When Is HDD a Better Solution for Installing Utility Pipes?

In a utility pipe-installation project, deciding whether to use HDD or trenching is determined by balancing the various factors that will affect the suitability of the method, as well as the contractor’s profit. As the demand for utility contractors increases, so does the need for advanced techniques in pipe installation. Although there is an assumption that HDD is preferable to trenching, there are still some rare instances when it is better to resort to the conventional open-cut method. Here are the considerations that guide contractors in deciding whether they will use trenching or HDD.


Ground restoration cost


Both HDD and trenching result in ground disruption. The main difference is that HDD causes minimal damage to the ground. There may not be an exact formula to calculate how much it would cost to restore the land after completing the project, but experience often helps directional drilling companies come up with an estimate on which option is more cost-effective.


Restoration is a significant factor which affects the contractor’s profit. The ground condition and existing landscape could add to the difficulty and expense of restoring the ground post-installation. Trenching is simple, fast, and economical, which makes it a practical option when working in rural areas. But if the time and cost of restoration impact the bottom line, it may be best to resort to HDD instead.


Existing utility lines and conduits


HDD is a suitable solution when working in an urban location. It will not result in damage to driveways or cause traffic interruption as much as an open-cut method would. When there is already an established network of underground pipes, HDD becomes the only feasible option. Within the last couple of decades, urban areas have developed significantly to a point where adding new pipes underground has become even more challenging. But thanks to innovation in HDD tracking technology, drill rigs are equipped with better controls and peripheral devices which help operators track the drill course underground and avoid all possible obstructions.

Nevertheless, HDD also has its limitations. It is not a good method to use when the pipes are to be installed at shallow depths. The soil type also impacts the viability of HDD and in some exceptional cases could make it impossible to use.


Required training for workers


Most drill rigs available today are easy to operate. However, every operator who will handle a piece of heavy machinery has to undergo training. As such, training workers for a project will add to the total cost of the operation. In addition to handling the equipment, the operator also needs adequate knowledge about the underground industry.




If a contractor wants to secure the bottom line, using a mixture of HDD and trenching equipment is the best solution. Doing so will allow you to maximise the benefits and leverage the strengths of each technique. Since each project has unique requirements, considering all the factors will ensure that you are not only providing the best service to your client, but you are also making sure that the project sustains your company’s bottom line.


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