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I need to dig a 2 feet deep trench, about 100 feet long.

Has anyone used one of these trenchers? The first one in particular?

What was your experience?

Any alternatives? Does Home Depot or any other US national chain offer something similar?

Edit: The trench is for a french drain system. My soil is mostly clay underneath. I should also mention that I may be going trough roots of a big old tree that was recently cut.

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What are you putting in the trench? What is the soil like? – Jay Bazuzi Apr 19 '11 at 5:17
See my edit please – Peter Q Apr 20 '11 at 3:23
I was trying to get a sense of the size of the trench. Let's assume 6" - 12". – Jay Bazuzi Apr 20 '11 at 4:59

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

A power trencher, or Ditch Witch, is a fairly easy machine to use. Most are self propelled. You may check some local rental stores as well as HD, as you will probably need a trailer to transport the machine and most rental stores include it in the price.

Before you attempt to use one of these monsters, be absolutely sure to call DIG SAFE @ 1800-digsafe. You must have the utility companies come and certify that there are no buried lines, wires, gas etc. It is the law, so don't forget to get it done. There is no charge for this service. If you don't and hit something, you can be liable for huge costs and fines.

A Ditch Witch usually only digs a narrow path for laying wire or pipe. The path width would be a bit shy for a good drainage system as you will not have enough width to add the proper crushed stone base and surrounding gravel bed etc.

Assuming you are installing wire or pipe, be sure to get some warning tape to install a few inches below the ground grade to warn future excavations that utilities are buried benieth. Good Luck.

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Good answer as usual, shrilock. Thanks! – Peter Q Apr 20 '11 at 3:24
Remember that the call-before-you-dig markings are only required to locate lines owned by the utility company. After the meter/demarc/whatever, it's your problem. Use your knowledge of underground infrastructure to fill in the blanks. Also, they sometimes mark in the wrong place or fail to mark something. Be careful! – Jay Bazuzi Apr 20 '11 at 4:56
Jay is right, dig safe only looks for utility owned obstacles. Privately installed lines/pipes are at your own risk. Thanks for adding that Jay. – shirlock homes Apr 20 '11 at 10:34

I rented a trencher at Home Depot that had a large wheel with teeth. Simpler than the ones you've shown. I only needed a 1" wide trench for 3/4" PVC pipe.

I found it very easy to use.

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I'm afraid the HD one doesn't go deep enough. – Peter Q Apr 20 '11 at 3:25

No. I have not personally used any of the trenchers listed at that rental store.

There a variety of trenchers available for rent. Many of the Home Depot stores will rent a smaller Barreto 18" trencher that, depending on local code, can accomplish much of what the homeowner may need done (irrigation systems etc). However, if you want to trench deeper you will need to either rent a larger trencher (Ditch Witch, Toro, Barreto, etc…).

My personal preference is to rent a utility loader and trencher attachment. The depth on the trenching attachment can then be controlled in order to vary the trench depth between 1" and 48" (depending on the length of the attachment).

Trenching attachment connected to a Toro Utility Loader.  Costs a bit more to rent, but the extra power and depth options make it well worth the cost.

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