How to Start a Trenching Business – A 101 Guide to Start a Trenching Company

Trenching is a type of excavation work that involves the use of trenching machinery to dig deep narrow trenches for pipelines, fences, and cables. Although it is a type of Excavation there is a slight difference between the use of terminology and the way the business works; For example, if we hear an X company specializes in Trenching business – that means they specialize exclusively in trenching works and their inventory mostly has trenching related equipment rather than excavation works

So, in a simple way, a trenching business involves the use of machinery to dig narrow trenches to install pipelines, construct streams for farms, lay underground electrical cables and sewage lines, etc., in most scenarios this is a part and parcel of excavation business

Trenching Business

Is Trenching and Excavation the same?

Yes, technically trenching is a form of excavation work. But you cannot simply call every excavation work trenching due to the fact it is done differently. You can call it excavation work if a man or machine digs the ground forming a cavity regardless of its dimension; However, we call trenching only if the cavity is dug narrow with its depth greater than its width. According to OSHA trenching width should not exceed greater than 15 feet (4.6m)

Why it’s Important to Specialize in Trenching Business?

If you are already into the dirt work business a.k.a excavation business, you should definitely specialize in trenching works. Why because Trenching works are quite less complex works when compared to other excavation works. And they are usually quite quick enough to complete and reward a decent profit margin

Although homeowners would like to dig a trench using manual methods or lease a small trench and do it on their own, the trouble starts when they have to dig a deep trench that can impact the cable lining or may lead to damage to the property. This is when a trenching expert is needed. Not only that civil works such as gas pipelines, water pipelines, and sewage go round the year in a city or town which definitely needs the service of a trencher.

With right skills set, machinery, and dedicated team(a small one would be sufficient) one can definitely make a reasonable profit out of trenching works

If you are into an excavation business or getting ready to start a dirt work business, then here’s a quick takeaway on how to start trenching business and things to watch out for…

Steps Involved in Setting up a Trenching Company

There are five important things to consider when you start any business namely Business plan, Budget, Customer preferences, Services, Operations, and Marketing we will see the importance of these factors in starting a trenching business

Prepare a Business Plan

The first step in starting an excavation business starts with preparing a business plan that forecasts opportunities, budget, and company growth. By preparing a detailed business plan, you will get to know the feasibility of running your business in your region and what services are best to offer

So, before you start make sure to draft a well-documented business plan; if you are unsure, you can reach out to consultants or take the help of an experienced trenching contractor

Preparing a Workforce: Single person Vs Team

While trenching work can be a little less complex when compared to most excavation works, it can be handled by a single person. Especially for a small-scale trenching company most owners like to work on their own without hiring workers as they can easily take care of small trenching works like laying fences or gates or installing pipelines or electrical cables in an area of 1 – 2 acres. As the area is quite small, excavation owners don’t hesitate to work on their own especially if there were skilled enough and have self-confidence

On the other hand, if you have been an experienced trenching contractor and have good connections with real estate owners, and are ready to handle large contracts, you should definitely hire at least 2 – 3 skilled workers for your trenching company. These workers should be good enough to carry out the assignment without your presence

Skill and Licenses You Need to Know

As a trenching business owner, an individual should be well versed with the ins and outs of the business and make sure they are skilled enough to handle almost all types of trenching work. The owner should also be well aware of safety standards to be practiced at work

On top of that, having the mindset of landscaping expert is very important for a trenching contractor. As most of the time you will be dealing with lawns, farm fields, or other projects, you need to have a creative mindset

In order to improve your chances of getting contracts or jobs, you can try enrolling for trenching and excavation certification courses provided by reputed organizations. For example, NASP (National Association of Safety Professionals has a certification for Trenching and Excavation Specialist (TES)

If you are performing trenching in the United States, it is recommended that you are aware of OSHA trenching and excavation rules and regulations. Not only that, states and cities also have their own rules on how to perform trenching which you should enquire about before setting up the business in that region

