Digging a trench by hand?

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YeahBuddy
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Digging a trench by hand?

Post by YeahBuddy »

I need a 25 foot long trench dug to run permanent electrical line to an above ground pool we are installing. The trench needs to be 18-24" deep and 6" wide to get the electrical conduit in the ground. I called dig safe. I'm getting quotes from contractors of "at least $2,000" and another quote of $3k cash or $3,500 check. I received a cheaper quote but he's not calling back now.

This seems very expensive so I'm considering doing this myself. Has anyone done this? I'm in good shape, lift weights and do cardio several times a week, but would be cautious as I have had a previous back injury from shoveling snow/lifting weights. Digging through the grass is somewhat easy. The challenging part is the initial 15 feet I would need to break through poured hot top walkway/patio material. Sledge hammer time!? Also, our soil tends to have lots of rocks. Then I'll need to backfill once work is completed.

We are already spending ~ $10k on pool + install and another $4k on a pool heater and probably upgrading from 100A to 200A service. Now this.

Do I give it a go? Or hire a pro? That rhymes. Bars. Thanks all.
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bob60014
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by bob60014 »

Pony up and let the pros do it. $2k -$3500 vs being layed up and/or aggravating a back issue is a no brainer.
alexbogle
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by alexbogle »

Not worth it to me. Try it for an hour and calculate how many more hours it will take you.
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lazydavid
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by lazydavid »

If you really want to do it yourself, rent a 24" walk-behind trencher. This is basically a giant hydraulic chainsaw expressly designed for digging trenches. Do not try to do a job like this with a spade.

Looks like my local equipment rental agency would rent me a wheeled one for $265 for one day, or a tracked one for $330.
GoFish
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by GoFish »

The answer depends on your soil. If it’s not rocky, and not a hard clay, then DIY is feasible. Otherwise, write the check.
Onlineid3089
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Onlineid3089 »

I agree with renting a trencher if trying to do it yourself. I'd also suggest something along the lines of this to cut through the black top https://www.stihlusa.com/products/cut-o ... 4414bbdecd
OpenMinded1
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by OpenMinded1 »

Onlineid3089 wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 7:43 am I agree with renting a trencher if trying to do it yourself. I'd also suggest something along the lines of this to cut through the black top https://www.stihlusa.com/products/cut-o ... 4414bbdecd
+1. I agree with the above.

Tip: Regarding the walk-behind trencher, get the trench right on the first pass. Making a second pass can be much more difficult than the first.
Last edited by OpenMinded1 on Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
andypanda
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by andypanda »

Local place rents a Cutquik.

TS 420 STIHL CUTQUIK®
$60 for 4 hours
$90 per day
$275 per week
$750 per month
*Abrasive and Diamond blades available call for prices
6bquick
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by 6bquick »

lazydavid wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 7:39 am If you really want to do it yourself, rent a 24" walk-behind trencher. This is basically a giant hydraulic chainsaw expressly designed for digging trenches. Do not try to do a job like this with a spade.

Looks like my local equipment rental agency would rent me a wheeled one for $265 for one day, or a tracked one for $330.
This. do not do this with a spade.

although I paid ~$500 for a tracked model. worth every nickel. had to lay schedule 40 for drainage for about 100'.
If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall
andypanda
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by andypanda »

If there are any large roots to cut a foot or more down, get a 6' vertical ax. It weighs 20# and works like a charm.

"B'ROOT BAR - Root Cutting Tool, Digging Tool, Vertical Axe, Tamping Bars (72" B'root Bar)"

$149 on Amazon. Being a Prime member I got free shipping.
hicabob
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by hicabob »

Years ago I had a neighbor who hand dug a line to connect from his house to the new sewer system that was being installed. His ditch was 6' deep, about 50 ' long and wide enough to work in. He dug thru dirt and serpentine rock and said neighbor was about 60 years old at the time but tough as nails so it's certainly possible. I hired someone with a backhoe to do mine.
Normchad
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Normchad »

I’d 100% be willing to do it myself. I’d be fine doing it with hand tools. (If doing by hand, I’d get a trenching shovel and a pick axe). But if you’ve ever rented a ditch witch’s they’re awesome. It goes right through roots, pulls up huge rocks, whatever.

