How do I choose an excavator by job type & size?

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With the large range of sizes, models and functions available, how do I choose an excavator? Since only small projects can be completed with hand tools and physical labour alone, this is a question most site managers will face eventually. 

When considering plant hire, it is important to get the most from the equipment to justify the cost to the project. Picking the right excavator will save time, money and effort, increasing efficiency and allowing swift completion of the job. The larger the excavator, the more power it will bring to the job, but the largest is not always the most suitable. By assessing the job the excavator will perform, the worksite and the power needed, the choice becomes far easier.

Main Factors to Consider

Job Type

The first and most important thing to consider is the job or range of jobs that make excavator hire necessary in the first place. Different models and sizes are suited to different jobs or may be able to double up on multiple tasks. Think through the job and ask some simple questions to make the choice clearer.

1. Demolition/ Clearance

What size excavator do I need to clear stumps? How high are the walls to be demolished?  For demolition or clearance, most work will be conducted in the horizontal plane or above. A high reach excavator will allow demolition of high walls and clearance of refuse over a large area. A high lifting capacity is essential due to the heavy loads being moved.

2. Construction

What weight of concrete or bricks do I need to be able to lift? Can the excavator unload and transport large amounts of material quickly and safely? Construction work shares many factors with demolition, effectively being the same process in reverse. As a result a similar range of movement and lifting will be necessary in the excavator used. For both a reinforced cab design is a safer choice. The heavy materials involved could cause serious damage to both the equipment and user if dropped or in case of collapse.

3. Digging Work

What size excavator do I need to dig a basement? How big an excavator do I need to replace a water main? For large digging jobs below the horizontal plane, long reach excavators are the best choice. Their long booms give increased digging depth with a large bucket capacity for removal of waste. For small jobs such as gas or water mains, mini or midi excavators are ideal, with narrow buckets and sufficient lifting power.

4. Work In Confined Spaces

What are the best excavators to use in restricted workspaces? What excavator size do I need for indoor work? For internal repairs or work in urban environments, mini or midi excavators are often the perfect choice. While their lifting capacity and digging depth are smaller, the reduced excavator width and height allows access to restricted spaces. Their lower weight also minimises any damage to floor surfaces.

5. Mixed work

Does the job involve a variety of smaller tasks that one piece of equipment could perform? Do I need a range of movement and mobility? Backhoe loaders combine a front bucket or blade to push, level and move materials and a rear boom. While the boom only rotates 200 degrees rather than the 360 of standard excavators, increased versatility is the trade off.

While this list is not exhaustive, it gives an example of the points to consider when choosing an excavator based on use.

Size and Weight

The one to forty five tonne range of excavators covers three categories of excavator sizes: mini, midi and standard. It is important to choose the right size to get the most cost effective model for your needs. Too large an excavator can be awkward to use without damaging the worksite and expensive to hire and refuel. If the excavator is too small it could struggle to perform properly and take far longer to do the job.

1. Mini or Compact Excavators

Mini excavators are the smallest category, weighing in at less than six tonnes. Their low weight makes them perfect for work on soft or easily damaged surfaces. Their small size also allows them to access small, restricted work areas, making then ideal for indoor work. Many have zero tail swing, working within their own footprint and are easy to transport. If the power and reach of larger models is not needed, they are a cheap efficient solution.

2. Midi Excavators

These occupy the six to ten tonne range and are perfect for most standard landscaping or construction work. Their small size and manoeuvrability is their greatest strength. Their larger size brings an increase in reach and power over mini excavators, while still being easy to transport and store. For standard jobs, midi excavators also have the advantage of higher fuel efficiency over standard excavators.

3. Standard Excavators

Standard or Full-sized excavators weigh from ten to forty five tonnes, with the highest power ratings. They also have the greatest reach, making them suitable for large, heavy duty work. Their greater weight and size give increased stability, with some incorporating counterweights to offset extremely heavy lifting. The increased visibility from their elevated, large cabs makes work on busy sites much safer. Their larger tail swing makes them unsuitable to cramped conditions and their weight can be damaging to some ground surfaces. Some models can be equipped with wheels rather than tracks for work on hard terrain, increasing manoeuvrability and speed. This also allows them to be driven to worksites by road, saving time and money on transport.

SERV Plant hire are specialists in plant hire to the North West, with offices based in Chester, Crewe, Manchester and Liverpool. We have an extensive range of excavators for hire, from one tonne mini excavators to fifteen tonne standard excavators. We can also supply a wide range of attachments to ensure you get the most from all our equipment. Contact Us to discuss your requirements, we will be glad to help and provide exactly what you need for your current project.

Excavator Hire

We offer a wide range of excavators for all kinds of jobs from established manufacturers such as Takeuchi and Volvo.