This evolution of vacuum excavation is actually part of the history of our company. One of the founders of SoftDig® was involved in developing the first vacuum excavation trucks for underground utility location crews. This advanced equipment has revolutionized the industry and made the job significantly safer.
Vacuum excavation is a low impact, minimally invasive method for digging. Known as “soft dig” or suction excavation, the technique is applied to all kids of drilling, construction, excavating, utility location and survey projects.
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How Vacuum Excavation Works
Vacuum excavation is a dual-purpose method for breaking up soil and underground material using pressurized air then suctioning it up to clear the area. SoftDig® vacuum excavation trucks have both a compressor and vacuum system mounted onboard. They are used to quickly and safely dig through gravel, clay and even frozen soil to expose buried cables.
The high-pressure air is powerful, yet it eliminates the risk of damaging buried utilities lines and pipes. That’s how it got the name “soft dig.” This method is highly efficient and successfully disturbs the least amount of soil needed to uncover the utilities and clear the work space. Once the vacuum tube has sucked up the dirt and debris into the tank and out of the way, work crews can do their job more efficiently.
Increased Safety for Excavating Jobs
One of the main benefits of using vacuum excavation is that it helps safeguard work crews. It is widely accepted as the safest method for digging within the tolerance zone for buried utilities. Workers remain on the surface while the vacuum excavation equipment does the hard work down below. Because air is doing the heavy lifting, no moving or metal parts make contact with the utility line which is being uncovered. Plus, it effectively reduces the risk of trench cave-ins, electrocution and damaging power lines and other utilities.
Advantages of Vacuum Excavation
Increased safety is not the only advantage to using soft digging method. Here are some of the other notable benefits. Vacuum excavation…
- Is faster and very cost effective.
- Is cleaner and quieter than traditional excavation methods.
- Greatly reduces the footprint of the job site and inconvenience caused by the work underway.
- Allows utility locators to find the exact location and position of lines.
- Makes it possible to determine the type, condition and measurements of underground utilities.
- Enables excavated material to be reused when refilling the hole.
- Virtually eliminates the risk for damaging utilities.
- Can be utilized to uncover all types of utilities: gas, water, electrical and fiber optics.
Vacuum excavation is ideal for unearthing utilities or clearing underground work space in congested areas. The equipment takes up less space and causes less disruption to traffic. Once the work is completed, it’s easy to install a patch over the small footprint left at the site.
Projects Requiring Vacuum Excavation
Could vacuum excavation be helpful for any type of underground project? Yes. It is frequently utilized for these kinds of applications:
- Locating and measuring underground utilities,
- Excavating below a standing building, or remote excavation,
- Cleaning valve boxes and catch basins,
- Sewer line repairs,
- Clearing out construction debris,
- Cleaning environmental boring holes,
- Geotechnical drilling,
- Precision trench digging.
Hydro Vacuum Excavation
Similarly, hydro vacuum excavation applies the same concept to soft digging but uses pressurized water in place of compressed air. Jets of water are used to break up dirt and underground material which is then removed with a high-powered vacuum. Water helps soften the soil quickly and it can make suctioning easier. If the ground is frozen, hot water is sprayed to thaw and dig simultaneously.
The advantage is that it can do the same types of jobs more efficiently. Its disadvantage is that the material removed can’t be reused to refill the hole.
Call Before You Dig
You are required by law to call 811 and notify the public authorities of your excavation plans. It’s also recommended that you call a private utility locator to have the lines which run beyond the service meter marked before you break ground. Digging without knowing what lies below ground could, not only, cause expensive property damages, but it’s also extremely dangerous. Call before you dig!
Since the SoftDig® vacuum excavation trucks were first developed in 1959, we have come a long way. Today, our advanced fleet of vacuum excavation crews work all over the Mid-Atlantic and Texas area. We provide vacuum excavation, private utility location and precision trench digging services.