How Deep Can an Excavator Dig?

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Excavators are some of the most useful tools for digging and construction. If you’re trying to make a pond, swimming pool, reservoir, garbage pit, or anything in between, you’ll need to use an excavator. The depth that an excavator can go varies depending on the make, model, engine type, attachments, and more.

An excavator can dig between 10 to 48 feet deep. You shouldn’t push an excavator beyond its limits because it could overheat the engine, bend the bucket, or break the mechanical arm. If you want to dig deeper than 48 feet, you’ll have to create a slope to drive the vehicle down, then continue to dig.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info about how deep an excavator can dig:

  • Information about how far they can go
  • Numerous examples of why someone would dig deep with an excavator
  • Safety tips when digging deep
  • How you can increase the reach of your excavator

How Far Can an Excavator Reach?

Photo 194678962 © Izh181 –

Whether you’re making a garbage pit or you’re building an underground shelter, using an excavator will make the job significantly easier. These machines are designed to slice through the ground and scoop massive buckets of soil. However, it’s a bit more challenging if you’re dealing with dense rocks and clay.

Below, you’ll find a handful of factors that affect how deep you can dig with an excavator.

  • KHL explains that bigger excavators can dig deeper. There are countless excavators that you could try, some of which are bigger than others. Keep an eye out for all of the features, from the arm to the bucket and everything in between. You’ll learn more about each part’s importance in the following points.
  • If you have a big bucket, you’ll be able to reach further. Big buckets can add up to two feet of depth when you’re digging with an excavator. If you’re trying to reach the maximum depth potential with an excavator, the bucket is one of the most influential factors.
  • The longer the arm, the deeper the dig site can be. Although the bucket is important, the arm is debatably the most essential factor of all. A long arm is capable of expanding and reaching deep into the soil. Furthermore, it can rotate and pull out soil far across a pit or nearby. The horizontal reach is nearly as notable as the vertical reach of an excavator.
  • High horsepower, extra-large excavators, such as the CX210D LR, can dig much deeper than others. Mini excavators are much more popular for farmers and other landowners. They’re much more affordable, easier to handle, and simpler to park in a small space. However, they don’t offer as much depth as a big one.

As you can see, there are quite a few things that can impact the depth of your excavator. If you can align all of the factors in your favor, you’ll be able to increase the maximum digging potential. However, digging too deep can present a host of issues. Read the section below to find out what could happen if you don’t listen to your excavator’s limits.

Farming Life has an excellent YouTube video that explains the depth of the average excavator, which you can find here:

Is It Bad to Dig Too Deep With an Excavator?

It might seem like a good idea to push an excavator to its limits to reach the deepest part of a hole. You’d think that since it’s able to dig deep, why shouldn’t you use it that way every time? Unfortunately, this mindset has ruined countless excavators. Never push it beyond its limits.

The following signs are examples of what could happen if you push an excavator too deep too many times:

The engine can overheat

Any engine that’s pushed too far will start to overheat. Whether you’re dealing with a compact car or an excavator, you shouldn’t push it beyond its limits. When you continue to lean forward and dig too deep with heavy loads of soil in the bucket, there’s no doubt that the engine will overheat. Too much overheating can cause smoking and potentially lead to a fire.

Dull joints and loose parts are possible

If you’re able to avoid overheating and smoking the engine, the joints will be dulled. When they become dull, they’ll loosen since they can’t hold in their sockets. The aforementioned overheating issue could also dull the parts and lead to looseness throughout the machine. Unfortunately, these types of repairs can be incredibly expensive.

Overextension could bend the arm and bucket

When the parts become loose, the arm and the bucket will start to bend. When you grab a massive bucketload of soil, it’ll bend the bucket and drop everything out. You’ll have to buy an extension and another arm, costing thousands of dollars. It’s one of the priciest repairs on the market for excavators.

