How To Dig A Trench In 4 Methodical Steps

digging a trench on process

Trenches that are done at home can have many uses. Aside from helping you installing pipes for water or drainage, it can also be used to help you with your gardening tasks. Trenches however, can take a lot of time and energy to accomplish. This is especially true if you do not have right tools for the job.

Digging trenches can also be quite dangerous. This is because there might be unseen obstructions that are still hidden beneath the soil. You have to understand that in some areas, the power lines, gas lines, and also the water or sewer lines might run directly under your lawn or garden area.

If you end up hitting them with your pick, you can easily end up having to deal with a problem that will cost thousands of dollars to fix. It is also possible for you to severely hurt yourself. So if you want to dig a trench efficiently and safely, call in the professionals or follow the methodical steps below.

Preparing The Things You Will Need

1. A Utility Location Service

local service

You will need this so you can avoid damaging structures underneath the area where you plan on digging your trench. If you do not have this in your area, try using a metal detector or try to make exploratory holes along the lines of your trench.

2. Ground Markers

marking the ground

This will help you narrow down the area where you are going to dig. You can use stakes and string to plot the lines of your trench. You can also use pieces of wood, stones or sandbags if you do not have this.

3. A Trencher

a trencher

This machine can help you easily make the trench. You can rent one or you can buy one. These are quite expensive and they need technical knowledge from the user since they are complicated and dangerous. If you do not have one, you can use a shovel, like a D-handle sharp shooter, trench or clean out shovel.

4. A Pick Mattock

an old pick mattock on the ground

You will need to use this to loosen the soil. You can also use a digging bar if you do not have this tool. If you do not have large digging tools, you can use small gardening versions of it depending on the type of soil in your area. But it will take significantly more time to dig.

5. Work Gloves

work gloves

This will be used to protect your hands from the soil and the constant use of tools. You might be able to use gardening gloves or leather gloves but they have to fit your hand properly so you can reduce the friction you create from all the work you need to accomplish.

How To Dig A Trench

Step 1: Call A Utility Location Service

digging to installation in an instruction size

By dialing 811, you can actually contact a "Dig line" number that can help you locate power lines and other buried structures in your area. You need to do this first so you can effectively avoid injuring yourself or making a costly damage to your own property.

Step 2: Start Making The Outline

digging a trench on process

If everything has now been cleared up by the utility location service, you will then have to plan and make the proper outline for the trench. This will help you know how big the trench needs to be and it will also show you through the stakes and string where the trench needs to be.

Step 3: Loosen The Dirt


Try to follow the outline of the trench and loosen the dirt using the D-handle shovel and pick mattock so you can make the trench more efficiently. Keep the center line and depth of the trench and avoid obstructions if there are any. Try to remove large rocks and roots with the other digging tools.

Step 4: Use The Trencher

a digged trench

When using the trencher, always put your skill and physical condition into consideration. This machine can be very dangerous and physically demanding. You will have to observe all the safety guidelines of the machine and make sure that you are going to work inside the markers.

Never work with people, especially kids nearby. Make sure that the trencher is positioned properly and the machine is primed before you turn it on. If you are using ordinary digging tools, focus on using a shovel to make the center and have the exact depth. Then dig at the sides to widen the trench after.


Trenches are very useful but they can be very hard to make. If you want to successfully do it in your own property, you will have to make the necessary plans and preparations. Always put your safety as your number one priority and be sure to follow the steps carefully so you can make a reliable trench.

About the Author Emily Taylor

My name is Emily Taylor, gardening is my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. I know that there are millions of people out there want their backyard and garden be attractive just like their front yard, so I am here to help you create your own backyard paradise.

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