Questions on trenching with a backhoe
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    WilliamT.'s Avatar
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    Questions on trenching with a backhoe

    I’m fairly new to operating a backhoe, but I am progressing well. Recently a neighbor with whom I am friends, and who helps me out from time to time (and vice versa) approached me with a request.

    His parents have a broken water line. It was leaking up until today, but apparently it got worse and now the water is shut off. They need help quickly. I’m going up to look the job over in a few minutes. I think a trencher is the best tool for the job, but they are concerned about rocks. They want me to dig it with my backhoe.

    Should that occur, I’m wondering about a bucket. I have a 12” bucket I bought with the thing. That’s way too big. I'm thinking since I’m helping them out, they might be willing to fork out for a bucket to make my life as well as theirs easier. I’ve looked at a couple real quick, but I have no idea on time frame for actually getting one.

    So my question is, am I thinking in the right direction, and if so, what bucket would people recommend? It’ll be going on a 270B.

    Thanks.
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    A 12" bucket it not way to big for your machine. Since you are new to running a backhoe you might just be trying to take too big of a bite in the hard top few feet of dirt. I wouldnt expect someone i am helping to fork out the money for a different bucket that i would ultimately keep. At the most i would ask if they could pay for the rental of a smaller bucket. But I think you will find even an 8" bucket too big if you are trying to take too big a bite at first. Remember to call 811 before you dig. Anyway good luck to ya.
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    +1 on the 811 call ahead of time no matter what anyone thinks....

    a lot depends on the soil you are digging as to bucket size....personally 12" is to small in my opinion....if your ground is wet and sticky many times its very hard to get the bucket to dump out on on each scoup and can be a major pain.......also if you hit rocks for example a 12" rock will be difficult to get out of the trench with a 8" bucket and your trench ends up wider anyway.

    any water line needs to be bedded with sand or a bedding gravel product.....it can be very difficult to do any work in a trench less than 15" ...due to shovel fitting in trench etc. should you need to clean the bottom etc..in most cases also depending on soil types the trench will end up wider than your bucket anyway

    obviously a water line needs to be below frost line in your area

    in my opinion narrower isnt necessarily the way to go

    good luck and report back your experience
    Last edited by ttazzman; 08-29-2019 at 03:36 PM.
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    I use a 12 inch for trenching all the time. You'll need the room to work in the hole unless you know some Majic that I don't..

    I'd guess you are using the arm too much to dig. Less arm, more bucket curl might be what you need.

    Are you patching or replacing?
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    If you are digging very much of the line in it will be pretty painful with a machine that small. If you are just repairing a spot, not to bad, but if its a long water line and you are replacing it all, I'd rent something bigger or just get them to hire it done. Around here, and I assume PA would be about the same, the depth of bury for water lines is 4 1/2 to 5 feet deep. For width, and 8" might be ideal, you only need to get in the hole where the hook ups are. Also anything that deep should have a trench box if someone is in the hole.
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    As others said, call Miss Digg before doing ANY digging, and you can request a rush order due to the circumstances. Otherwise, its a 3 day period around here to get them out, I just had them out this week to mark 7 different properties in our neighborhood.

    Don't try and "guess" whats under ground because if you do and you damage a utility line without having called, YOU are going to pay to repair the utility damaged. I watched some landscapers take out Internet service to an entire end of a neighborhood just before a holiday weekend and were they suddenly very unpopular.....not to mention had to pay holiday over time pay to have the repairs made.....

    Also, water lines are usually below all other utilities except gas lines and sewer lines, so there are plenty of obstacles to reach the water line.

    I would dig with the bucket you have. But dig carefully and make sure everyone's expectations are in line. If you start this, they are going to expect you to finish it. What if the line can't be repaired and needs to be replaced in its entirety? Are you up for that extent of a project with your equipment? Also, if you offer to do the "digging" they might expect that to include shovel work too and if that's a problem, make sure you are clear up front. You don't want to have a heart attack trying to do someone a favor....

    Plan very carefully where you pile soil as you dig so it doesn't impair your movements of the machine or the repair and dealing with the line. Also, be careful because if something else gets damaged, things can change in a hurry from good intentions of helping to bigger expectations of you fixing whatever gets damaged, even if its a well meaning attempt to help and something "unforeseen" happens......

