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In my business, we are always looking for new tools to try out to reduce our labor in the field and to make our jobs easier. Whenever on site, we are always taking note of areas we need to improve to become more efficient. One such area as we added new services like installing gas fire pits was the trenching of the gas line which needed to be 18″ below final grade. The first one we ever did, we could not get a machine into the backyard so we hand dug 60 feet of the trench to get the project installed. That made me immediately looking out there for a solution to our tight access backyard trenching.
The GeoRipper was our solution to our trenching problem. With so many tight access backyards where we cannot get a piece of equipment over 30″ into the backyard, we could not rely on one of those bulky trenching machines. The GeoRipper allows us to simply store and carry a trenching machine into a backyard with the capability of getting 18″ below grade for our gas line installs.
The cost of the GeoRipper can be a deterrent when deciding on whether or not you need it. For us, it was a simple decision based on the tight access projects that we take on, the services that we offer our clients, and a quick calculation of the cost associated with hand-digging these trenches. In our previous example, we hand-dug a 60 foot trench at a depth of 18″. This took one man a full day to complete. This cost us $200 for the day for a starting laborer. However, with a GeoRipper, we could complete this project in less than half an hour. The cost of the labor for that is $12.50.
Our GeoRipper cost us around $4,000 (Canadian Dollars). In 21 comparable projects or 1260 linear feet of trenching, the GeoRipper would have paid itself off completely when comparing hand digging to using it. That does not take long to pay itself off. It would be easy to calculate the number of trenches you complete in a season and how long it would take you to pay it off to see whether or not this would be useful in your business.
However, it is not just about the money saved with these pieces of equipment. It is about the back-breaking labor savings and crew morale that goes with owning and operating one of these pieces of equipment. We work in an industry that is desperate for good labor. When we get good people, we want to take care of those good people and not use and abuse them after a day of work. This machine is just one piece in our tool box that allows us to make the day go by much smoother and shows our crew that we are investing into them as opposed to sending them home sore after a long day’s work.
Where we work, we are always dealing with tight access. That means we cannot get a lot of equipment into a backyard whenever we are installing an outdoor space.
Utility / Gas Lines
Various Quick Ripping
Depending where you are located, you will need to complete deep trenching for projects such as gas line installs for fire pits. For the diameter of these lines being 1″ to 2″, we do not need to complete a major trenching excavation with an excavator. In backyards where we cannot get an awkward and clunky walk-behind trencher into, which seems to be all of our installs these days with new homes being built closer and closer together, we need to opt for a smaller mini trencher to complete the project which will reduce our labor cost of hand digging. This is definitely the perfect application for the GeoRipper.
If you operate an irrigation business running lines throughout a property day in and day out, this portable trencher is a no brainer. There is no doubt that this will save you in several situations and allow you to improve your efficiency on installs.
Landscape lighting is the most profitable service that we offer in our business and provides our clients with the most value for their space, allowing them to take advantage of the space that they invested in during the evenings. We offer it as an add-on with every project we put together. This landscape trencher comes in handy when running wire from the transformer to these lights. Only needing to be trenched to a depth of 6″ where we operate, this hand trencher makes this incredibly easy.
We have made good use of our hand held trencher in various applications whenever needed including quickly carving out the base for a seat wall in dense clay soils, drainage applications, and cutting around a large rock to be able to pry the rock out of the soil. The thing about having an amazing piece of equipment on hand all of the time is that you will put it to good use and find new ways to use it whenever needed.
The GeoRipper is available in various models using Makita engines ranging from 2 Stroke to 4 Stroke and 20″ to 27″ digging depths, as well as conversion kits for Husqvarna, Stihl, or Makita engines. They also have the Milwaukee Battery Powered conversion kit if you prefer to have a battery powered option for the GeoRipper. Along with these options are carts that allow you to operate the GeoRipper without having to bend over when trenching.
With the only handheld trencher on the market, there is no decision to be made. Not to mention that the GeoRipper is no doubt a quality piece of equipment with the heart of it being well-known cut-off saw brands with a conversion kit to the functionality of the mini trencher.
The teeth of the chain is actually self-sharpening as it cuts into the ground and will easily tear through roots up to 3″ in diameter and remove rocks up to 4″. I have found that it does a great job of removing these rocks, to the point of catching on the teeth and tossing them with some force immediately behind the machine. There is a guard on the machine that protects minimally the operator, but it is best to spread your legs or stand off to one side when operating the trencher.
You will find that the trencher naturally removes the soil and places it to the left of the trench. As the soil pile builds up on the left of the trench, you will need to knock it down in order to dig deeper than about 16″ otherwise the soil pile is too high and inevitably falls into the trench. This design of the placement of the dug soil is an incredible feature. Having the soil placed immediately behind the machine would just cause you to have to re-dig it as you move through your trench.
The main down-side to the GeoRipper would be the cost and regular replacement of the chain itself. The machine comes with two chains, but depending on the use that you are putting into it you will need to budget in the cost of the replacement. If you are cutting into more abrasive material like sandy soils or hitting lots of rock, the lifetime of the chain will diminish fast. If you are cutting into less abrasive soils, then you will be happy to know that the lifetime of the chain will be much longer and not need to worry as much about replacing the chain. At around $500 for a replacement chain, this is no small cost that should be accounted for and budgeted into each project that you complete.
Ultimately, is it worth it?
For us in our business, it is absolutely worth the cost. We can use this in our tight access situations to get our landscape lighting wire easily 6″ below grade, our gas lines 18″ below grade, and small easy trenching projects like drainage or other small applications that require a quick ripping. The GeoRipper allows us to do all of this. This small piece of equipment, though on the pricier end of the spectrum, replaces a big piece of equipment for us.