Securing Funds For Your Company

Excavation business generally requires a good amount of initial capital to start; if you were starting out yourself just as a small-scale trenching company, then you need to have at least $50,000 with you. Once you are fully set up and able to take up mid-size to large-scale contracts you can go ahead and purchase machinery

Basically, 90% of the capital goes into buying a trencher or excavator and its attachments.  There are two options for deciding how much finance is required for you to set up a trenching company

  • If you already worked as an excavation contractor and have sound knowledge of trenching works; you can go ahead and take a bank loan and purchase machinery and hire workers and start doing the business
  • If you know the trenching work but are not fully experienced, and thinking of running the company on your own, then try getting a used excavator or opt-in for a rental base. This can lessen the burden of buying a brand-new machine and you can focus more on learning from the contract works

The estimate capital required for you to start a trenching business can be mostly figured out in the initial stages where you draft a business plan

Purchasing Machinery

As mentioned earlier you can run an excavation business either by leasing out the equipment or purchasing the machinery by yourself

When it comes to trenching business, you have two ways of purchasing machinery

a) Buying trenching equipment / Trencher Buckets

b) Buying a complete trencher machine

Option A works well if you handle small trenching jobs or if you already own an excavator or tractor and they come with an option to fit in different types of trenching equipment

Option B suites well if you handle complex trenching jobs such as underground pipeline works, government or civil works for large areas

And trenchers are available in different varieties

  1. Walk behind trenches
  2. Ride-on
  3. Quad
  4. Micromachines

Most excavation company owners get trenching bucket or trencher drill equipment installed on their mini excavators or backhoe or even to tractors; However, when you are dealing with large pipeline work or electrical cable for large kilometers it is always advisable to get a complete trenching machine

So, all and all, if you buy trenching attachments and fix them to your machine, it costs you around $2,500 – $3,500. On the other hand, if you buy full-sized commercial trencher, it costs $4,000 – $7000

Whether you just buy attachments or complete trenching machines you have both options, you can lease out the equipment or buy it in full package

Finding a Location to Run the Business

When looking for a location to set up an excavation company, make sure you have at least a small room to set up an office and then a large open space to contain all your excavators and machinery

In most scenarios, it can be hard for you to get an open space as well as an office unit in an urban location so, it’s best that you look for a space in city outskirts

Finalizing Services and Pricing Structure

The most common way of pricing in trenching business is trench per foot. However, if you provide additional services, this will be added-up on the price per foot

On average, digging a trench cost $8 – $12 per liner foot. So, if you are digging a 100-foot trench you can expect $800 – $1200. But most of the contractors give a little discount out here

Now, some excavation contractors usually add in all the costs such as equipment, labor, and permit charges within the same price. But this may not be the same in every scenario, the pricing structure differs with terrain type, additional services provided for the job, etc.,

Now that you have got an idea of pricing the work, you need to think about the services you can offer. As a trenching company here’s a list of the most commonly provided services

  • Drainage system
  • Water lines
  • Underground electrical works
  • Sewage system
  • Gas pipeline work

The pricing structure for the services plays a key role in the success of your company. Pricing too much for minimal work in the initial stages might hamper your reputation. While pricing too low can result in debt. So, take time in drafting an optimal pricing plan

Marketing Your Business

Even if you are starting a small-scale trenching business, you should not ignore marketing it to the fullest extent. There are a lot of free as well as paid methods to advertise your business. Here are some tips to market your trenching business

  1. Ensure consistent branding is present across all your equipment, Team, and machinery
  2. Consistent efforts to improve your business circle
  3. Participate in trade shows
  4. Use local radio, and newspapers to broadcast your services and offers
  5. Make sure your company has a strong online presence by having a website and social profile

Final Note for those who are starting a Trenching Business

Any business that involves heavy machinery takes a lot of effort and skill to grow the company and run it in profits. In initial times dirt work business seems redundant, hopeless, and tiresome; but you need to put in constant efforts, and maintain quality and consistency without compromise

Basically, excavation and trenching business owners have one advantage; once you are able to gain a customer they are most likely to return back to you or refer your service to their colleagues. You should also be active in taking up even small jobs during your initial business as they can help you gain lot of experience

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