You will need to determine the most appropriate boom configuration. For example, Ditch Witch machines come with a choice of booms. "Typically, a standard boom would have a sprocket on the bottom side of the boom where the chain comes around," says Bolay. "If you are in particularly rocky conditions, that sprocket sometimes has a tendency to get a rock in it."
A specialty boom featuring a large tail sprocket on the end with enclosed sides eliminates this problem. "You have a wear bar strip down the bottom of the boom that the chain actually runs against," Bolay notes. "You don't have any sprocket to interact with the rock."
When it comes to digging chain, make sure you know what you are getting. Not all digging chain is created equal. Consider basic measurements such as tensile strength. "We rate on the weakest link of the chain," says Bolay. "There are some other people that rate on the strongest link. You just need to understand what the rating is tied to."
Some manufacturers offer unique features in the digging chain design. "We hold a couple of our own patents," says Bolay. "We provide extra material along the bottom side, as well as the heat treat process that we use on the pins."
In terms of teeth, there are many options. Tooth styles include rock, dirt, shark and bullet. Each style is designed for a specific soil type, ranging from gummy and sticky soils to hard and rocky soils. You may find you need to change teeth periodically to match conditions. "It is not terribly hard," says Bolay.
Obviously, no single trencher configuration will meet every ground condition and application you are likely to encounter. "We always want to choose a machine that will do the customer's work most of the time," says Wren. "This only means that, during some applications, a customer may have to use a longer or shorter boom and maybe a different chain line setup."
Attachments add function
Certain types of attachments are more prevalent than others when it comes to trenchers. For example, the backfill blade has practically become standard on ride-on models. "We have moved almost into 100% application," says Bolay. "We don't consider it an option on a machine anymore. We build them with a backfill blade. It is a nice support tool to have."
Backhoes have also proven very popular. "They will be selected about 50% of the time with the equipment," says Bolay.
Vibratory plows are another common option. But keep in mind there are limitations on the size of material they can install. "The vibratory plow is real popular when the installation is small diameter pipe or cable that is fairly flexible," says Bolay. "[Once] you get into the larger pipes, you just can't physically get them down into the ground."
Availability of other types of attachments really depends on the tractor. "The attachments are designed and balanced to match the horsepower, hydraulic and structural capabilities of the tractor," says Kuyers. "The larger the attachment and its capability, the larger the tractor [needs to be]."
"At about 40 hp, we start offering different attachments," says Bolay. Attachments such as rock saws just aren't practical below this range. "[It won't cut] as deep and you can't tackle quite as rough of rock conditions as you can with the larger machines."
When selecting attachments for your trencher, take into account soil conditions and other jobsite factors that can influence which attachment will be most productive for your particular situation.
"Attachments will vary in popularity by region, as soil conditions are different," Kuyers comments. "Rock wheels may be more prevalent where solid rock is present, or plows may be popular where there is limited utility congestion and loose soil types. Backhoes are a popular option where there is utility congestion or when existing utilities need to be located."