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Ultimate Trenching Tool Guide [10 Best Shovels, Chainsaw Trencher + Handheld]

Digging trenches may traditionally be the toil of chain gangs! But thankfully, modern tool technologies have eased the backbreaking burden. No need to break your back digging backyard garden trenches!

Our favorite trench digger is the gasoline-powered DK2 Power OPT118 7-hp Trencher, capable of slicing through 200 feet of dirt per hour! 

Requiring a single operator to manage its beastly power, the time and money you’ll save on labor will offset the DK2’s relatively hefty price tag.

If you’re more inclined to use traditional hand tools to dig your trenches, we have a fine set of conventional trench digging implements on review here too. 

So which tools are best for easy trench digging?

Let’s dig in!

Top 10 Best Tools for Easy Trench Digging

  1. Best Heavy-Duty Gas Trencher | DK2 Power OPT118
  2. Best Light-Duty Electric Trencher | Black + Decker Edger/Trencher
  3. Best Trenching Ground Breaker | The Slammer Tool
  4. Best Premium Trenching Pickaxe | Truper 31614 5-lbs Pick Mattock
  5. Best Budget Trenching Pickaxe | Groundwork Pro Pick Mattock
  6. Best Premium Trenching Edger | Kenyon 49044 48-inch Steel Edger
  7. Best Budget Trenching Edger | Fiskars 38.5-inch Steel Edger
  8. Best Four-inch Wide Trench Shovel | Groundwork Pro Trench Shovel
  9. Best Square Point Trench Shovel | Groundwork 60-inch Square Point Shovel
  10. Best Root Saw for Trenching | Black + Decker Cordless Reciprocating Saw

Is a Chain Drive Trencher a Chainsaw?

No! A chain drive trencher is not a chainsaw. A chain trencher has a much larger chain than a chainsaw, with sintered carbide teeth that cut through stone and dirt. Augers on the chain drive trencher excavate the soil and stone lifted by the chain teeth. Chainsaws are not for trenching.

There are several chain drive trenchers on the market that are capable of digging through dirt at high speed. Many of them look like a chainsaw. They get handled similarly, with the operator hunched over the blade as it plows into the earth. Commonly referred to as mini-trenchers, brands like the Terrasaw and GeoRipper (check out GeoRipper on Amazon) are effective but require tremendous skill to operate safely.

The DK2 Power OPT118 is markedly different from the previously-mentioned mini-trenchers. It is a commercial-grade trencher with a wheeled chassis, ergonomic controls, and safety features that make it suitable for inexperienced operators.

The DK2 Power Opt118 gets powered by a 7-hp Kohler four-stroke engine with 10.5 feet per pound of torque. The DK2 Power Opt118 also has a 63-inch chain spinning at 400rpm on an 18-inch bar. 

The tungsten carbide teeth on the chain can dig trenches 4-inches wide and 18-inches deep. A Belt-driven auto-feed 6-inch auger ensures dirt gets extracted from the worksite trench smoothly and safely.

The DK2 operates in reverse (with the operator walking backward), with locking wheels for additional safety. The control levers are adjustable to suit individual operator requirements.

Weight: 335 lbs.

Pros:

  • Labor-saving
  • Time-saving
  • Perfect for easy trench digging
  • Digs deep trenches
  • Safe
  • Three-year Engine Warranty
  • 12-month Chassis Warranty

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Requires fuel and maintenance
  • The operator needs basic power tool skills

Read More – Sloped Backyard Ideas on a Budget!

Can an Electric Lawn Edger Dig a Trench?

Electric lawn edgers can dig narrow, shallow trenches suitable for laying electrical cables and thin irrigation pipes. A vertical rotating steel cutting blade on the edger or trencher can get adjusted to cut earth trenches up to 3-inches deep, which is limited but helpful for light trenching work.    

The Black + Decker Edger/Trencher may look like another weed whacker! But it packs some trenching muscle too. A powerful high-torque 12-amp electric motor drives the flywheel that spins the edging twine and the trenching blade.

The Black + Decker Edger and Trencher swiftly convert into either tool in a few seconds. The guide rail ensures your trenches and edges are neatly cut.

The 7-1/2-inch (seven and a half-inch) trenching blade has three depth settings, providing an easy-to-handle, versatile tool for light-duty trenching tasks.

Weight: 14.05 lbs.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic
  • Can trench in circles
  • Safe
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • It can’t dig deep trenches
  • Power cable presents a risk of being cut
  • The operator needs basic power tool skills

Is a Crowbar a Trenching Tool?