That’s not a very long ditch. A ditch witch would be done in 10 minutes…… and the trenches it makes are beautiful.
bzcat
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by bzcat »

I did this about two years ago, to run power for our electric car charger. 25 ft x 18 inches... Rented several trenchers at the big box store (they kept breaking), did about half by hand with a mattock through dirt and limestone. It was brutal, & took multiple days. And then it rained/flooded while waiting for the city inspector to come out and inspect the depth.

If you can pay, I recommend doing that.
bikesandbeers
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by bikesandbeers »

Rent a trencher. Hand digging is fun exercise for only 30 minutes.
Billionaire
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Billionaire »

What are you trying to prove?
rkhusky
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by rkhusky »

Consider this your daily workout and skip the weightlifting and cardio for those days. For the blacktop you might want a chisel of some type. If there’s clay do it now rather than in the summer.
6bquick
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by 6bquick »

rkhusky wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:40 am Consider this your daily workout and skip the weightlifting and cardio for those days. For the blacktop you might want a chisel of some type. If there’s clay do it now rather than in the summer.
in my experience, when doing this sort of comparison or justification for manual labor, we proud folks grossly, hilariously, egregiously overestimate the strenuousness of our 'normal' workout routine.

unless your weightlifting and cardio is 8h of hard, manual labor, this is going to be a bazillion times harder than your usual and customary 30min kettlebell routine.

I'm not casting aspersions, I'm guilty of this too. 'oh I'll split this woodpile as a workout.' 5h and one super sore back later, that pile his halfway split and stacked.

Just rent the trencher.
If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall
yosh99
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by yosh99 »

That's not very far and not very deep. The asphalt aside, it would take less than an hour. It would be more of a hassle and take longer to go out and rent and return a trencher. I'd do it myself.
Last edited by yosh99 on Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
the_wiki
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by the_wiki »

My soil is so rocky that I need a pick axe just to dig a hole to plant a large flower. I sprained my fingers once digging a small hole when I hit rocks too hard with the shovel. I have broken multiple shovels just planting a bush. It would take me a month or two of daily hard labor to get a trench by hand.

I’ve lived in another house as a teen where I dug a hole big enough to climb into in an afternoon because I was bored. Could trench that ground in a weekend.

I recommend digging a couple feet of the trench by hand, and you’ll have your answer to how much it’s worth paying.
IowaFarmBoy
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by IowaFarmBoy »

I've done this both by hand and with a trencher. It's going to depend a lot on what your soil conditions are like. If rocky or a lot of roots, I would rent the trencher. If the soil is clear, it won't really be that bad, especially if you spread it over a few days. I'd use what seems to commonly be called a "drain spade" on the internet for the digging. (I've heard different names in different parts of the country.) You'll probably want something to cut through the patio.

The suggestions to try doing a few feet by hand are smart.
Luke Duke
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Luke Duke »

6bquick wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:47 am
rkhusky wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:40 am Consider this your daily workout and skip the weightlifting and cardio for those days. For the blacktop you might want a chisel of some type. If there’s clay do it now rather than in the summer.
in my experience, when doing this sort of comparison or justification for manual labor, we proud folks grossly, hilariously, egregiously overestimate the strenuousness of our 'normal' workout routine.

unless your weightlifting and cardio is 8h of hard, manual labor, this is going to be a bazillion times harder than your usual and customary 30min kettlebell routine.

I'm not casting aspersions, I'm guilty of this too. 'oh I'll split this woodpile as a workout.' 5h and one super sore back later, that pile his halfway split and stacked.

Just rent the trencher.
yosh99 wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:55 am That's not very far and not very deep. The asphalt aside, it would take less than an hour. It would be more of a hassle and take longer to go out and rent and return a trencher. I'd do it myself.
It only took one post for your point to be proven.
homerj15
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by homerj15 »

Definitely don’t hire a “pro” to do this for you! Give it a go yourself with a shovel and a pickaxe… it’ll be the most amazing work out ever! Listen to your body and if it’s screaming for help, then yeah, go rent the ditch witch at Home Depot for next to nothing!