It’s not worth risking it just to be able to dig a couple of extra feet. If you notice that your excavator is getting too hot or it’s making squealing noises, then you should turn off the engine, let it cool down, and figure out how you can continue the job.

For those of you who aren’t sure what you can do by digging deep with an excavator, read on.

Why Would Someone Dig Deep with an Excavator?

Chances are that if you’ve been looking for answers about the depth capability of an excavator that you already know what you need it for. That being said, you might already have an excavator, in which case you’ll be excited to learn about its potential. There are numerous projects that require a deep-digging excavator.

Consider the five possibilities below.

  • You could use an excavator to dig the deep end of an in-ground swimming pool. Anyone who’s ever had a swimming pool installed by their home knows that using an excavator with a long arm is much more efficient than using shovels. Rather than spending months digging, you can get it done in a couple of days.
  • Deep ponds and rivers require an excavator with a long arm and a big bucket. While it’s nearly impossible to dig a river with any man-made machinery, some people prefer to extend nearby rivers to form ponds. It can be beneficial for the local wildlife, and it looks fantastic.
  • You can create an underground survival shelter. United Rentals explains that a mini excavator can dig down to 14 feet, which is perfect for underground shelters. You can store all sorts of food, water, clothes, and more. Some people even go as far as creating bedding with several rooms.
  • Digging with an excavator can make a basement underneath your home. If you live in a state where basements are legal, then you can add tons of value to your house. Whether you’re using it for an extra bedroom or for storage, basements are easy to add to the rest of your home.

There are many other reasons that someone might want to use a long-armed excavator. As long as you follow the aforementioned suggestions to not overheat or wear out your machine, you’ll be able to make all sorts of projects go your way.

If you want to maximize the potential of your excavator, you’re about to find out everything there is to know.

How to Increase the Reach of an Excavator

If you’re not able to dig too deep, then you’ll have to try to extend the reach of the excavator. Most tractor warehouses have access to all of the parts you need, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do but get a bigger excavator. For those who haven’t bought one yet, there are a few things that you can do.

Below, you’ll find several ways to allow your excavator to reach deeper.

  1. Increase the length of your excavator’s arm. A long arm will change the difference between a shallow hole and a long, wide one. It’s worth noting that longer arms and other attachments require a strong engine. If your excavator’s engine isn’t big enough, then you won’t have much room for customizations.
  2. Get a bigger bucket for your excavator. Adding a few inches on both sides of the bucket will make it so you can dig a bit deeper. Not only will you be able to dig a deeper hole, but it’ll also make it so you can scoop more soil out with every bucketload. It’ll make the job go by much quicker.
  3. Dig a slope to get closer to the bottom of the hole. If you’re making a pool or a pond (or anything else that’s sloped), you can ride the slope to dig deeper into the soil. Even if the plans don’t call for a slope, you can make one and then fill it when you’re done digging the hole.
  4. Purchase a high-end excavator (you might need a commercial license). Case Construction points out that there are many excavators that can deep down to 47 feet 9 inches into the soil. They’re also capable of scooping thousands of pounds of dirt, sand, clay, and more. If none of the other suggestions work, then this might be your only choice.

Trying some of these suggestions will make it easier for you to dig a deep hole with an excavator. Whether or not you want to reach over 40 feet deep into the soil is up to you, but it doesn’t hurt to maximize your potential. Having a longer arm and a bigger bucket will prevent overheating since the capabilities are increased.

But be aware you can’t just add a huge arm and bucket to a small excavator! Not only the engine needs to be suited for that, but the excavator itself also needs to be big enough to handle the additional weight. It wouldn’t be the first machine to fall over or into the hole that you’re digging.

Safety Precautions for Beginners

Unfortunately, there are lots of mistakes that beginners make along the way. You should’ve had extensive training before using an excavator, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not any room for error. In fact, quite the opposite is true: Well-trained people get too comfortable with their skills using excavators, so they wind up making mistakes.

