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Boring vs Trenching: How to Choose the Right Equipment For the Job

April 22, 2024

Boring and trenching allow for convenient underground placement of utilities that enhance modern living. Without the underground installation processes, it would be unsightly with the clutter and obstacles of overhead lines. 

Boring and trenching may seem similar as they require heavy equipment to excavate or drill out material to create the path for underground utilities. However, there are significant differences in the equipment needed and the application methods. 

Moreover, the two methods also vary in precision during installation. Read on to understand boring vs trenching and their distinctions, and find out what's ideal for your project. 

What is Directional Boring?

Underground utility installation requires surgical precision. Even minor angles, pressure, or tool manipulation errors could lead to hole deviation, significant environmental damage, or stuck equipment. 

Directional boring addresses some of these challenges as it's a trenchless technique with minimal surface disturbance. This method uses a surface-launched drilling rig with a downhole motor and steering tool to make a hole through which wires or pipes can go.  

A directional bore is suitable when trenching and excavations are impractical, for instance, when there are busy roads or buildings in the area. The leading equipment for making an underground bore includes a drilling rig, drill string, downhole boring tool, and fluid circulation system. The drills have sensors that provide information on the tool's face, inclination, and azimuth. 

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Advantages of Boring

There are many advantages of directional boring, including the following;

  • Completes projects fast: Ground boring is fast and efficient since it eliminates excavation needs. The clean-up after the construction is also quicker since the process involves less dirt.
  • Less ground disturbance: Boring has minimal ground disturbance as it doesn't involve uprooting vegetation or disrupting the soil. Pipes and wires go beneath rivers, roads, and buildings without digging the ground.
  • Minimizes environmental damage: With boring, there's minimal environmental impact as it reduces groundwater pollution and causes fewer fractures to existing rocks. 
  • Safer for workers: Boring offers safer working conditions as it does not pose cave-in and falling risks. It also reduces the risk of falling rocks, debris, or flooding.
  • Cost-effective: Boring avoids high expenses like demolition costs, surface restoration, and potential schedule delays from excavation logistics. It can improve cost efficiency by installing multiple utility lines in a single bore.


Disadvantages of Boring

As with many projects, directional boring is imperfect and has disadvantages.

  • Complex process: Precision directional boring utilizes advanced technologies and well-trained personnel to achieve highly accurate underground installations.
  • Equipment can get stuck: Unexpected ground conditions can lead to stuck drill pipes or tools, requiring extra recovery efforts.


What is Trenching?

Trenching is digging into the ground to install, maintain, and inspect wires or cables. Contractors place the utility lines at the bottom of the trench and then fill it up.

Most people associate trenches with World War I, where soldiers hid to protect themselves against bullets and shrapnel. Post-war, they have become vital to the construction of infrastructure.

Trenching is often used to lay underground pipes for water, sewer, natural gas, or telecommunication lines. Moreover, more extensive diameter trenches are ideal for pipeline installation for crude oil, natural gas, or other fuel and product transportation.

For residential jobs or landscaping, your best bet is a walk-behind trencher. However, use a ride-on trencher for more complicated natural gas, utilities, or site development operations. If you want to purchase hard-working equipment, find the right trencher for sale at Purple Wave.

Advantages of Trenching

Here are some critical advantages of underground trenching:

  • Cost-effective: The installation cost of pipelines or conduits over long distances is relatively low, especially in good soil conditions. Trenching does not require expensive directional drilling equipment.
  • Ease of access for future repairs: For repairs, modifications, or expansions, trenching makes buried lines in a trench easily accessible.
  • Versatile: With trenching, contractors can place multiple utilities, such as gas, water, and electricity, simultaneously in a shared location.
  • Better visual access: Trenching provides better exposure for installing and servicing underground utilities. Workers can easily see the bottom of the trench and lay pipes and cables.


Disadvantages of Trenching

While trenching is economical and makes installations straightforward, it has some disadvantages.

  • Soil erosion risks: Vegetation and soil disturbance increase erosion risks, requiring effective mitigation strategies during and after construction.
  • Safety risks: This method may leave an open trench, meaning strict safety protocols are necessary to prevent risks to workers from cave-ins and falls.
  • Structural damage: Nearby utilities and underground structures increase the potential for accidental damage during digging activities.  


Boring vs Trenching: What’s the Difference?

Trenching and boring are both methods used to install underground utilities. However, in comparing boring vs. trenching, there are significant differences in the following aspects: 


Boring is more precise than trenching, as modern boring rigs use advanced locating systems to track the drill head and pilot bore in real time. Conversely, trenching accuracy relies on an operator's estimation of depth and alignment within an open trench.


While trenching requires digging up the ground and causing disruption to landscapes, pathways, etc., boring is less disruptive since it drills underground without breaking the surface. 

Cost and Equipment

Trenching generally has a lower initial capital cost when comparing boring vs. trenching costs, as it uses standard, less specialized excavation equipment. On the other hand, directional boring rigs are more expensive specialized equipment that enables complex, deep, and precise installations.

State Requirements

Both techniques have state requirements for general construction, but boring has more stringent regulations than the other option. Trenching requires basic construction permits, while directional boring faces additional regulatory pre-planning steps because of its technical complexities.

Which is Right for Me?

With trenching and boring methods, choosing the right one for your project depends on a few factors. Firstly, boring generally provides better precision and navigational control below ground. If you want fast installations while avoiding costly damage to existing infrastructure or service disruptions, directional boring might be the best method for you.

Again, boring is ideal for installations in busy urban locations as it causes minimal infrastructure and traffic disruptions. But if you are working with a low budget, consider trenching, as it doesn't involve using specialized equipment or skilled operators. When choosing the suitable installation method between boring and trenching, it's important to note that both require permits.

Truck and Equipment Auctions from Purple Wave

Boring and trenching carry unique importance in utility installation. Now that you know how to choose the suitable method, the next critical step is getting equipment to meet the job's demands.

If you’re looking for specialized equipment to navigate different landscapes and soil types, equipment auctions offer high-quality options that fit your projects and your budget. Purple Wave offers trenching and boring equipment, buyer support, and competitive auction pricing. 

Looking for a high-quality trencher for sale? Purple Wave provides a one-stop shop for financing and purchasing used trenching equipment from large auctions. If you need an excavator for sale, you can browse our listings by specifications, features, and sizes.

Check out our online auctions to see what’s in stock today!