I did the same thing a few years ago and felt amazingly accomplished!
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lthenderson
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by lthenderson »

YeahBuddy wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 7:25 am I need a 25 foot long trench dug to run permanent electrical line to an above ground pool we are installing. The trench needs to be 18-24" deep and 6" wide

The challenging part is the initial 15 feet I would need to break through poured hot top walkway/patio material. Sledge hammer time!?
I'm not in particular good shape but I would do this myself without a second thought. First, I would get an abrasive blade for my skilsaw and cut through the hot top walkway/patio material on both sides the six inches apart. A sledge hammer will make a mess of things. You can then break the strip of cut asphalt carefully using a large hammer into chunks and pry them out using a crowbar or the shovel I will mention next. Then I would get a "drain spade" for the actual digging. They are narrow but have long blades and are made for this specific job. For 25 feet of digging to your dimensions, I could probably get it done in an hour of working at a slow steady pace, assuming large rocks aren't in play.

I have all those things in my garage and use them regularly so it isn't an issue. If you don't have those things, you could still buy them all brand new and come out well ahead of the quotes you are getting.

Drain spade:
https://www.amazon.com/Roughneck-Draina ... B01F552UAC
rkhusky
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by rkhusky »

6bquick wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:47 am
rkhusky wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:40 am Consider this your daily workout and skip the weightlifting and cardio for those days. For the blacktop you might want a chisel of some type. If there’s clay do it now rather than in the summer.
in my experience, when doing this sort of comparison or justification for manual labor, we proud folks grossly, hilariously, egregiously overestimate the strenuousness of our 'normal' workout routine.

unless your weightlifting and cardio is 8h of hard, manual labor, this is going to be a bazillion times harder than your usual and customary 30min kettlebell routine.

I'm not casting aspersions, I'm guilty of this too. 'oh I'll split this woodpile as a workout.' 5h and one super sore back later, that pile his halfway split and stacked.

Just rent the trencher.
There’s no need to do it in one go. An hour a day is fine.
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mhc
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by mhc »

If you have the time and would enjoy doing it, then go for it. I would enjoy doing it. I would do it on my own.

I have done many projects that are hard work and take a lot of time. I'm fine with that. Who needs the gym when you can do some serious manual labor?
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lazydavid
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by lazydavid »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:12 am Drain spade:
https://www.amazon.com/Roughneck-Draina ... B01F552UAC
Just looking at that product listing makes my back hurt. I picture myself digging through clay with a shovel that only has 18" of handle sticking out of the ground. Hard to think of a more awful form of yardwork.
eddot98
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by eddot98 »

You certainly COULD dig this trench, but only you can decide whether you will.
Point of reference, I installed a 12’by 12’ patio with hand tools and a wheelbarrow, only renting a plate compactor. I was 59+ years old at the time, not in the best shape (never worked out), had a bad back, and had just retired. I dug down 18 inches, hacked out several roots, one was 6 inches in diameter. I hauled away the topsoil and underlying material and had gravel, bedding material, and concrete blocks delivered. I even walked the wheelbarrow a couple thousand feet away to pick up the plate compactor from the rental place. I backfilled the excavated area with gravel, compacted it, placed the bedding material and the blocks. The patio is still there almost 14 years later with some differential settlement, but if it happens to your trench, you can just add more topsoil. I did the work over several weeks taking my time, but I saved a lot of money.
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lthenderson
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by lthenderson »

lazydavid wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:24 am
lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:12 am Drain spade:
https://www.amazon.com/Roughneck-Draina ... B01F552UAC
Just looking at that product listing makes my back hurt. I picture myself digging through clay with a shovel that only has 18" of handle sticking out of the ground. Hard to think of a more awful form of yardwork.
It has 26" of handle, not 18". It is made so that you can comfortably grip the handle and step on the foot rests to drive it into the ground without the top part of a long handle slapping you in your face. Once the hole is full depth, you are really only taking inch thick slabs of dirt from there on as you go the length of the trench. Most of the effort using this is in your legs. Last summer, I dug 64 feet of trench using a drain spade around the base of a cabin concrete pad pour to anchor it below frost line and it took me about 2 hours to do.
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mhadden1
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by mhadden1 »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:12 am
YeahBuddy wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 7:25 am I need a 25 foot long trench dug to run permanent electrical line to an above ground pool we are installing. The trench needs to be 18-24" deep and 6" wide