A crowbar is a helpful tool for digging trenches in hard soil. The weight of the crowbar not only breaks ground but also dislodges rocks for easier digging. A new multipurpose impact bar and blade called The Slammer Tool uses an internal hammering effect to penetrate hard ground for trenching.

Designed in New Zealand and manufactured in China, The Slammer Tool is made from high-tensile steel, comprising a cutting head that doubles as a spade and a two-piece impact driver/handle.

The idea behind the Slammer Tool is easy. Instead of using your body weight to drive the sharp spade-like blade into the ground, the internal hammer in the tool’s handle converts velocity into torque. That torque is transferred to the spade for easy penetration through hard dirt and stubborn vegetation. Particularly thick roots!

The Slammer Tool makes a helpful weapon in any trenching arsenal due to its ability to cut into hard surfaces without too much physical exertion. The user maintains an upright body position and plunges the inner handle downwards to achieve the cutting and digging actions. 

Weight: 20 lbs.

Pros:

  • Versatile
  • Tough
  • Ergonomic
  • Can cut through soil and roots
  • Safe
  • Low maintenance

Cons: 

  • Relatively expensive for a manual tool
  • Not the best in category for easy trench digging

Is a Pick Mattock Designed for Trench Digging?

A pick mattock with a heavy head and long handle is an invaluable trenching tool, allowing the user to penetrate and loosen hard ground for easier digging with a trenching shovel. The double-bit head on the pick mattock serves as a hoe to move soil and a lever to dislodge rocks.

The Truper 31614 5-lbs Pick Mattock is a good choice of high-quality trenching pickaxe due to its rugged design and ergonomic handling characteristics.

The 5-pound head on the Truper 31614 is well balanced on a 36-inch fiberglass handle that gets cushioned for superior grip. The collar of the handle has an overstrike protection guard for extra durability.  

With a total head span of 22-inches, the Truper Pick Mattock is ideal for digging trenches of 12-inches. And deeper!

Weight: 7.93 lbs.

Pros:

  • Shock-absorbent handle
  • Rugged
  • Ergonomic
  • Can cut through soil and roots
  • Low maintenance

Cons: 

  • Labor-intensive operation 

Read More – Installing Landscape Rock for Backyard Decor and Gardens!

Can a Cheap Pickaxe Dig Trenches?

Budget pickaxes with heads securely fixed to the handle are suitable for trench digging. Several cheap pick mattock brands have forged steel heads and fiberglass handles for optimum durability and balance. Ideally, a trenching pickaxe should break, pry, cut, and dig through obstacles.

The Groundwork Pro Pick Mattock meets the spec for a trench-digging pickaxe – robust, balanced, and equipped with a 5-pound pry hook and mattock head to shift large amounts of dirt.

A 36-inch handle lets you get down low into a deep ditch! Meanwhile, the fiberglass construction and rubber grip keep the usability factor high.

Weight: 6.9 lbs.

Pros:

  • Shock-absorbent handle
  • Robust
  • Can cut through soil and roots
  • Low maintenance
  • Low cost

Cons: 

  • Labor-intensive operation 

Is an Edger Shovel Suitable for Easy Trench Digging?

An edger shovel is an ideal tool for marking a trench and will effectively slice through grass and soft soil to depths that establish the trench’s wall. An edging shovel’s flat square blade makes it suitable for removing grass sods from your worksite or backyard trench surface.  

If you’re planning on running a trench across your lawn, get your hands on a Kenyon 49044 48-inch Steel Edger. It has a light 48-inch steel alloy handle and an 8-1/4-inch (eight and one-quarter inch) by 10-inch blade. The Kenyon provides a 1-1/4-inch (one-and one-quarter inch) step for applying bodyweight to the steel blade as you sink it into the soil. 

  • The long handle provides added stability and extended reach to extract dirt from the trench without bending your back excessively.

Weight: 12.2 lbs.

Pros:

  • Long handle
  • Robust
  • Creates clean vertical trench walls
  • Low maintenance

Cons: 

  • Relatively expensive shovel 

Will a Cheap Edger Dig a Trench?

Maybe! A cheap turf-edging tool will assist in the trench digging operation by slicing through grass and soil, establishing the area’s perimeter that will become the trench once heavy digging commences. Budget edgers generally provide a sharp blade with a step and a long handle.

The Fiskars 38.5-inch Steel Edger has a super-sharp head and leveraged step for optimum downward force. A long 38.5-inch handle with a palm grip provides excellent ergonomics while minimizing the need to bend over. 

Weight: 2.2 lbs.

