You have just purchased a mini excavator and are eager to get your commercial or residential mid-sized project started. I bet you didn't know that this one piece of heavy construction equipment can help you complete a variety of tasks such as digging trenches, drilling holes, and demolishing structures, just to name a few.
Whether you are putting in a new pool, digging a utility trench, or giving your front yard a brand new landscape design, the mini excavator is the one piece of heavy construction equipment that can do it all.
In this article, we will go over the top five unique uses for the mini excavator showing just how versatile the mini excavator is.
#1: Pool/Spa Installation
The enjoyment of having a pool or spa right outside of the home is a dream that is quickly becoming a reality with the help of earthmoving equipment like the mini excavator. Having a piece of construction equipment like the mini excavator has made a mid-sized project like this easier for the contractors and turned what seemed like an impossible property enhancement into a DIY project for many homeowners.
Underground Pool & Spa Installation
When beginning the installation of an underground pool it is important to have planned out what the pool will be used for because that will determine what size mini excavator is used. Here is a small list of pool depths along with what size mini excavator is needed according to those depths.
Choosing the Right Size Mini Excavator for Your Pool or Spa
If you are looking to install a pool that will have a maximum depth of 5 feet, a smaller excavator around 2,000 pounds or two tons would do the job. However, if the main use for your swimming pool will be focused on diving, you will need a swimming pool that has a minimum depth of 10 feet. To get to that depth, it would require at the very least a 10 ton or 9,500-pound mini excavator to do the job.
If you are planning on just installing a spa that will be attached to your pool, you can use a tiny mini excavator also referred to as a Micro Machine. These mini excavators usually weight slightly over a ton and ride on retractable undercarriages allowing them to fit through very narrow spaces.
Mini excavators are said to be as stable as the larger excavators but; it is not recommended to ride up slopes with an angle greater than 20 degrees. Mini Excavators typically go up to 20,000 pounds max. After 20,000 pounds, they are no longer considered mini and would be referred to as excavators.
Building a Pool/Spa with the Mini Excavator
We covered a few of the specifications for choosing the right-sized mini excavator based on the depth of the swimming pool, but how does your mini excavator get the job done? Here are some features that make the mini excavator a must-have when installing a pool or spa.
Best Features for Building a Pool/Spa
#1. Mini Excavator Bucket
Standard mini excavator buckets are the most common attachments seen on mini excavators. They have three to nine teeth for easy ground penetration. Mini excavator buckets typically range from 12 to 24 inches, and the size of the bucket typically matches the size of the mini excavator. The bucket on the mini excavator not only penetrates the ground and digs the hole, but it also carries a large amount of dirt away from the hole. If you feel the need to upgrade to a larger bucket or one with different features, you will find a variety of bucket attachments on the market.
#2. Reduced Tail-Swing or Zero Tail Swing
Mini excavators are notorious for maneuvering into small confined spaces. A reduced tail swing mini excavator is ideal for working in confined spaces such as your backyard. The counterweight of the mini excavator typically extends only inches beyond the tracks instead of feet.
The zero-tail-swing, although it can rotate 360 degrees within the undercarriage, has a wider undercarriage making it more difficult to get inside of tight entries such as your backyard. Mini excavators with reduced-tail or zero tail swing can easily work around the obstacles in your backyard without damaging them.
The type of boom that your mini excavator is equipped with can make a bigger difference than most people might think. If you are building a rectangle-shaped pool, it might save you time if the mini excavator you are using has boom offset that can be angled so you can dig right angles at both sides. This type of boom offset is a feature unique to Yanmar Mini Excavators.
Standard boom configurations give the maximum breakout force and lifting capability; mini excavators equipped with long booms have a farther reach and have higher dump heights. Having a longer reach allows operators to keep working without repositioning the excavator.
The mini excavator has a powerful blade with the ability to stabilize the mini excavator. The blade can also be used to push a large amount of dirt into a pile or push the concrete into the hole of the swimming pool or spa. A mini excavator with a backfill blade can be transformed into a finish or rough grader.