The challenging part is the initial 15 feet I would need to break through poured hot top walkway/patio material. Sledge hammer time!?
I'm not in particular good shape but I would do this myself without a second thought. First, I would get an abrasive blade for my skilsaw and cut through the hot top walkway/patio material on both sides the six inches apart. A sledge hammer will make a mess of things. You can then break the strip of cut asphalt carefully using a large hammer into chunks and pry them out using a crowbar or the shovel I will mention next. Then I would get a "drain spade" for the actual digging. They are narrow but have long blades and are made for this specific job. For 25 feet of digging to your dimensions, I could probably get it done in an hour of working at a slow steady pace, assuming large rocks aren't in play.

I have all those things in my garage and use them regularly so it isn't an issue. If you don't have those things, you could still buy them all brand new and come out well ahead of the quotes you are getting.

Drain spade:
https://www.amazon.com/Roughneck-Draina ... B01F552UAC
+1
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Glockenspiel
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Glockenspiel »

You could do this so much more quickly using a trencher that you can rent from Home Depot or any other equipment rental place, for less than $100.
tibbitts
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by tibbitts »

homerj15 wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:06 am Definitely don’t hire a “pro” to do this for you! Give it a go yourself with a shovel and a pickaxe… it’ll be the most amazing work out ever! Listen to your body and if it’s screaming for help, then yeah, go rent the ditch witch at Home Depot for next to nothing!

I did the same thing a few years ago and felt amazingly accomplished!
I think almost everyone would feel equally accomplished if they did the same job with a machine. I've dug fence post holes by hand - no more than a couple at a time - and would absolutely have felt equally accomplished if I'd had a machine to dig them. I wouldn't give myself points for not using the best tool for a job.
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mrmass
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by mrmass »

Can't help but think of Cool Hand Luke

Water break Boss...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGyAwHwC9wk
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lthenderson
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by lthenderson »

Glockenspiel wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:42 am You could do this so much more quickly using a trencher that you can rent from Home Depot or any other equipment rental place, for less than $100.
I would place money on it that a trencher would be slower if you consider the four trips between home and rental center needed to obtain it and return it later, dealing with the rental desk and associated paperwork, and reading the directions on how to use the machine. All assuming the OP has a hitch and a vehicle capable of hauling a portable trencher.
lazydavid
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by lazydavid »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:36 am
lazydavid wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:24 am
lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:12 am Drain spade:
https://www.amazon.com/Roughneck-Draina ... B01F552UAC
Just looking at that product listing makes my back hurt. I picture myself digging through clay with a shovel that only has 18" of handle sticking out of the ground. Hard to think of a more awful form of yardwork.
It has 26" of handle, not 18". It is made so that you can comfortably grip the handle and step on the foot rests to drive it into the ground without the top part of a long handle slapping you in your face. Once the hole is full depth, you are really only taking inch thick slabs of dirt from there on as you go the length of the trench. Most of the effort using this is in your legs. Last summer, I dug 64 feet of trench using a drain spade around the base of a cabin concrete pad pour to anchor it below frost line and it took me about 2 hours to do.
It is 42 inches long in total. The trench is to be 24" deep. Ergo the maximum amount of handle that can possibly be sticking out of the hole at full depth is 18". Significantly less if it is angled at all, as one might do when trying to lift soil. The foot rests would be 8" below ground level at this point, so the only thing available to step on is the end of the handle.
tdm757
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by tdm757 »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:36 am
lazydavid wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:24 am
lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:12 am Drain spade:
https://www.amazon.com/Roughneck-Draina ... B01F552UAC
Just looking at that product listing makes my back hurt. I picture myself digging through clay with a shovel that only has 18" of handle sticking out of the ground. Hard to think of a more awful form of yardwork.
It has 26" of handle, not 18". It is made so that you can comfortably grip the handle and step on the foot rests to drive it into the ground without the top part of a long handle slapping you in your face. Once the hole is full depth, you are really only taking inch thick slabs of dirt from there on as you go the length of the trench. Most of the effort using this is in your legs. Last summer, I dug 64 feet of trench using a drain spade around the base of a cabin concrete pad pour to anchor it below frost line and it took me about 2 hours to do.
My landscaper digs trenches in my rocky yard with this type of shovel.
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by tibbitts »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:55 am
Glockenspiel wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:42 am You could do this so much more quickly using a trencher that you can rent from Home Depot or any other equipment rental place, for less than $100.
I would place money on it that a trencher would be slower if you consider the four trips between home and rental center needed to obtain it and return it later, dealing with the rental desk and associated paperwork, and reading the directions on how to use the machine. All assuming the OP has a hitch and a vehicle capable of hauling a portable trencher.
That's one reason why I would hesitate to rent a lot of tools - no convenient way to move them.
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Watty
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Watty »