    Unfortunately, I have watched many situations where someone trying to help ends up on the short end of the deal.....be careful and good luck.......

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    I do not "get" from you post that you feel the 12" bucket is too big due to available power from the 260 or 260B backhoe like some others on here seem to?

    It sounds more to me that you are more worried about the scar that will be left in the yard when the job is done and are seeking to reduce it.
    I would rather use a 12" or wider with a deeper trench and I would also think the lawn will heal relatively quickly regardless.

    While I am not in a notoriously rocky area I have not experienced difficulty trenching with my 12" bucket on my 260.
    Large tree roots are an entirely different matter though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RacenJason View Post
    A 12" bucket it not way to big for your machine. Since you are new to running a backhoe you might just be trying to take too big of a bite in the hard top few feet of dirt. I wouldnt expect someone i am helping to fork out the money for a different bucket that i would ultimately keep. At the most i would ask if they could pay for the rental of a smaller bucket. But I think you will find even an 8" bucket too big if you are trying to take too big a bite at first. Remember to call 811 before you dig. Anyway good luck to ya.
    I should clarify a few things, since I’m not always clear except in my own mind. I’m not having any problems at all beyond normal learning stuff with my 12” bucket. It just seemed like a 12” ditch is overkill for a 1” ABS pipe.

    As for the bucket, I am looking for a graceful way to make everyone happy. I am helping them gratis (or intended to) out of my friendship with my neighbor, their son. They insist on paying me. The price of a bucket is about 20% of what this would cost if they hired a real contractor. This way they could buy it and I’ve been "paid", and they don’t feel like they’re mooching, which came up in conversation this afternoon.

    Also. I ran my own custom woodworking business for over 25 years. If I had to buy a tool I needed for a job and was sure I’d use it regularly, I would absorb the cost. If it wasn’t expensive, I’d factor it into my estimate. If it was expensive and likely to take up room and gather dust, I’d make it clear to the customer I needed it and they’d pay for it. It worked out well for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by ttazzman View Post
    +1 on the 811 call ahead of time no matter what anyone thinks....

    a lot depends on the soil you are digging as to bucket size....personally 12" is to small in my opinion....if your ground is wet and sticky many times its very hard to get the bucket to dump out on on each scoup and can be a major pain.......also if you hit rocks for example a 12" rock will be difficult to get out of the trench with a 8" bucket and your trench ends up wider anyway.

    any water line needs to be bedded with sand or a bedding gravel product.....it can be very difficult to do any work in a trench less than 15" ...due to shovel fitting in trench etc. should you need to clean the bottom etc..in most cases also depending on soil types the trench will end up wider than your bucket anyway

    obviously a water line needs to be below frost line in your area

    in my opinion narrower isnt necessarily the way to go

    good luck and report back your experience
    Oh yeah, calling ahead is a given. I already had them check out on permits, etc, but I’ll handle the 811 personally. The chances of anything else being down there are slim, but it doesn’t cost anything to ask. The ground around here is predominately a thin veneer of dirt over shale or limestone. From the hand dug holes they’ve already made, it doesn’t look too bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by MDrew View Post
    I use a 12 inch for trenching all the time. You'll need the room to work in the hole unless you know some Majic that I don't..

    I'd guess you are using the arm too much to dig. Less arm, more bucket curl might be what you need.

    Are you patching or replacing?
    I don’t know any magic, but I do know some strong language. It doesn’t usually work, but it makes me feel better.

    I'm not having any trouble digging with my current bucket beyond remembering which way to move the levers. I learned the curl vs arm early on. This is a complete replacement. The original line is iron pipe, and old enough that they are going to replace the entire line with new ABS.


