Potholing for utilities is a method that construction site workers can use to obtain a wealth of visual information regarding piping and other subsurface construction. Utility potholing has increasing importance in the construction industry, as a method that can help to make excavation safer and more cost effective to do.
In the past, it was commonplace for contractors to use a backhoe. This piece of equipment is highly recognizable to the general population as a typical piece of machinery you would find on a construction site. However, it does not have the precision or maneuverability of more modern excavation machinery, meaning it has the potential to cause immense damage to existing subsurface infrastructure.
Increased Safety using Vacuum Excavation
Nowadays, you are much more likely to find a vacuum excavator being used. These highly portable pieces of machinery use either air or water in order to displace soil. Since the air and water are only vacuuming at low pressures, this means that other utilities in the ground will not be damaged, which makes vacuum excavation the preferred method compared to using a backhoe.
Vacuum excavation also has a wealth of other benefits compared to using a backhoe. When excavating, a backhoe will displace a considerably larger amount of soil compared to a vacuum excavator. This soil will need to be stored somewhere whilst the construction work is being completed, creating obstacles in the form of dumping grounds. A vacuum excavator simply stores the displaced soil inside the machinery, meaning there is no need for a dumping ground. There is also increased tidying up required with a backhoe, as you have to replace all of the soil you have dug up.
Increased cost efficiency using Vacuum Excavation
The next important benefit of using vacuum excavation, compared to a backhoeing and manual labor, is the reduction in costs.
Manual digging is an outdated method of excavating that requires a significant number of man-hours to accomplish the same thing as backhoeing and vacuum excavation. Individual workmen would spend time digging with shovels, for what could be days at a time using this method. In comparison, vacuum excavation would be much quicker while also causing much less disruption to the ground. Once work is complete, workmen would also have to refill the holes they had made, doubling the time taken. It would cost significantly more overall, alongside taking longer, to hire workmen versus using a vacuum excavator.
The cost implications for backhoeing are slightly different from the previous. This piece of machinery can be a great tool when displacing ground is clear of subsurface infrastructure. It can accomplish what multiple workmen would do in hours, in mere minutes. When used in an area containing subsurface infrastructure, the damage that can be caused by the metal bucket on a backhoe hitting existing piping and cabling could be disastrous. This would most likely result in the project being put on hold, whilst repairs to the infrastructure are completed by those who caused the damage. As you can see, the risks of using a backhoe are very real, meaning it is a good idea to consider using a vacuum excavator instead when potholing utilities.
In summary, vacuum excavation is a new and improved method of potholing utilities.
The use of low-pressure water and air by this system means that existing subsurface infrastructure is less likely to get damaged, versus other methods such as backhoeing and manual digging. The cost savings and improvement to site safety can also be immense through this mitigation of risk. You can find out more information regarding vacuum excavation and potholing utilities by visiting Util-locate.com.