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Excavator Buckets: How to Select the Best Type of Bucket for Your Job

Excavator Buckets: How to Select the Best Type of Bucket for Your Job

An excavator using a digging bucket

Excavator Buckets: How to Select the Best Type of Bucket for Your Job

Reading time: 7 min

From digging trenches to breaking through rocky terrain, excavators are known for their ability to tackle a wide range of challenges. To get the best performance from your excavator, it’s essential that you select a bucket that is well suited to the task at hand.

In this guide, we’ll go over the most popular types of buckets used with excavators and what makes them so useful on the job.

Types of Excavator Buckets

Digging Bucket

Digging Bucket

The digging bucket is a sturdy, wide-mouthed bucket designed with reinforced edges and teeth for efficiently cutting through soil, gravel and other loose materials. Its primary function is to excavate and remove large quantities of earth quickly.

For example, when constructing foundations for buildings, digging buckets are essential for removing large amounts of topsoil to reach the desired depth efficiently.

Primary Use Case: Excavating and removing large volumes of soil, sand and loose materials.

Advantages of Digging Buckets:

  • High Efficiency. The design of the digging bucket allows for quick and efficient removal of materials.
  • Versatility. Digging buckets are suitable for various earthmoving tasks, including digging trenches and foundations.
  • Strong Cutting Power. They are equipped with strong teeth for penetrating and breaking up hard soil.

Disadvantages of Digging Buckets:

  • Limited Precision. The design primarily focuses on excavation, lacking finesse for delicate tasks.
  • Not Ideal for Dense Materials. A digging bucket may struggle with breaking through dense rocks or hard materials.
Trenching Bucket

Trenching Bucket

Compared to a digging bucket, the trenching bucket features a narrower design with sharper teeth and reinforced sides for clean trenching operations. Its primary function is to create deep and narrow trenches with precision.

Trenching buckets are commonly used to install utility lines like water pipes or cables. A trenching bucket is used to excavate the precise depth and width required for placing utilities in the ground.

Primary Use Case: Creating narrow and deep trenches for utility line installation or other projects requiring precision.

Advantages of Trenching Buckets:

  • High Precision. The narrow design and sharp teeth make it ideal for creating precise trenches.
  • Reduced Backfilling. Trenching buckets create less excess material, reducing the need for additional backfilling.
  • Accurate Depth Control. They enable operators to dig to the required depth without over-excavation.

Disadvantages of Trenching Buckets:

  • Limited for General Excavation. Trench buckets are less effective for general digging tasks due to their specialized design.
  • Slower Excavation. Trenching requires careful digging, which might slow down the excavation process.
Grading Bucket

Grading Bucket

Grading buckets feature flat, smooth surfaces and a shallow scoop, allowing for precise leveling and finishing of surfaces. Their primary function is to grade and level soil and other surfaces.

When preparing construction sites, a grading bucket is used to level the ground and create an even surface for foundations or landscaping.

Primary Use Case: Grading and leveling of surfaces.

Advantages of Grading Buckets:

  • Smooth Finish. Grading buckets create even and smooth surfaces for construction or landscaping purposes.
  • Accurate Slope Creation. They enable operators to establish accurate slopes for drainage or landscaping needs.
  • Minimizes Material Redistribution. Grading buckets require less redistribution of material compared to other buckets.

Disadvantages of Grading Buckets:

  • Limited Excavation Capacity. Grading buckets are not suitable for large-scale excavation due to their shallow scoop.
  • Not for Rough Materials. They are ineffective for breaking through tough materials, rocks or debris.
Utility Bucket

Utility Bucket

The utility bucket is a versatile option with a moderate scoop size and straight edges. It's designed for a wide range of tasks, including light excavation and handling materials.

For example, when performing general maintenance on a construction site, a utility bucket can be used to move materials around the site and clear debris.

Primary Use Case: Versatile bucket for light excavation, materials handling and general site maintenance.

Advantages of Utility Buckets:

  • Versatility. A utility bucket is suitable for a wide range of tasks, making it a go-to choice for a variety of project types.
  • Moderate Capacity. It offers a balance between excavation and material handling capabilities.
  • Efficient Material Transfer. Utility buckets allow for quick movement of materials across short distances.

Disadvantages of Utility Buckets:

  • Not Specialized. It is not the best option for heavy-duty excavation or precision grading.
  • Limited Depth. Utility buckets may not be as effective for digging deep holes or trenches.
Raking Bucket

Raking Bucket

The raking bucket has a unique design with elongated teeth, resembling a rake. It's used for removing debris or gravel from topsoil while keeping the soil in place.