Mini excavator blades can be positioned and must be positioned correctly to operate the mini excavator. The mini excavator is designed to let you know when your blade is not positioned correctly to keep the operator safe and the machine from tipping over. Below are some tips for correctly positioning your blade.
Blade Positioning Tips for a Mini Excavator Under Eight Tons
When digging, you want to keep your blade in the back and on the ground. This positioning pins your mini excavator to the ground and stabilizes it.
If you are moving the mini excavator on rough ground or a slope, the blade needs to be in the back and lifted slightly off the ground, if the slope is too tall, the blade will hit the ground to let you know that you need to either reposition the arm linkage down in front or that the slope is just too tall.
#5 Rubber Tracks
Mini excavators perform at their best when running rubber tracks. Building a pool and spa creates a much larger dirt pile than what most people expect to see in their backyard. Mini excavators running rubber tracks have more traction on those large dirt slopes. Inside of those dirt piles could be sharp materials and having a mini excavator running rubber tracks that are made from highly puncture-resistant materials.
To ensure that your mini excavator stays at peak performance, it is crucial to replace your rubber tracks when you notice a lot of wear and tear such as a large number of exterior cracks or the raised portions of your tread are flattened and or no longer visible.
#2 - Irrigation & Landscape Design
Using a Mini Excavator for an Irrigation System Install
Homeowners or commercial building owners need an underground irrigation system like a sprinkler system to deliver water consistently to their lawns or gardens. You will need to have PC pipes placed underneath the ground and the mini excavator can quickly and easily help you dig the trenches and place the pipes. A typical irrigation trench has depths that range from six to twelve inches.
You don’t want to have the dirt falling back into the trenches you just dug which is why it is so important to have an earthmoving machine like the mini excavator to scoop up the dirt and then move it away from the trench. The mini excavator can help get the job done much faster than using a shovel or other handheld equipment. You have the option of using the mini excavator’s hydraulic arm and bucket to backfill the trenches with dirt or you can also use its blade to push the dirt into the trench.
When you have a mini excavator that can perform a variety of tasks, putting in an underground irrigation system is no longer a time-consuming project.
Landscaping With the Mini Excavator
The front and backyard of a residential or commercial property can tell a lot about the property. A beautiful garden, stone wall, fountain, or any creative design is usually the first thing people see. Therefore, you can find hundreds of DIY landscaping projects online or outdoor design magazines. Many of these projects require a compact earth-moving machine such as a mini excavator to dig the trenches, move heavy stones, lift fountains, and much more.
Common Landscaping Projects
Flag Stone Wall
The mini excavator digs a trench to place the flagstones, picks up the gravel and drops it in the trench, picks up the flagstones and places them on the gravel, and then backfills the trenches with more gravel.
This project requires the use of a mini excavator to dig a circular trench eight inches deep and six inches wide, lifting cement, stones, or brick, and then filling the circular trench with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. You can accomplish all of this with one machine, the mini excavator
Installing a garden fountain in the past could be a little difficult because many fountains are heavy. This project is made simple by using a mini excavator to lift the heavy fountain, dig the hole to place the fountain in, and then fill the hole.
Removing Tree Stumps
A landscaping project could be as small as just removing that old tree stump that has been sitting in the backyard for a decade. Tree stumps can spread decay and invite unwanted species into your yards such as termites, beetles, and carpenter ants who are particularly fond of tree stumps.
Most homeowners don’t realize what they are getting themselves into when they decide to remove a stump because it’s not so much the stump that is the problem as it is the attached roots buried deep in the ground. Luckily, you have the help of the mini excavator to clear unsightly stumps out of your yard.
One of the great things about the mini excavator other than its digging capacity is the attachments you can get for it. One attachment that will make this difficult stump removing project a breeze is the thumb attachment. The thumb attachment works like a thumb on your hand when attempting to grab and hold the material in place. Once you can get underneath the stump and you have positioned the arm and bucket to get right underneath the roots, the thumb attachment will clamp down on the tree stump so you can hold it in place once it has been lifted out of the ground.