    Quote Originally Posted by dodgeman View Post
    If you are digging very much of the line in it will be pretty painful with a machine that small. If you are just repairing a spot, not to bad, but if its a long water line and you are replacing it all, I'd rent something bigger or just get them to hire it done. Around here, and I assume PA would be about the same, the depth of bury for water lines is 4 1/2 to 5 feet deep. For width, and 8" might be ideal, you only need to get in the hole where the hook ups are. Also anything that deep should have a trench box if someone is in the hole.
    We decided on a trencher to do most of the work with the backhoe in reserve after I looked it over. I had recommended a trencher initially based on my own experience. The homeowner was afraid he’d break it on a rock. When he showed me the size rocks he was worried about, I laughed and said "They’re not going to be an issue". He replied that that’s what the owner of the machine told him as well. I said to get the insurance and he’d be good.

    Quote Originally Posted by SulleyBear View Post
    As others said, call Miss Digg before doing ANY digging, and you can request a rush order due to the circumstances. Otherwise, its a 3 day period around here to get them out, I just had them out this week to mark 7 different properties in our neighborhood.

    Don't try and "guess" whats under ground because if you do and you damage a utility line without having called, YOU are going to pay to repair the utility damaged. I watched some landscapers take out Internet service to an entire end of a neighborhood just before a holiday weekend and were they suddenly very unpopular.....not to mention had to pay holiday over time pay to have the repairs made.....

    Also, water lines are usually below all other utilities except gas lines and sewer lines, so there are plenty of obstacles to reach the water line.

    I would dig with the bucket you have. But dig carefully and make sure everyone's expectations are in line. If you start this, they are going to expect you to finish it. What if the line can't be repaired and needs to be replaced in its entirety? Are you up for that extent of a project with your equipment? Also, if you offer to do the "digging" they might expect that to include shovel work too and if that's a problem, make sure you are clear up front. You don't want to have a heart attack trying to do someone a favor....

    Plan very carefully where you pile soil as you dig so it doesn't impair your movements of the machine or the repair and dealing with the line. Also, be careful because if something else gets damaged, things can change in a hurry from good intentions of helping to bigger expectations of you fixing whatever gets damaged, even if its a well meaning attempt to help and something "unforeseen" happens......

    Unfortunately, I have watched many situations where someone trying to help ends up on the short end of the deal.....be careful and good luck.......
    Wise words, and thank you for a well thought out post. I am new to backhoes, but I am not new to human nature. We discussed who is responsible for what in great detail this afternoon. I am a machine operator. That does NOT extend to simple machines like shovels and picks. I am not the plumber. He is fine with that. Several former pets may need to be disinterred to complete the line through their rock garden. They know that. He explained about how he’d take care of removing various lawn ornaments, clothesline’s, etc.

    As for the practical parts about the digging, I appreciate the advice. I am new to this. I am hard headed, but I am old enough now that I don’t have to piss on the spark plug to learn the lesson. A huge part of my business of 25 years was teaching. I am open to instruction.

    To everyone: thank you for your responses. I really appreciate the time and effort you’ve put in to give me a hand as I learn a new skill. I will be sure to post a follow up with pictures.
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    Bill

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    WilliamT.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff B View Post
    I do not "get" from you post that you feel the 12" bucket is too big due to available power from the 260 or 260B backhoe like some others on here seem to?

    It sounds more to me that you are more worried about the scar that will be left in the yard when the job is done and are seeking to reduce it.
    I would rather use a 12" or wider with a deeper trench and I would also think the lawn will heal relatively quickly regardless.

    While I am not in a notoriously rocky area I have not experienced difficulty trenching with my 12" bucket on my 260.
    Large tree roots are an entirely different matter though.
    Exactly. I’ve been doing fine with my 12” bucket, but it’s a huge hole. See my response to the others above for details. Rocks are a fact here in eastern PA. The only question is how big are they? So far it doesn’t look too bad, so we are starting g with a trencher with the backhoe in reserve.

    Tree roots? Here’s a picture from some work under a HUGE silver maple in my own yard. And this is just the last bit of remnants. This is the back of the Gator filled up with scraps that were too small for the grapple.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by WilliamT.; 08-29-2019 at 08:25 PM.
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    Bill

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    Right after getting my 1025R I dug a 150' trench for my neighbor using a 12" bucket for a new electric run to his workshop after all was done I would say the only problem was the number of times I had to switch from backhoe to move the tractor another 5 ft or so. Neighbor was pleased with the trench
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