How to Plan a Utility Trenching Project

Author: Touré Foster

Posted in: Excavation | Landscape Construction

How to Plan a Utility Trenching Project

Perhaps you are building your dream home or adding on to an existing house. You might be upgrading a building or constructing a new one for your business. If you hired a general contractor for your project, he or she would be arranging for the utility trenching and excavation. If you a have a smaller project that does not need a general contractor, or have decided to do the contracting yourself, here is what you need to know about planning an excavation and utility trenching project.

What is a Utility Trench?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), defines an excavation as “any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface formed by earth removal.” More specifically, a trench is “a narrow excavation, in relation to its length, made below the surface of the ground. In general, the depth of a trench is greater than its width, but the width of a trench measured at the bottom is not greater than 15 feet (4.6 m).”

Utility trenches are needed for a variety of services that connect to a building through underground pipes or conduit. The most common are electricity, cable, gas, water, sewer, compressed air and refrigeration. Some businesses view utility trenches as a way to access utilities. When technology changes, the wires or pipes can be efficiently updated. For others utility trenching simply achieves a cleaner look than above-ground pipes and wiring.

Unless you are already experienced with trenching equipment and proper procedures, it may be safer and less expensive to hire a professional excavator to dig and fill your trench.

Whether you are installing a new utility line or removing an obsolete one, installing a water line or sanitary sewer, you need to plan the project in advance. Follow these steps to plan a safe and successful trenching project.

Planning Your Utility Trenching Project

Call Digline (811) before beginning

Calling 811 or visiting will provide the contact information for your local or government utility location service, which is completely free to use. This service will give you the locations of all underground gas, electric, water, sewer and communications pipes and cables in the area. By law you must call Digline before beginning any digging project anywhere in the US.

Plan the route.

Carefully plan the trench route to minimize property damage and avoid other utility lines while meeting your needs. It’s also important to determine the depth and slope that your project requires. Remember to add width to the trench at corners and junctions. Advanced planning can help you avoid having to change your route after you start digging.

Determine the soil type.

Soil type can make the project more difficult. Determine what you are working with before you begin to excavate. Loose stony soils, sandy soils, or wet, marshy soil make excavating the trench difficult and potentially dangerous. In these situations, you will need to plan for and take additional precautions, such as shoring, de-watering and benching.

Obtain the equipment.

Renting a mini excavator can save a lot of work on large jobs. Backhoes and even trackhoes may be needed if the project requires a very deep and/or long trench. If you are an experienced heavy equipment operator, proceed with caution. In the long run, it may be cheaper and safer to hire a professional excavator.

New England Enterprises offers excavation services and can help you with your utility trenching project with less hassle and potential issues. To schedule a consultation for your project, contact New England Enterprises.