Tips for Landscaping Excavation
For most landscaping projects, the machine size is very important, since you are installing irrigation and moving heavy materials to create outdoor environments. It’s a good idea to evaluate environmental limitations carefully. When working in landscaping, there are many times where you need to work in very confined spaces and manufacturers offer models of mini excavators that have retractable undercarriages.
These retractable undercarriages allow the operator to retract the undercarriage and pass through a narrow gate or fence and then expand the undercarriage to continue working. If you are looking to remove that old stump, look at all the different attachments offered for the mini excavator. Attachments can make landscaping jobs easier and less time-consuming.
A good set of rubber tracks can make a world of difference in how well your mini excavator performs. Rubber tracks maximize the flotation of your mini excavator, allowing it to float effortlessly over the soft ground while maintaining its traction. DIG-DOG provides high-quality tracks and tires for a variety of mini excavator models. We have a team of dedicated staff available to answer your questions.
#3 - Digging Holes & Utility Trenches & Drainage Ditches
Digging Holes for tree installation and road signs
Many homeowners want to plant trees in their front and backyards. Contractors are hired as well to plant these trees. Before the use of digging machines like the mini excavator, it was common to see trees being installed into planting holes that were dug using a shovel. However, the decision to use this excavation equipment is not ideal for planting large trees or many trees at one time.
The mini excavator proves once again to be the perfect digging machine for this project. This earthmoving machine can easily dig to great depths. They can remove large amounts of dirt out of these holes and backfill the holes when the trees have been planted.
When installing trees, the depth of the hole depends on the root ball and trunk of the tree. Larger trees need to have the root ball sit at least two inches above the soil. It is very important to measure correctly so you don't dig a hole that is too small, too narrow, or plant the root ball too deep.
Digging for Road Signs
What is great about the mini excavator when it comes to digging on the street is their size. Their compact size allows them to work on the side of the roads easily without having to disrupt traffic and their lightweight design enables the mini excavator to operate without special licenses. When installing a street sign like a stop sign or any other sign. It is recommended that the pole sits 1.5 to 3 feet below the surface.
There are many attachments available for the mini excavator, but the hydraulic auger attachment allows the operator to drill deep holes into soil or concrete. Most mini excavators have two types of mounting options. The first option is a quick attach type that latches automatically or option two that pins onto the dipper stick.
Utility trenches are underground tunnels that house our main water lines, gas lines, sewer, power, and even our telephone lines. These lines can be damaged very easily and need to be placed in soft ground and then covered with a softer material like sand. Utility trenches are usually dug deeper than wide, making them an easy task for the mini excavator to take care of. Utility trenches can be dangerous if you don't first have the utility location service, mark the water, gas, power, and communication lines by color.
Determining the soil type can be a huge factor in whether you have a successful trench excavation. Sandy soils, loose stony soils, and wet materials can make digging a straight deep ditch difficult and dangerous. You may need to add one of the following structural support options to complete this project safely:
- Shoring: Using a support structure on the sides of your trench so they don't cave in. This could be sheets of plywood supported by posts or for trenches deeper than 3 feet; it is recommended to use steel trench boxes or sheet piling.
- De-watering: Removing the excess water from the soil to stabilize it. This can be done with a sock pipe along with a mud-hog type diaphragm pump to remove the water as it seeps into the excavation.
- Benching the excavation: Digging the trench is steps or tiers so that the sides do not have support more material than they need too.
Mini excavators can be used to dig the trench, backfill the trench, and even compact it with additional attachments.
Homeowners who live in areas that get a lot of rain can sometimes have problems with water buildup on their property. A drainage ditch can solve that issue. A drainage ditch is a trench that is used to form a pathway for that water to move away from the property. The trench or ditch will end at a logical downhill exit point, such as a small stream or sewer. Unlike the utility trench, the width of the trench should be greater than the depth. The mini excavator is going to easily help you dig the drainage ditch and then fill the bottom of the ditch with large pieces of crushed rock.
