Digging a Trench Cost

Last Updated on December 23, 2022 | Written by CPA Alec Pow
First Published on February 4, 2021 | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popivker

Trenches are made for a range of reasons, but for the most part, these trenches are dug to set up cable lines and to aid set up drain, electrical, and sewer system.

Trenching can be made with the help of hand-trenching tools, trenching shovels, walk-behind trenchers, bed edger trenchers, wire trenchers, or ride-on trenchers. Manual trenching is typically great for small tasks, and for larger jobs, renting a trencher is usually the best idea.

Just how much does trenching cost?

The expenses of digging a trench will depend upon the soil, how deep it will be, what’s being set up, the equipment being utilized, and if any obstacles, such as rocks or roots, are in the way.

You might also like our articles about the cost of a backhoe, a mini excavator, or to dig a well.

Typically, the expense of digging a deep three-foot deep trench can vary anywhere from just $2 to as high as $10 per foot, with the majority of specialists, depending upon the devices being used. This average will consist of the minimum day-to-day charge most specialists will charge to come to your place to start the project. In many cases, you should be prepared to pay a minimum of $100 for a professional to even start digging or even more if you were to need something larger than a Ditch Witch. Usually, the longer the trench is, the lower the rate per foot can be.

A contractor on JustAnswer addressed this exact question, noting that a 10-foot long trench with soft soil and minimal area might cost about $1,000 to $1,200, bringing the overall to about $100 per foot. Nevertheless, if the trench were 500 feet long and a ditch witch were made use of, then the expenses could be less than $50 per foot and even less, again, depending upon the soil.

WirelessEstimator, for example, notes that the expenses can differ depending upon the width and depth requirements, but for the most part, it’s best to be prepared to spend $4.70 per foot for the trench digging alone. These expenses might increase if the professional would have to remove any rock or excess concrete in the way. This price quote will not consist of the conduit or conductor positioning.

On another online forum, MikeHolt.com, a forum member noted that you should be prepared to spend $1.50 per foot, per foot. A one foot long, two-foot deep trench, for instance, would cost $3. Obviously, there would be a minimum required if you only needed one foot to be done as an independent job.

Given that all tasks are going to differ, you should try to make use of websites that provide free quotes.

Trenching summary

The price quotes discussed above will include the labor, equipment, trench digging, and sometimes, the backfill once the task is done. Before the work even starts, a professional will check the soil conditions and aid to mark any underground energy lines/obstacles.

Typically, depending upon the technique being utilized to dig the trench, it can take an operator one hour to dig 12 feet of 5 feet deep of trench with the help of a backhoe. If the trench will only be 3 feet deep, then this length can double to about 24 feet. If digging by hand, the typical competent contractor might take up to an hour to dig a three-foot-deep trench that’s one foot long. When it comes to smaller trenches for conduit, these numbers could be much higher.

What are the additional expenses?

Quick Trench DiggingThe quotes discussed above will be for the trench digging alone and will not consist of any extra products such as the conduit, water lines, sprinkler, cable/fiber lines, etc.

Authorizations and inspections will more than likely be needed before the trenching job can start, these coming with their own fees.

If the operator will need a worker, this can add another $20 to $40 per hour to the expenses noted above. Utilizing our quotes above, you should expect 10 to 20 feet per hour being dug.

Tips to keep in mind

Before the trenching starts, you will have to call the regional energy company to mark all underground wires.

How can you save some money?

For a smaller trench project, think about renting the equipment yourself and even digging by hand. While it can be labor extensive, it can save you a lot of money. Just keep in mind: If you try to d it by yourself, then it is necessary to call the energy company ahead of time to mark any obstacles underground. To rent a small 18-inch trencher from Home Depot, for instance, you will usually spend $100 per day.

Alec Pow
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