John Deere skid steer with trencher attachment digging a trench next to a concrete wall.
Winter 2022

Heavy Trench Digging with John Deere Equipment

Trenches are essential for a variety of civil engineering and construction projects. Explore John Deere equipment for trenching in a variety of applications.

What's the difference between a trench and an excavation?

Simply stated, a construction trench is a narrow, below-ground channel that's deeper than it is wide. That makes trenches inherently different from excavations which can be any shape or size. That may seem like a basic, or even obvious distinction. But it's extremely important to your choice of equipment.

Common uses for trenches include:

    • pipe laying
    • electrical and telecom wires
    • sewage lines

For residential projects, trenches are often needed for:

    • electricity cables
    • irrigation & plumbing
    • HVAC pipes

Excavations, on the other hand, are used for different applications such as these:

    • foundations for buildings
    • drainage ditches
    • roads
    • reservoirs
John Deere Skid Steer with a trencher attachment digging a trench through the dirt.

326D Skid Steer and trencher attachment digging on worksite.

Choosing your trenching equipment.

Size & shape of trench needed

You'll need to know the specs of your trench (linear feet plus the width/depth) as well as the required shape. The shape is typically determined by factors such as the size of the pipe being installed and the type of soil. Common shapes are straight, sloped, benched and bell-bottom.

The depth of your trench and the task are also important when you consider the time of year. In winter or during cold conditions, you'll need to know the frost line of your dig site and what you're installing. For example, water and sewer lines are sensitive to extreme cold.

Ground conditions / type of soil

The type of soil will impact the horsepower, chain type and drive system requirements of your machinery. You'll need to know if the soil is dry and loose or hard and rocky. You'll also want to consider if it's usually wet and muddy, or temporarily impacted by recent rain.

Job site / available space

You'll want to get a detailed assessment of the job site, including any natural or manmade obstacles such as trees, waterways, buildings and of course utilities (both above and below ground).

Equipment needs

Like any project, there's more to trenching than digging the actual trench. Whether you need to move excavated dirt, lift pipes into place, break up boulders or backfill, John Deere has you covered. We have earth-moving equipment and attachments for every task. Let's take a look at all the options.


470 P-Tier Excavator


    • Rugged and dependable, they're the workhorses of your fleet.
    • Great for trenching, site prep, loading or placing pipe.
    • Available in compact, mid-side and large (3,800 - 188,750 lbs)

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    • Our backhoes offer superb, multifunction performance.
    • Great for digging trenches, loading trucks, busting up blacktop, placing pipe or moving materials.
    • 4 available sizes (13,822 - 25,588 lbs).

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Compact Track Loaders

    • Vertical-lift design rises high and reaches far for quick and easy loading.
    • Attachments add versatility for site prep and moving rock and dirt.
    • 4 available sizes (8,423 - 12,100 lbs).

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Crawler Loaders

    • Provide muscle and versatility for the most demanding jobs.
    • Great for excavating, loading trucks, backfilling or grading.
    • 2 available sizes (40,614 & 45,178 lbs).

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    • Wide variety of applications including site development, clearing, roadbuilding and more.
    • Advanced hydraulic features, fuel-saving technology, easy operation.
    • 8 available models (17,510 - 96,100 lbs).

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Skid Steers

    • Power, performance and maneuverability for trenching, site prep and moving rock.
    • More than 100 attachment options including buckets, augers and hydraulic hammers.
    • 6 different models (6,140 - 10,000 lbs).

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Wheel Loaders

    • More reach, comfort and control.
    • Attachments offer unparalleled versatility.
    • 20 different models (compact, mid-size, large).


The John Deere line of equipment is designed for maximum versatility, so you get more performance from every machine. With over 100 different attachments, you can ask your John Deere to do more — and it will deliver like nothing else can. Here's a look at some of the most popular attachments for trenching and other related tasks.

    • Trenchers — provide more control for trenching close to structures; optimized for skid steer loaders and compact track loaders
    • Plate Compactors — for trench-, slope-, and excavation-compaction applications
    • Hydraulic Hammers — for breaking concrete or rock; concrete flatwork; preparing dirt for concrete pads and fencing
    • Planetary Drive Augers — for compacted soil, heavy clay, asphalt, frozen ground and fractal rock
    • Buckets — for moving dirt, gravel, mulch, manure, brush; loosening soil; dirt leveling
    • Rock Buckets — ideal for sifting/sorting material and removing debris from job sites
    • Rollout Buckets — for elevated dump heights; work with skid steers, compact track loaders and compact wheel loaders
    • Dozer Blades — deliver maximum uptime for tasks like stripping clay to finish grading
    • engcon™ Tiltrotators — speeds up excavator work by allow the bucket to rotate 360 degrees and tilt up to 45 degrees side to side

Explore attachment to machine compatibility

Skid SteerCompact Track LoaderCompact Wheel LoaderCompact Excavator

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Deere & Company ( is a global leader in the delivery of agricultural, construction and forestry equipment. We help our customers push the boundaries of what's possible in ways that are more productive and sustainable to help life leap forward. Our technology-enabled products including John Deere Autonomous 8R Tractor, See & Spray™, and E-Power Backhoe are just some of the ways we help meet the world's increasing need for food, shelter and infrastructure. Deere & Company also provides financial services through John Deere Financial.

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Features and specifications are based on published information at the time of publication. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.