How Deep Can a Mini Excavator Dig?

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We recently went over the details of how effective mini excavators can be for digging out stumps or grinding them, along with a guide for the best mini excavators for the same. While both the articles were aimed at digging out stumps, it is important to note that a DIY-er can find many uses for a mini excavator.

Today, we’ll discuss the same uses, along with answering the age-old question on every DIY-er’s mind; how deep can a mini excavator dig?

Different mini excavators have a different dig depth and a number of factors come into play when determining that depth. It doesn’t just depend on the model, but also the attachment used, driver experience, and more. Let’s discuss the same in more detail now.

What Is a Mini Excavator?

How deep can a mini excavator dig?
How deep can a mini excavator dig?

Mini excavators, also known as compact excavators, are classified mostly based on their tonnage, but some also choose to classify the same based on their power output. Mini excavators used to be those that weighed around 0.5 to 10 tons, but with the eighth generation of excavators, that isn’t the case anymore. Some companies also make mini excavators (based on size) that weigh around 15, 18, or 19 tons.

To that end, a loose definition of a mini excavator can be that any excavator with a small footprint, which weighs between 0.5 and 20 tons can be classified as a mini excavator. These excavators can make digging or material transport much easier than with hand, along with performing other functions from time to time.

However, it is important to note that there are many alternative tools and machines you can use to perform those other functions; and sometimes even better.

Mini excavators include a standard backfill blade and an independent boom swing. By default, it comes with a bucket for digging. The size of the bucket is directly proportional to the size of your excavator. This is because if you have a larger bucket attached to a smaller excavator, you run a risk of tipping it over.  

You can replace the bucket with a wide array of attachments at your disposal. These attachments include grinders, sheers, rock breakers, compactor plates, pulverisors, and more.

Before we get into our detailed review of how deep a mini excavator can dig or its uses, it is important to mention that for simplicity and uniformity, we are assuming that you have little to no experience with a mini excavator at this point.

Uses of a Mini Excavator

As with any other machine or tool, the list of what you can use mini excavators for is a long one. Tracked excavators are much more versatile than wheeled ones, offering better traction than wheeled ones. However, that is not to say that wheeled ones are any less useful.

Mini excavators are light and compact, thus making them suitable for your DIY projects and construction projects alike. Depending on your frequency of use, you can either rent or buy these excavators. We recommend renting them for your DIY projects for a more cost-effective option; not to mention how mini excavators are much more cost-effective than larger ones.

Some uses include, but aren’t limited to:

  1. Digging out stumps
  2. Plowing snow off the road
  3. Digging holes for foundations and ponds
  4. Landscaping
  5. Lifting/hauling material and transporting on to trucks
  6. Plumbing line work (may require attachment)
  7. Trenching
  8. Demolishing (requires attachment)
  9. Irrigation
  10. Drilling holes (requires attachment)
  11. Fence post installation
  12. Tree planting
  13. Leveling (requires attachment), and more.

How Deep Can a Mini Excavator Dig?

Now that we have a general idea of what a mini excavator is and what it can do, let’s get into more specifics about how deep a mini excavator can dig. It is natural to assume that the bigger your mini excavator’s arm, the deeper it can dig. However, some mini excavators can have their arms (booms) replaced to reach further and in essence, dig deeper.

Here is a table to help you understand the correlation better. Keep in mind, though, that this is just a reference chart. Depending on skill, some drivers can go deeper as well.

TonnageCategoryDig-Depth (mm)Dig-Depth (feet)
0.8 TonsMini1700 mm5.5 ft
1-1.7 TonsMini2100 mm6.9 ft
1.8-2 TonsMini2190 mm7.2 ft
2.1-2.4 TonsMini2300 mm7.5 ft
2.5-2.7 TonsMini2450 mm8 ft
2.8-3.1 TonsMini2500 mm8.4 ft
3.2-4.5 TonsMini2700 mm8.9 ft
4.6-5 TonsMini3550 mm11.6 ft
5.1-6 TonsMini3600 mm11.8 ft
6.1-8 TonsMini4100 mm13.5 ft
8.1-14 TonsMini5300 mm17.4 ft
15-21 TonsSmall7000 mm23 ft
>21.1 TonsMedium+8000 mm+26 ft
The usual expected dig depths of different types of excavators.

The chart above shows the average dig depth of mini excavators and a small and medium excavator along with it for comparison. As you can see, mini excavators ranging from 8.1 to 14 tons can help you dig much deeper than any DIY project you’d like to embark on.

For example, those of you looking to dig a basement under your backyard (assuming you have the necessary permissions), a simple 2.7 or 3 ton mini excavator should be enough, since the average height of basements is 7 feet. If you’re looking for more headspace, a 19 or 20 ton excavator can go beyond the 20 feet range.

Just make sure that with a project like this, you have a dump truck on standby, waiting to take the entire fill away. A skip probably won’t cut it – it’ll fill up much quicker than you’d expect:

Disposing of large amount of soil via a skip
Disposing of large amount of soil via a skip

The table represents an average. You can dig deeper as well, but it starts presenting a risk, unless you get a longer arm attached. These longer arms can increase the dig depth by 2 to 3 feet, but we wouldn’t recommend this to you unless you know what you’re doing with your excavator.

Since it is not in the scope of this article, we won’t go into much detail about larger sized excavators except give you a comparison. Larger excavators weighing, say, 45 tons, will be able to dig as deep as 30 feet only, despite their larger size. This is because there comes a point where dig depth isn’t the most important aspect to consider, but safety, stability, and robustness starts becoming more important.

These larger excavators can keep on digging for much longer periods than smaller or mini excavators.

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About Charlie D Paige

Charlie is a massive DIY fan, with dozens of DIY projects under his belt - ranging from tiling to electrics, and concrete pads to walls. Charlie loves tinkering, seeing how things works, the outdoors and playing with power tools... so is it any wonder that he's completed so many DIY jobs over the years?

Charlie loves spreading his hard-won DIY experience with the world via this blog.