Follow these crucial safety precautions for people of all experience levels:

Don’t get too close to the perimeter

If you drive the excavator too close to the edge of the hole that you’re digging, there’s a high risk of falling in. Not only will you slip and drop the excavator into the pit, but you’ll more than likely cause damage to the side of the hole that you’re digging. All of the damages and injuries will lead to a hefty repair bill.

Scoop inward, not away from the excavator

If you’ve never used a bucket on an excavator, it’s important that you scoop facing toward the vehicle. Use the bucket to remove loads of soil, rotate the excavator, and drop the soil on the ground. It’s a simple process that allows you to see how much dirt you’re removing while letting you create piles on the side of the pit.

Find out the capabilities of your machinery beforehand

Don’t start scooping until you know how much weight the machine can handle. Some of them can carry 10,000 pounds, whereas others have much more restricting limits. You should also know the dimensions of the arm and bucket, and don’t forget to check the horsepower of the excavator.

These three safety tips can keep you and your belongings safe from harm. Furthermore, they’ll be enough to prevent legal trouble. Speaking of which, make sure you have all of the proper permits to dig with an excavator. You should also consider getting your blueprints approved by an expert before you get started.

What to Know Before Digging

Other than safety precautions, there’s a lot of information that you need to know before the bucket hits the soil. Don’t start shoveling out the dirt until you know everything about the project. You don’t want to end up making costly mistakes or spending too much time on the project when you don’t have to.

This is what you need to know before you start digging deep with the excavator:

  • An energy-efficient motor will get you further for less power. You won’t have to worry about overheating or using too much gasoline if you get a motor that’s designed to use the fuel efficiently. Furthermore, most energy-efficient ones are quiet, which is always a huge benefit when you’re working long hours.
  • Durability and strength should be at the top of your list of concerns. It doesn’t matter if you’re using an excavator with high horsepower, it needs to have a tough design. Weak, low-quality excavators will bend and break down, which means you’ll have wasted tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Keep the area illuminated to see everything that’s going on. Light sources can make it much easier to work, not to mention the fact that they’re great for safety purposes. Some excavators have optional light attachments, which means you won’t have to worry about knocking over a lamp or dropping your flashlight.
  • There are dozens of attachments that can be used with most excavators. Don’t feel limited in the number of attachments that you can try out. The more options you have, the more possibilities you’ll have to dig a deeper hole. The only thing you need to do is ensure that it fits the capabilities of your excavator.
  • Always create a designated soil pile. Rather than tossing all of the dirt in random locations, it’s a good idea to make a pile so you can keep it all together. You’ll be able to dispose of the soil easier, and the dirt won’t fall back in the pit if you know where it’s at. This simple suggestion can save more hours of work than you could imagine.

How Long Does It Take to Dig Deep with an Excavator?

It’s important that you don’t try to dig too quickly or you’ll end up ruining the project. You might break your excavator, overheat the engine, or make a mess of the pit (or whatever else you’re trying to dig).

It usually takes a couple of days to dig a hole with an excavator(check out my article about how much a mini excavator can dig in a day), but it can go up to weeks. The problem with calculating the size and time length of digging with an excavator is that it depends on numerous variables.

  1. The size of your equipment plays a major role.
  2. The width and depth of the pit matters.
  3. Soil composition can change everything. Sand is easy to scoop, dirt is average, and clay is very challenging to remove.


Digging with an excavator will broaden your opportunities by quite a bit. There are all sorts of projects that call for an excavator that can dig deep, so figure out the specifications and start digging. You should know the length of the arm, the size of the bucket, the horsepower, and more before you get started.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • You can use an excavator to dig swimming pools, ponds, bunkers, shelters, and more.
  • Excavators can dig between 10 to 48 or more feet.
  • Follow the aforementioned safety recommendations to prevent mistakes.
  • Digging too deep can push your excavator beyond it’s limits and cause overheating.
  • You can increase the reach of the excavator by getting a longer arm and bucket attachment.
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