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How to choose the right underground utilities installation method

Underground utilities are public service infrastructures that have been installed beneath the ground surface. These services may be for gas, electricity, water or internet cables. Choosing the right underground installation method for your utility cables is very important. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, such as time, capabilities and suitability.

Here at Vermeer, we are proud to offer range of solutions for underground utilities installation. Our products are able to offer efficient and reliable installation of utility cables. Explore the different options of underground utilities installation available below!

Factors that could impact underground utilities installation

Ed Savage, product manager at Vermeer Corporation, explains that there are many factors to consider before choosing an underground utilities installation method.

There are a number of factors to take into consideration before installing utilities underground:

  • Ground and soil conditions – if the ground is hard, it may be more difficult to install cables, meaning a more intensive method of installation may be required. Additionally, lose or softer soil can cause cables to shift and become damaged over time.
  • Depth of installation – more intensive methods of excavation may be required if deeper cables need to be installed. This will be more time consuming and disruptive.
  • Size and type of utility – some cables are thicker than others, so it is important to factor this into your approach. Thicker ones may require more intensive digging methods.
  • Existing infrastructure – it is important to be aware of existing infrastructure as this may complicate underground utilities installation (e.g. hazards).

What are the main methods of underground utilities installation?


Horizontal directional drilling is a trenchless method of installation (this is often referred to as “directional boring”), where a tunnel is drilled underground with a horizontal drill. Pipes are then installed by being pulled through the tunnels.


Plowing involves cable plows cutting a narrow split in the ground. The line is then buried again and covered over by the plowing machine. This method is quick and causes minimal disruption to the ground. Plowing is best suited for digging shallow depths.


Trenching is very similar to plowing, but digs further into the ground for underground utilities installation. Trenching involves excavating more of the ground when compared to plowing, so whilst able to dig deeper, it creates greater disturbance to the ground. This means more ground restoration is required afterwards. Trenching can be more time consuming and disruptive when compared to plowing.

Micro and nano trenching

Micro and nano trenching are smaller scale trenching methods. These processes involve digging a narrow trench of up to 2 inches wide and up to 2 feet deep.

Nano trenching is ideal for trenching at the edge of asphalt roads to install wires and cables. It’s also ideal for trenching in built up and urban areas, as it’s less disruptive to traffic when compared to traditional trenching. This is especially important as some areas have crowded underground facilities with lots of other underground cable.

Micro and nano trenching is also a quicker process than traditional trenching.

Underground utilities installation safety

The health and safety executive (HSE) advise that precaution should be taken when installing underground cables, as there a lot of risks involved and damage can be caused when digging. Careful planning and risk assessments before excavation and installation begins is always very important. An experienced individual should be involved before work starts to identify any potential issues that may occur over the course of the job, especially if there is going to be major disturbance.

Read more about the potential hazards to look out for in our article on HDD hazards.

In some instances, it may best to utilise a range of methods. Soil conditions can change as seasons and weather conditions fluctuate. Different methods have different capabilities, so there may be instances where some can be used for part of a project and another method could be used for the rest of a project. Utilising a range of underground utilities installation methods can allow a project to remain safe and productive.


Why not explore Vermeer’s range of machinery for underground utilities installation? To find out more about our products, call our team on 01933 274400 or email us at You can also fill out an enquiry form and our friendly team will get back to you.

Vermeer Corporation delivers a real impact on the way important work gets done through the design, manufacture and support of high quality industrial and agricultural equipment that helps connect people to the necessities of life, manage natural resources and feed and fuel communities. With a reputation for being built tough and built a better way, that equipment is backed by localized customer service and support provided by independent dealers around the world. To learn about Vermeer Corporation, products, the dealer network, financing options and careers, visit



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