Pros:

  • Sharp
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to wield – easy trench digging bonus points
  • Low price 

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for soil extraction

Is a Trench Shovel Necessary to Dig a Ditch?

A trench shovel has a long handle and a scooped head that enables easy extraction of dirt from a ditch or trench. Trench shovels help keep soil from falling off the shovel’s tip. They also reduce energy requirements in excavating the trench.

Perfect for digging narrow trenches, the Groundwork Pro Trench Shovel has a 4-inch wide by 11.5-inch long concave carbon steel blade for easy handling and effective extraction of dirt from a ditch. A 47.4-inch fiberglass handle with foam grips provides ample leverage and comfort.

Weight: 4.5 lbs.

Pros:

  • Rugged
  • Lightweight
  • Good soil extraction
  • Low price

Cons:

  • No step on the blade 

Read More – Florida Backyard Landscape Ideas for Beautiful Lush Gardens!

Will a Square Point Shovel Dig a Trench?

A square point shovel with a large blade and high sides is suitable for extracting dirt and stones from a trench. A cushioned handgrip on a long handle allows the user to exert a lateral force on the trench dirt. It effectively scoops it into the blade trough for easy excavation. 

No trench digger should be without a conventional shovel! And the Groundwork 60-inch Square Point Shovel will serve as a trusty go-to when the dirt needs to get muscled out of the ditch (and scooped back into place once the job gets done).

The Groundwork Square Point has a carbon steel head measuring 11.7-inches by 9.25-inches with five-inch sides, delivering worthy payload carrying capacity for fit operators.

A 49-inch hardwood handle has a non-slip end grip for optimum reach and traction.

Weight: 5.2 lbs.

Pros:

  • Rugged
  • Lightweight
  • Bulk soil extraction
  • Low price 

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for narrow trenches

Is a Reciprocating Saw Useful for Trenching?

A reciprocating saw will cut through stubborn roots that grow in the path of a trench. Cordless reciprocating saws are free of power cables and thus are particularly useful to clear abandoned earthy trenches of undergrowth and roots obstructing the excavation and pipe/cable laying procedures.

A reciprocating saw is a tremendously versatile DIY tool more than capable of clearing a trench of stubborn roots. 

The 20-volt Black + Decker Cordless Reciprocating Saw provides portable and safe cutting power to remove roots 5-inches thick. 

Weight: 4.5 lbs. 

Pros:

  • Ease-of-use
  • Lightweight
  • Powerful cutting tool
  • Inexpensive multi-tool
  • Includes battery and charger

Cons: 

  • Charging required
backyard garden trench in lawn from trench digger
We love digging backyard garden trenches for trench composting! Usually – we can manage to dig small trenches by ourselves. It’s possible to build garden trenches using shovels and elbow grease. But gas-powered tools for easy trench digging make the task less arduous!

Conclusion

If you’re wondering why we’ve chosen the DK2 Power OPT118 7-hp Trencher as our top easy trench digging tool when it costs as much as a second-hand car? Then you are forgiven. But here’s the answer. It’s an excellent tool for hire!

The $3K or so you spend on a premium power trencher is an investment in a business tool you can use to generate revenue for your homestead.

Power trenchers are available to rent at Home Depot and tool rental shops for around $300 per day. If you charge $250 daily and include transport and an operator, you’ll have the DK2 fully paid for in 12 days of trenching!

But maybe becoming a trench-digging entrepreneur isn’t for you? And you want to dig a trench with user-friendly tools?

If so – check out our recommendations – they’ll save you time, money, and unnecessary backache!

In the meantime – if you have questions about the top tools for easy trench digging – let us know!

(Also – if you have experience using some of the trench digging tools on this list – please share your experience. Or maybe we missed some of the best trench digging tools? Let us know!)

Thanks so much for reading.

And have a great day!

Author

  • Paul Collings

    Paul writes for a living, about trucks mostly. He lives away from the city and off the road, nurturing his love for all things outdoors –- like tiny house construction, country cooking, bushcraft, woodwork and power tools, alternative energy, and minimalist living. If there’s a way to Do It Yourself, Paul wants to hear about it, and try it out. Then he’ll write about it, and share his story with blog readers around the world. Paul was raised on a South African homestead where he tended two horses, a Jersey cow, and half a mile of split pole fencing. At age 16, he bought a dirt bike, pirated a punk rock compilation, and commenced a blind-rise adventure that continues to this day where words, Wabi-Sabi, cooking, all-terrain tires, and all things to do with canvas and wood are his fodder. His overarching existential question is – “What more does a man need than a cast iron pot and a pair of loose-fitting trousers?”

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