How to Get a Mini Excavator Into a Backyard

Excavators are among the most versatile heavy machinery you can buy. It can dig, it can haul, it can grind, drill, bore, and do so much more. To make sure you enjoy the same versatility that larger excavators offer at a lower cost and without breaking everything around your work area, you can go for mini excavators.

We have been discussing mini excavators for quite a while and we have mentioned time again how mini excavators have a way of fitting into tight workspaces where others can’t. A common question DIY-ers ask when it comes to excavators is how to get a mini excavator into a backyard.

Mini excavators with treads are much easier to fit into tighter spaces than wheeled ones and offer more maneuverability. However, in places where there is no path for an excavator – not even mini excavators, you may have to remove fence panels, ask neighbors for access, lift it with a crane, or reassemble the excavator altogether on the work site.

Here, we‘ll discuss the different options at your disposal to get a mini excavator into a backyard, along with some alternatives to choose from. So, let’s start digging!

Typical Mini Excavator Dimensions

As the excavator tonnage increases, the dimensions also increase, that much is clear. However, how big does it get? Will it fit in your backyard, let alone the path toward it? In this section, we will look at the dimensions of typical mini excavators you can rent out (or buy).

TonnageSwing RadiusWidthHeight
>1 Ton1210 mm740 mm2140 mm
1-2 Ton1380 mm1300-1500 mm2430 mm
3-5 Ton1473 mm1800-2000 mm2540 mm
5-10 Ton1524 mm2030-2130 mm2438 mm
10-15 Ton2400 mm2200-2690 mm2950 mm
15 -20 Ton2850 mm2700-2900 mm2295 mm
Typical sizes of a mini excavator.

As you can see from the table above, as the tonnage increases, the width also increases. Length of a mini excavator isn’t necessarily directly proportional to the weight, though. When choosing which mini excavator to go for, choose one that fits in your backyard based on the general dimensions provided above. 

To get a better idea, we recommend you get in touch with your rental service and ask them for specific figures. You need to consider the height, width, and the swing radius of your excavator to ensure that you have enough room.

For row houses, getting a mini excavator in your backyard can be specifically difficult since there is no excavator that can fit in the alley headed there. You have to take another route, as explained in the next section.

Getting Your Mini Excavator to Your Backyard – How to

First, let’s go over the easy bit.

Let’s say you find an excavator that fits the alley headed to your backyard. All you have to do is retract the claw/bucket and compact the excavator as much as possible. Next, it’s a simple matter of driving the excavator in. Before you know it, you can get back to work:

A mini excavator in someones backyard
A mini excavator in someones backyard

Try not to turn your excavator (especially tracked ones) too rigorously, else you risk damaging the turf/grass underneath the excavator.

A complication that may arise here is that your mini excavator might touch your neighbor’s fence on the way. We recommend keeping at least 1 ft. away from your house and the fence. You may have to ask your neighbor for permission to remove their fence first and then drive the excavator in.

But what if the alley isn’t as wide, even with the fence removed?

In that case, you have two options;

1. Use a Crane to Lift the Excavator

How to get a mini excavator into a backyard

Here, you may have to rent out a crane as well depending on how high you want the excavator lifted. This is a very, very expensive venture. Not only will you have to pay rent for the excavator, but also for the crane and its fuel; TWICE. Once to get it in there and again to get it out.

2. Disassembling & Assembling the Mini Excavator

The next option you have at your disposal is to disassemble the excavator right outside your home, shift the disassembled pieces into your backyard and reassemble it again. In theory it sounds great, but when it comes to practical applications, there are numerous flaws in this plan.

First; you will need permission from the renter to disassemble it. Most people don’t allow such disassembly to DIY-ers because there is always a risk of something going wrong. Would you rent out tens of thousands of dollar-equipment to someone who isn’t certified in putting an excavator back together and allow them to disassemble it?

Second, as mentioned above, there is a risk involved. What if you aren’t able to reassemble the excavator as it was? It’s one thing to remove the boom or the bucket alone, but it’s entirely another to completely pull the machine apart.

Third, even if you have managed to pull the excavator apart without damaging anything, how are you going to transport everything if the excavator is no longer in running condition?

Murphy’s Law tells us that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. So there’s a huge risk involved in this process and chances are that you might find yourself holding the wrong end of the stick.

There is also a fourth option. You could ask the renter to disassemble and assemble it for you and pay them for transportation as well. Again, this is an expensive venture.

Out of the two options, we would go for the first one, i.e., hiring a crane. Yes, it’s expensive, but it beats having to pay extra for labor and transport costs. Knowing us DIY-ers, labor cost is something that eats us whole!

The reason we’re suggesting the first option is that since you have rented the crane out, you can use it for something other than just transporting your excavator. There are numerous tasks it can help you out with, too, such as transporting raw material, lifting the debris your excavator leaves behind, and more.

You’ve already paid rent for the day; why not use it to the fullest? The same is applicable for when removing the mini excavator from your backyard. Hire a crane, remove the excavator, remove debris, and return both machines together.

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