When it comes to construction, there are two main excavation methods: trenching and excavation. Both of these methods have their unique benefits and drawbacks. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between trenching and excavation so that you can decide which way is best for your project.

Excavation vs Trench

OSHA defines an excavation as any artificial cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface caused by earth removal.

A trench is a narrow excavation (in comparison to its length) dug below the ground’s surface. In general, the depth of a trench is more significant than its breadth, although the breadth of a trench (measured at the bottom) is not more than 15 feet (4.6 m).

  • If you work in an excavation that is more than five feet deep (or deeper), you must be protected from a cave-in.
  • If an expert, who has experience in soil testing, believes there is a danger of a cave-in while digging, you must be safeguarded, regardless of the depth.

Trenching and excavation are hazardous occupations that professionals should only handle. When it comes to trenching vs excavation, there are a few significant distinctions:

Size and Shape

Excavation is the process of digging a hole in the ground through human activity. This means an excavation can be any size and shape, unlike a trench, which is a specific component of excavation that creates a thin surface cavity. The bottom line is that all trenches are excavations, but not all excavations cavities are trenches.

Trenches are often utilized to avoid hitting underground elements such as plumbing, utility lines, and foundation footings.


As the name implies, excavation work is any excavation that might be done with large equipment. Foundation excavating is one of the first steps in a building project and is one of the most typical excavation forms. Contractors primarily carry out utility line trenching to ensure they do not damage existing lines or develop foundations.


Trenching may be completed using a shovel, whereas excavation is done with heavy-duty equipment like backhoes. Many trenching contractors now utilize power trenchers that resemble chainsaws to speed up the process.


Some of these occupations are hazardous and necessitate safety gear and precautions. According to OSHA, each year, trenching and excavation contribute to many job-related deaths. This is due to risks including cave-ins, slips, falls, heavy loads that fall onto utility wires, and poisonous gases.

OSHA requires that any trench, except ones made up of rock five feet deep, must be protected by a protective system. A competent agent must install this defensive technique, identifying both rock and soil composition.

Here are the steps for correctly installing and removing protective measures:

  • To prevent sliding, falling, kick-outs, or consistent failure, members of support systems must be firmly linked.
  • Supports must be built and removed to protect employees from cave-ins, structural collapses, and being struck by components of the support system.
  • Support systems should not be overburdened with individuals.


Looking for professional excavation services? Contact J Bond Construction today to discuss your needs!

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