#4 - Mini Excavators are Great for Drilling
Drilling holes have never been easier than with the mini excavator. Designed a wide range of attachments available, the mini excavator can drill deep into concrete or soil. Attachments like the auger are equipped with teeth, teeth, and pilot, or drive. Tree augers have a small diameter on the bottom that is mounted to a larger diameter on top, to produce holes for planting trees. Rock bits are the toughest type of auger and are made for digging in solid rock and concrete. Typical projects that require the help of the mini excavator equipped with an auger are the following:
- Road Signage Posts
- Fence Posts
- Tree Planting
- Rock Blasting and much more
There are many types of drilling attachments you can buy or rent for your mini excavator. The drilling attachments have slightly different features and benefits.
#5 - Jobsite Preparation & Demolition Work
Jobsite preparation is always the first step in any construction project. Preparing your job site will involve clearing trees if it is a forestry project. Usually, the first step in forestry site preparation is to clear away the vegetation and surface soil, also called the undergrowth from the site. Clearing the undergrowth first creates a safer space to start the tree removal process.
For construction job sites, you will want to clear the debris, level the ground, and if need be move materials from one jobsite to another. When building a house or another structure, it is important to use your mini excavator to clear away the surface soil. Surface soil consists of decaying material and roots, making it a very unstable surface to build upon.
The leftover soil can then be graded using your mini excavator with a grading blade attachment. The graded soil will then be prepared to use as a foundation for concrete to be applied. Site preparation can also include blasting, land drainage, landfill, leveling, and much more.
Mini excavators are a very popular heavy construction machine found on construction sites because of their versatility. If you use a mini excavator with a long boom, you can demolish old buildings from the top of the roof down to the ground. The demolished materials can then be placed into piles of materials.
The mini excavator is great at handling materials, especially if you use a bucket with a thumb attachment that can grab onto the debris. Their high boom lift capacity allows them to easily dump the materials into a dump truck. Mini excavators running rubber tracks will have enough traction for this unstable soil and with its puncture-resistant material, the rubber tracks will float over the rough soil and debris without damage to the rubber tracks.
Demolishing Small Structures
It is very common for property owners or contractors to need to remove small structures. Property owners sometimes have old barns that have a foundation that is weak and no longer solid. Sometimes they hire contractors to tear down old buildings that contain dangerous materials such as asbestos.
Homeowners have old sheds that are worn out to the point of no return and are not worth selling anymore. This small structure needs removal, and renting or owning a mini excavator can solve this problem. You can equip your mini excavator with an array of attachments or you can use it as is to tear down a barn or shed. Using a mini excavator to tear down your barn or shed saves you time and money.
Use a mini excavator with a longer boom when you must reach high structures. If you don't use a mini excavator equipped with a longer boom, you risk getting too close to the project when reaching up high. If you have a small crawler dump or even a small trailer, you can use your mini excavator to dump all the materials from the shed or barn into the trailer or crawler dump and off your land.
Many time-consuming projects can easily be turned into DIY projects with the help of the mini excavator. This powerful machine can do multiple tasks at once making planting a tree, digging a trench, or putting in your very first pool or spa a breeze. The mini excavator is a can easily maneuver around obstacles in the yard or on the construction site and with its retractable undercarriage, you can get through narrow spaces without a problem. A mini excavator is a versatile machine that has a wide variety of attachments available to allow it to perform almost any project you put in front of it.
We just covered five unique uses for this machine, but there are many more. Mini excavators work best when running rubber tracks. Rubber tracks increase the flotation of the machine and give it the traction it needs to climb dirt slopes.
The replacement of your rubber tracks is recommended when you notice exterior cracks, loose or missing lugs, or lack of tension on your rubber tracks. If you notice any of these signs of wear and tear but are not sure if it is time to replace your tracks, call us or fill out our contact form and one of our dedicated agents will be happy to answer any questions.