Raking buckets are commonly used for landscaping projects to remove roots, rocks and other materials from topsoil, preparing the area for planting.

Primary Use Case: Separating larger materials from fine soil or sand, being used in landscaping and clearing projects.

Advantages of Raking Buckets:

  • Effective Debris Removal. Raking buckets have specialized teeth that efficiently gather and sort debris.
  • Landscaping Preparation. Raking buckets prepare surfaces for landscaping by clearing unwanted materials and rocks.

Disadvantages of Raking Buckets:

  • Limited Excavation. They are not suitable for heavy digging or large-scale earthmoving.
  • Specialized Use. Raking buckets are less versatile compared to other buckets for general excavation tasks.
V Bucket

V Bucket

The V bucket features a V-shaped design with a pointed tip, enabling it to penetrate tough and compacted materials easily. It's commonly used for breaking through rocky or frozen ground.

When working in areas with rocky terrain, a V bucket is used to break through the hard surface and initiate excavation.

Primary Use Case: Excavating and breaking through hard and compacted materials, particularly in rocky environments.

Advantages of V Buckets:

  • Penetrating Power. The V-shaped tip allows for effective penetration of hard ground.
  • Durable Construction. V buckets are built to withstand the rigors of breaking through tough materials.
  • Enhanced Digging Force. They are designed to dig efficiently in challenging terrain/conditions.

Disadvantages of V Buckets:

  • Less Versatile. V buckets are primarily suited for breaking through hard materials.
  • Surface Damage Risk. They may cause more surface disturbance compared to other buckets.
Skeleton Bucket

Skeleton Bucket

The skeleton bucket has a grid-like structure, featuring gaps between bars to allow finer materials to fall through while retaining larger objects. It's ideal for sifting and separating materials.

For example, in projects involving sifting through topsoil for gravel, a skeleton bucket collects larger rocks while allowing topsoil to fall through the grid.

Primary Use Case: Sifting and separating materials, often in applications where material size matters.

Advantages of Skeleton Buckets:

  • Effective Sorting. Skeleton buckets allow finer materials to fall through while retaining larger objects.
  • Environmental Applications. They are useful for cleaning water bodies or sifting materials in ecological projects.
  • Versatile in Material Handling. Skeleton buckets are suitable for gathering rocks, debris and other materials in specialized scenarios.

Disadvantages of Skeleton Buckets:

  • Limited Excavation. Skeleton buckets are not designed for heavy-duty excavation tasks.
  • Material Loss. Fine materials may escape through the gaps of skeleton buckets, reducing efficiency in some cases.

How to Choose the Right Bucket

Selecting the right excavator bucket for your task is critical to get the most out of your machine. Some important factors to consider when choosing a bucket include ground conditions at the job site, material type and machine compatibility.

For example, a digging bucket will excel in projects with loose soil where general excavation is a major goal, whereas a trenching bucket would be a wiser choice for precision work in tight spaces.

In addition to choosing a bucket that’s appropriate for your project requirements, be sure to choose a bucket that will be compatible with your excavator. Not every bucket is suitable for every excavator. The the size of your excavator will determine the largest bucket size you should use with it.

Mini excavators, for example, should not be used with 60” buckets designed for full-sized machines. To figure out the largest bucket you can use with your excavator, consult your machine’s operating manual which will provide the recommended bucket widths for your machine.

Bucket Maintenance

While excavator buckets are designed to withstand harsh conditions, they must be maintained properly in order to maximize their efficiency and longevity. Like other aspects of heavy equipment maintenance, the key to excavator bucket maintenance lies in establishing an effective preventative maintenance plan.

Here are some key aspects of bucket maintenance to include in your plan:

  • Inspect your buckets before and after each shift.
  • Clean the bucket after each use to remove dirt and debris.
  • Store the bucket in a dry, covered area.
  • Regularly grease pivot points and moving parts.
  • Do not exceed the bucket’s lifting capacity.
  • Train operators to use the bucket properly, avoiding aggressive techniques that could cause wear.

Final thoughts

Bucket attachments are an excellent way to extend the capabilities of your excavator. By selecting a bucket suitable for your application, you can get the most out of your machine and complete your project efficiently.

The EquipmentShare Shop carries OEM and aftermarket parts for excavators and their attachments, including bucket teeth. Check out our growing parts catalog to find the right components for your equipment. Can’t find the part you need? Reach out to our parts experts to place a custom order.

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