Blayney Chronicle

Excavation machinery in construction

Soil excavation is one of the fundamentals of any construction project whether it is preparation for a new slab, clearing a site for a new project or a large scale cut and fill. Photo: Shutterstock

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Although excavation is a fairly simple and straightforward process, there are plenty of different methods and machines that can get the job done. Some are more accessible for those awkward sites, while other machines can help get a bulk job done quickly.

When starting to look at the different types of machines available for soil excavation, starting with the basics is the best way to go and then moving into the lesser known methods and machines.


There are plenty of different sizes and types of excavators for hire and they do exactly what their name says. Most excavators are made up of three components: an undercarriage, house, and arm. The undercarriage can consist of tracks, which make moving across a site simpler, or wheels which are more commonly seen on smaller excavators. Excavators can come in sizes ranging from mini excavators, so 1 tonne to 6 tonne, up to large mining sized excavators, which can be up to a 1,000 tonne capacity.

There are also many other variations of excavators that allow for work on limited access sites, or different attachments that serve different earthmoving purposes:

  • Spider excavators
  • Long reach excavator
  • Knuckle boom excavator


Diggers, also called bobcats, skid steers, or mini loaders, are predominantly used on residential or smaller commercial construction projects. Some of these models have the capability for a person to stand on the back and clearly see the soil they are removing or moving across a site, so they are a great choice for those smaller residential jobs. Each of these machines have many different attachments that can help complete specific earthmoving tasks.

  • Rock bucket
  • Rock picker
  • Stick rake
  • Lift rake
  • Auger drive
  • Chain trencher
  • Pallet forks
  • Grapple buckets
  • Ground engaging tools: rock breaker, level spreader bar, ripper, etc.
  • Slashers

Tractors and backhoes

Traditionally tractors have been known simply as agricultural tools, but they have different attachments that allow different capabilities for soil excavation. One of the attachments used is a traditional excavator bucket which turns the machine into a backhoe. Backhoes have a tractor like body with a two part articulating arm and bucket, and a loader style bucket on the other. These two function style machines offer different uses from both of the attachments. As well as being used in agricultural industries, these machines can be utilised for land clearing to make way for new structures.

Vacuum excavators and hydro excavators

Vacuum excavators can be extremely useful when you wish to clear a site once excavation is complete quickly and efficiently, or if you are accessing underground assets or utilities and want to significantly reduce the risk of damage. Vacuum excavators a vacuum like machine that can suck up wet or dry materials during the excavation process. They can be trailer mounted to transport to a site, or they can be attached to a truck with a tank for easy disposal.

Hydro excavation uses vac trucks, similar to vacuum excavation, only they use a fine strong stream of water to break down the soil into a sludge or slurry to then be pumped into the waste tank. This is possibly one of the most effective types of excavation as the clean up is simple and is eliminates the risk of rupturing an underground asset with a large bulky machine.

Dragline excavators

Dragline excavators have a similar makeup to standard track mounted excavators; however they are extremely large in size and feature a hoist rope that attaches to the bucket, which is then attached using a dragline. The hoist rope lifts and lowers the bucket to reach the soil, while the dragline pulls the bucket toward the operator. These large soil excavator machines are used in large scale mining projects, as they can reach over 13,000 tonnes in size, or for port construction or other underwater operations.

Finding the right soil excavation machine for your project

When you're searching for the right type of soil excavation machine for your project, it can be difficult to determine which would be best suited for the job. There are a few things to remember when selecting the right supplier and type of machine:

  1. Projects size: first of all, determine whether you're completing a residential project or a large scale industrial operation. This will be a huge determinant for machine type and size.
  2. Consider other assets: if you're attempting to dig around underground assets, hydro excavation may be the best, however if you're in an area that isn't near assets other types of machine may be a better choice.
  3. Consider attachments: if you want a versatile machine that can quickly change from one type of job to another on site, this can impact the type of machine you wish to hire.

Choose soil excavation machines from the right company

There are soil excavation machinery suppliers almost everywhere but finding a trusted a reputable supplier can be tough. Make sure to look at all reviews and rates before you decide to hire a supplier, but there are a couple of options to get you started:

  • Menzies Civil- Menzies is one of Australia's premier civil construction companies providing services in bulk earthworks and plant hire for excavators, dozers, and skid steer loaders. Based in Western Australia they can travel up and down the state providing their services.
  • Sweeney Hire- Sweeney Hire provides complete plant hire and excavation solutions including tight access excavation, hardscaping and landscaping, and all other excavation services. They provide plant like mini excavators, posi-track and skid steer hire, and dingo hire.