YeahBuddy wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 7:25 am ..... would be cautious as I have had a previous back injury from shoveling snow/lifting weights.
.....
Also, our soil tends to have lots of rocks.
....
It has been attributed to several people but there is a quote,

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

It is time to pay people to do things like this.

Even with rental equipment that can be hard on your body.

In addition to the immediate impact of possible injuries you also need to consider how they may impact your body when you are older. I have some issues with a knee which I am sure is related to a sports injury that happened almost 50 years ago. When it happened it only took a week or two to heal without any surgery and it was fine for 45 years but as I got older it caused more issues.
Nver2Late
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Nver2Late »

30 years ago, I did a similar but a bit longer electric trench by hand through packed gravel. Had to buy a pick axe to break it apart, then shovel it out.

I'd probably try to do the same thing today, but take a few days longer.
"Better is the enemy of good." Good is good.
Glockenspiel
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Glockenspiel »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:55 am
Glockenspiel wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:42 am You could do this so much more quickly using a trencher that you can rent from Home Depot or any other equipment rental place, for less than $100.
I would place money on it that a trencher would be slower if you consider the four trips between home and rental center needed to obtain it and return it later, dealing with the rental desk and associated paperwork, and reading the directions on how to use the machine. All assuming the OP has a hitch and a vehicle capable of hauling a portable trencher.
The Home Depot rental truck is right there for hauling it, and is also cheap. In my heavy clay soil, digging a trench like this manually would easily take me an entire day.
adamthesmythe
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by adamthesmythe »

hicabob wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:05 am Years ago I had a neighbor who hand dug a line to connect from his house to the new sewer system that was being installed. His ditch was 6' deep, about 50 ' long and wide enough to work in. He dug thru dirt and serpentine rock and said neighbor was about 60 years old at the time but tough as nails so it's certainly possible. I hired someone with a backhoe to do mine.
This is not relevant to OP's question. However people have died in 6' trenches. There are workplace rules about how do do this safely.
tibbitts
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by tibbitts »

Glockenspiel wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 10:25 am
lthenderson wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:55 am
Glockenspiel wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:42 am You could do this so much more quickly using a trencher that you can rent from Home Depot or any other equipment rental place, for less than $100.
I would place money on it that a trencher would be slower if you consider the four trips between home and rental center needed to obtain it and return it later, dealing with the rental desk and associated paperwork, and reading the directions on how to use the machine. All assuming the OP has a hitch and a vehicle capable of hauling a portable trencher.
The Home Depot rental truck is right there for hauling it, and is also cheap. In my heavy clay soil, digging a trench like this manually would easily take me an entire day.
The last I looked the trucks were only cheap if you rented twice (or were super-fast at using the tool you rented): separately for pickup and return. So somewhat of a hassle. Also you have to add for the damage insurance since credit cards mostly won't cover the vehicle.
Onlineid3089
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Onlineid3089 »

