your needs.
Corona SS General Purpose Trench Shovel
If you’re digging a drainage trench or laying a water pipe by hand, a trenching shovel is a must-have tool. With its triangular point and strong design, the Corona SS Trench Shovel is the best in class. 5-Star reviews for this shovel show that it has been used to dig trenches as long as 230 feet by hand, easily.
Tabor Tools Pick Mattock
A pick mattock is an indispensable trench-digging tool. The pick breaks up hard and rocky soil easily, while the mattock side chops through tree roots and scrapes out loose soil. The 35-inch pick mattock from Tabor Tools has a fiberglass handle to reduce weight and increase durability, meaning your trench dig will be safer and easier.
If you’re digging a deep trench in hard-packed soil, performing the job by hand is near-impossible. Your best bet is to rent a walk-behind trencher from a reputable dealer. New, these industrial tools cost over $1,000, but can be rented for a fraction of that cost. They will make quick work of even the toughest trench job.
Solidtools Eye Hoe
Even the best trench-digging shovels may struggle with breaking up soil and dragging dirt out of a trench. The Solidtools Eye Hoe is made to hold up to serious digging and soil-moving tasks. The 5-star reviews rave that it holds up where other tools break and makes quick work of heavy soils. A tool like this can chop through stubborn roots as you make way for your new trench.
True Temper Drain Spade
The True Temper Drain Spade has the perfect design for a trenching shovel. The round nose naturally excavates your trench in the proper shape for laying drainage pipe, and the comfort step flares wide enough that you can easily drive this point into the soil.
Ames Saw-Tooth Border Edger
If you need to dig a narrow trench to lay a border around your garden, the Ames Saw-Tooth Border Edger is the tool for the job. Its design allows it to cut through thick sod, soil, and roots and easily carve out a detailed and winding path. It’s the right choice for creating a trench you need before lining your garden with a rock, brick, or other border of your choice.
True Temper Bow Rake
A good garden rake is a perfect complement to any set of trench-digging tools. With this rake from True Temper, you’ll be able to quickly and easily pull loosened dirt out of your trench once you’ve done the initial work with a shovel, mattock, or motorized trencher. Using a rake for this task is much faster and simpler than trying to remove loose dirt with a shovel. You’ll save yourself a lot of time with this one.
Safety Precautions Before Digging a Trench
Before you begin digging, it’s essential to know what utility lines are present in your yard. If you are in the United State or Canada, use the Call Before You Dig service to notify your local utilities of your upcoming trench project. The utility companies will come to your property to mark any underground utilities, ensuring you can dig without breaking underground water or power lines.
- Use 811 to call before you dig, to make sure your trench project won’t damage underground
- Wear hand, eye, and foot protection when trenching.
- Wear ear protection when operating a walk-behind trencher.
- Make sure your work area is free of obstructions that could make work hazardous.
When using trenching tools, always wear proper apparel, including long pants, sturdy boots, and work gloves. Trenching tools are sharp and can be dangerous if mishandled. Make sure all workers operate their tools without endangering themselves or others.
Can You Use a Chainsaw to Dig a Trench?
Never use a chainsaw as a trenching tool. Chainsaws are not meant to come in contact with dirt and rocks. Using a chainsaw to dig a trench will cause damage to the chain, bar, and engine of the saw. Contact with underground rocks can lead to dangerous chain breakages.
Chainsaws are engineered for cutting wood. Avoid any use of your chainsaw where the chain and bar will be forced to cut through the soil.
Can You Use an Edger to Dig a Trench?
Avoid purchasing a trencher and edger tool specifically for trench digging. These tools work great for edging yards but aren’t effective at digging new trenches. They typically have shallow blades that won’t cut deeply or widely enough for effective trenching.
If you’re not digging a trench by hand, the best power trenching tools are industrial walk-behind trenchers available for rent. Less expensive edger/trencher combos are not suited to much more than digging shallow, narrow trenches.
What is the Best Tool for Digging a Trench?
The tool for digging a trench depends on the project at hand. For most backyard trenches, the best process is to make the initial excavation with a trench shovel and pick mattock. Then, shape the trench with a drain spade or hoe. Finally, finish the trench by using a rake to remove excess dirt.
- The traditional trenching tool kit is: trench shovel, drain spade, pick mattock, and rake.
- If the trench must be dug on extremely rocky or hard ground, a walk-behind trencher may be required.
- For detailed borders, use a border trenching tool.
Deep trenches dug on difficult terrain are best excavated using a walk-behind trencher. Digging by hand in rocky ground can be extremely hard work. Use border trenchers for narrow trenches and detailed work. By choosing the right tools for the job, you can make your trench-digging job fast and easy.