The best shovel for digging a trench

Updated November 21, 2016

A trenching shovel is one of the best shovels for digging a trench. The shovels come in a variety of colours, lengths and shovel head widths. The varying widths allow a trencher to dig wide and narrow trenches. Trenching shovels work well for digging sprinkler, utility line and garden trenches. The unusual design of a trenching shovel separates it from all other shovels. Many people use regular shovels to dig trenches without the knowledge that a shovel specifically designed for trenching exists.


The design should be comfortable to work with for hours on end. The best trenching shovels are designed to reduce strain on lower back muscles, arms and hands. A long handle allows for the shovel to do most of the prying work when it comes to trenching hard-packed soil. The unusual 90-degree angled shovel head minimises the amount of bending a trencher will have to do. The grip should be smooth to reduce the chance of blisters. Get a shovel with a wide kick plate to reduce foot fatigue during use.


A trenching shovel needs to withstand impact and striking forces without disrepair. Get a shovel with a handle that is encased in the head of the shovel spade, which will ensure a strong bind between the two pieces. The handle should be riveted to the shovel head for maximum strength. Trenching shovel handles come in either fibreglass or hardwood. These strong materials allow a trencher to increase his ability to leverage dirt out of a trench without breaking the handle.


Paint a line across the soil where you want to dig the trench. Use environmentally-friendly aerosol spray paint. Grip the shovel handle with both hands, and place the tip of the spade at the start of the paint line. The length of the spade should be parallel with the paint line. Kick the kick plate with your foot to drive the shovel spade into the soil. Push down on the handle to pry up the soil. Dig along the paint line, and then come back to the start and dig down another layer. Use the trenching shovel to remove layer upon layer until the trench is to the desired depth.


Wash the dirt off the spade and handle of your trenching shovel after every use. Apply rust-preventive oil on the spade and wood preserving oil on the handle if it's made of wood. The oil on the handle will help keep it from drying out and splintering. Inspect the handle prior to each use to ensure the rivet or screw holding the handle and spade together is tight.

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