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What is hydro excavation and how does it work?

Published 03rd August, 2019    |    Last Updated 7th September, 2019

What is hydro excavation?

Throughout the construction industry, many situations arise which call for the need of a highly specialised and delicate method of excavation. One of these methods, the most cost effective and efficient method, is referred to as hydro vacuum excavation. 

It uses pressurised water and high volume suction to excavate a variety of different surfaces. Typically, vacuum excavation is used when exposing underground utilities that could otherwise not be excavated, or at least, would take much time and effort to achieve. This process is considered to be one of the safest and accurate forms of excavation as it eliminates the potential to damage underground assets.

Below is a chart indicating the average amount of time it takes to excavate different surfaces:

Material m3/hour Time for 1 m3.
heavy soil with buried cables and pipes 1.6666 36 min
dry heavy soil 2.5 24 min
wet heavy soil or clay 3 20 min
moderately heavy soil with buried cables and pipes 4 15 min
muddy soil, gravel, crushed rock 6 10 min
sandy soil 10 6 min
water 30 2 min
heavy soil with buried cables and pipes excavated by hand 0.25 4 hours
 

The advantages of using hydro excavation over traditional forms of excavation such as drills, jackhammers or excavators are:

  • No permit is needed prior to excavation as it uses a non-mechanical form of ground entry
  • Can be used in hard to reach areas that traditional excavation methods cannot access
  • Excavation can take place up to 100m away from the truck location
  • Can take very little time to deploy and excavate 
  • Potential damage to underground assets such as cables and wires is greatly reduced 

However, vacuum excavation is just one of the many services iFind Pipes ‘N’ Cables offer within the service location field. It can be used in conjunction with our underground location services such as ground-penetrating radar, concrete scanning or electronic wand detection. In addition, we offer acoustic leak detection and jetter rodding making us a one stop shop eliminating the hassle to hire multiple contractors. 

Why choose iFind Pipes ‘N’ Cables

Highly specialised

We have all the most important accreditation’s and certifications needed to get the job done right.

Trust 

There is a reason the biggest construction companies choose us. 

Experience 

We are experts at what we do. 100% success rate and job satisfaction guarenteed 

One Stop Shop

We offer a wide range of underground service location services. No need to hire multiple contractors

Why choose iFind Pipes ‘N’ Cables

Highly specialised

We have all the most important accreditation’s and certifications needed to get the job done right.

Trust 

There is a reason the biggest construction companies choose us. 

Experience 

We are experts at what we do. 100% success rate and job satisfaction guarenteed 

One Stop Shop

We offer a wide range of underground service location services. No need to hire multiple contractors

How it works

Vacuum excavation, also known as non-destructive digging has quite recently become famous around the globe. Previously, it was only confined to Canada in the oil and gas industries. Canada’s cold weather froze the soil and made it hard to carry out an excavation campaign.

Within Australia, subsurface utilities and underground facilities often need to remove soil to create a clear path. Instead of digging the way through, the workers use pressurized water to move the soil. This process is known as hydro vacuum excavation.

Once the pressurized water removes the soil, another air conveyance transfers the debris into a collection tank. This is one of the most non-destructive excavation methods that doesn’t involve damaging underlying water pipes or electrical connections.

The Process

Our excavation trucks use a 4 stage process to ensure work is done quick, clean and environmentally conscious.

  • First we locate any underground services
  • We then use water to loosen the soil 
  • Loosend material is then extracted using a vacuum
  • The material is then stored in our containment tanks. 

This is an example of a VAC truck similar to iFind’s in action:

Applications

As already mentioned, people mostly use hydro vacuum excavation for digging and removing soil. But there are various other industries that follow this excavation process. Some of the applications of this method are:

  • Piling
  • Potholing
  • Confined digging
  • Tree roots
  • Remote excavation
  • Trenching
  • Hard and cold surface excavation
  • Debris removal using a suction method
  • Using the machine in tight spaces where excavators can’t reach easily.
  • Deep-level excavation
  • Mains or service exposure
  • Utility service repairs

Widely used in several industries

Apart from digging and moving soil, this excavation method is useful in various other industries. In addition, installation of posts and poles, plumbing sewers and pipes, and clearing accumulated debris from roads and construction sites are some of the common examples. Wherever there is a need to move stubborn soil or debris, you can use hydro excavation.

Why use vacuum excavation?

One of the essential reasons to use hydro excavation is its safety and reliability. Traditional excavation involves a lot of risks. Plus, they are not as accurate as Vac trucks. When employees are working close to mains power, fibre optic lines, telecommunication systems, and sewage pipes, they may damage these units. If one of the shovels hit the telecommunication line, it will cause a mass outage.

That’s where hydro excavation is so useful. It offers the much-needed flexibility that the excavation industry requires. Removing and digging soil using traditional methods are very time-consuming. If you can’t afford to spend so much time and money, hydro excavation is the best alternative.

Owner and operator Keithy, hard at work

Eco-friendly excavation process

First of all, hydro vacuum excavation doesn’t pose any safety risks. This saves the surroundings and the labourers. Second, it is a non-mechanical process, meaning it doesn’t involve too many complicated procedures. On the one hand, it clears the soil in front, and on the other hand, it picks up the soil that accumulates on the sides.

This brings to the next advantage, and that’s the eco-friendly digging process. It is a safe method that doesn’t make the surroundings dirty. It cuts down the cost of hiring multiple labourers that only a single person can perform.

Always remember to dial before you dig!

https://www.1100.com.au/

An example of Potholing


Hydro Excavation Information

★ What is Hydro Excavation?

★ Non-Destructive Digging

★ Benefits of Hydro Excavation

★ VAC Truck components

★ Potholing/ Daylighting using hydro excavation

★ Different VAC truck models

★ Remote Digging

★ History of Hydro Excavation