hicabob wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 8:05 am Years ago I had a neighbor who hand dug a line to connect from his house to the new sewer system that was being installed. His ditch was 6' deep, about 50 ' long and wide enough to work in. He dug thru dirt and serpentine rock and said neighbor was about 60 years old at the time but tough as nails so it's certainly possible. I hired someone with a backhoe to do mine.
But seriously though, a six foot trench is not something us regular folks should be digging. If a side collapses and you end up under the dirt you're 100% dead. Even if only your legs end up in the dirt there is still a very real chance of death from the blood clots that'll form from the insane compression on your legs.
barnaclebob
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by barnaclebob »

Why 24" deep?

https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/wha ... cal-cable/

Just a note thats not clear in the article for the 6" option. Rigid Metal Conduit (RMC), is different than Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) which is typically whats sold at Lowes or Home Depot. Its also unclear how long RMC will actually last underground depending on the corrosiveness of your environment.
Last edited by barnaclebob on Tue Apr 02, 2024 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
HootingSloth
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by HootingSloth »

I once decided to DIY an 18 inch trench that was only about 2 feet long. After that experience, I would strongly suggest paying for yours.
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nydoc
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by nydoc »

Please don’t dig your own……





Trench!
Last edited by nydoc on Tue Apr 02, 2024 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
IMD801
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by IMD801 »

I would DIY if you're healthy. A few years ago I dug a similar trench about 80' long. It took a few very long days. The work is really tough but I was quoted something like $4k and decided I would get some exercise and save money.
michaelingp
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by michaelingp »

I'm not understanding the multi-thousand dollar quotes from your contractors. Where I live, you could easily hire a couple of laborers in front of Home Depot and get it dug in less than a day for a few hundred dollars. You have to supply tools, so figure another $100 if you don't own them already.
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Yooper »

You have a problematic back. This job would entail working the majority of the time bent over. And lifting in the bent over position. And twisting each time you empty your shovel. And getting down on your knees periodically to clean out the trench. Recipe for pain. It's really quite amazing how each additional inch DOWN into the ground, seems to make an exponential increase in the amount of effort required. I did a similar trench 8 years ago, although only 12" deep. It wasn't enjoyable at all. If the back wasn't an issue and you wanted to do it yourself, I'd add a grub hoe (https://www.easydigging.com/garden-hoes/grub-hoe.html) to your list of home improvement weapons. It'd make cleaning up the bottom of the trench much easier. But your back really is the main issue here.
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Tycoon
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by Tycoon »

Only 25'. My 86 year old neighbor could do that with a drain spade and it wouldn't take him half a day.
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Re: Digging a trench by hand?

Post by suemarkp »

PVC conduit is probably best for outside. It needs to be 18" down and that is to the top of the conduit. So a 1.5" conduit would need a 20" deep trench. If digging is really a problem, you could go shallower and encase the conduit in concrete.

I do drainage trenches by hand all the time that vary from 12" to 24" deep. In my soil (rocky and heavy clay), I can do about 10 feet per hour and after 2 hours I'm done for the day (could have done more than that when I was younger). I did have one that was really tough because someone buried sticks in the dirt there with gravel, so it was very slow going.

A mattock from Harbor Freight helped a lot for that nasty one. https://www.harborfreight.com/mattock-p ... 94797.html

I rented a trencher once when I had about 100+ feet of trench to dig. That doesn't get you out of digging though, as a lot of the dirt falls back into the trench. So I still had about 6 to 10 inches of dirt to dig out of the trench after the trencher. Was easy digging because it was all loose, but still a lot of hand digging.

Use a circular saw with a concrete or asphalt blade to cut through the paved section and then lift it up and out with a shovel. It should crack off every 6" or so. If not, dig under it and break off the overhang with a sledge.
Mark | Somewhere in WA State
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