Home > Featured Articles > 8 Applications you can perform well with a compact excavator

8 Applications you can perform well with a compact excavator

By Allison McNeal


Investing in a compact excavator can significantly expand a landscape business owner’s fleet and offer value far beyond its conventional role of digging. Pairing an excavator with the right attachment for each job can improve versatility, create more project control, delay the purchase of a dedicated piece of equipment, and open up new revenue sources.

According to Tom Connor, Bobcat Company compact excavator product specialist, when paired with the right attachments and a coupler system that allows for quick and easy exchanges, business owners in the landscape industry can decrease time on their jobsites while increasing their profit. The following are eight applications in which excavators and their attachments work well.


  1. Clearing — In wooded or overgrown areas targeted for development, compact excavators can improve properties with their ability to level dead or fallen trees and remove underbrush. Their rubber tracks help to provide access through thick vegetation and soft terrain. Versatile attachments like midsize buckets with teeth, three-tined grapples and rotating grapples can grab, pull and drag saplings and rooted undergrowth, as well as sort and load material. Flail mowers can efficiently clear tree branches and saplings up to 4 inches in size, and are ideal for removing unwanted vegetation from hillsides, roadways, ditches, trails and riverbanks. Clearing vegetation before it is too early to dig in spring is an opportunity to generate some additional income.


  1. Park maintenance — All of the landscaping jobs performed for residential or commercial properties are typically needed in municipal and federal park maintenance, as well. Buckets and grapples assist with cleaning and clearing land and building campsites. Clamps move broken concrete, brush, logs, tree stumps, boulders and other odd-shaped objects — even old playground equipment. Grading blades make great tools for rough or finish grading, backfilling and leveling.


  1. Trail development — Constructing and maintaining the trail systems and golf cart paths that are popular with recreational enthusiasts is tough to do with most machines, but is easier with a compact excavator equipped with a trenching bucket and grading blade. Excavators are ideal for clearing and prepping paths measuring approximately 5 feet wide with minimal disruption. These machines increase their value exponentially by eliminating the alternative of hand labor and shovels. They also provide the precision to chisel and sculpt into sloped land.


  1. Landscaping/hardscaping — Anytime there is a need to reform land, recreate an outdoor environment, or build an elaborate hardscape, compact excavators with clamps provide the grasp. The precision of a clamp allows operators to load/unload and sort material, move vegetation, and place landscape boulders and timbers. Tined grapples, paired with a clamp attachment, are perfect solutions for handling timbers and other dimensional lumber for a hardscape project such as construction of waterfalls and ponds.


  1. Site prep/grading — Prepping a site for paving or planting could be done with your excavator fitted with a ripper to penetrate and scarify frost and hard ground. An appropriate bucket will haul in aggregate base material. Some manufacturers offer a tilt swing accessory that mounts between the excavator’s bucket and the arm to help create slopes, cut drainage ditches or contour soil. A grading blade can turn an excavator into a rough or finish grader, as well as a backfilling and leveling machine.


  1. Compaction — An excavator can be fitted with a plate compactor that is designed to compress soil from the top down, while a packer wheel attachment can compact the fill from the bottom up. These two attachments can minimize hand-operated compaction or manage a walk-behind unit above ground to close up a trench.


  1. Tree planting/installing fence posts — Fast and accurate digging with an auger provides operators a quick method for installing fence posts, piers and poles, or planting trees and other vegetation.


  1. Reshaping earthen walls — With a growing emphasis on climate change and wet weather patterns, many urban and rural areas are seeing increased stress on dike and levee walls. With a grading bucket and an extendable-arm option, available on select compact excavators, walls can be reshaped by pulling fallen dirt up to a levee’s top edge to reform the shelf. The soil can then be rolled downhill and sloped with a swing accessory for improved mowing and spraying.


Allison McNeal is a technical writer with Two Rivers Marketing in Des Moines, Iowa.

Article provided by Bobcat Company, West Fargo, N.D. For more information, visit bobcat.com/attachments.

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Landscape and Irrigation magazine, sister publication of Arbor Age magazine.

About jkmitta