The Role of Excavators in Construction

Jul 9, 2024 | Blog

Excavators play key roles on construction sites. They are a piece of vital machinery that cuts physical labor down for the crew, and saves them time. You have likely seen an excavator on a job site before. These large machines are hard to miss, but yet, what do they do? Let’s break it down.

What Are Excavators?

In all likelihood, you have seen an excavator before. These big machines are responsible for picking up and moving large amounts of material, like rocks, sand, and soil. They look similar to bulldozers, but it is important to know that they are not the same.

The biggest distinction between a bulldozer and an excavator is their ability to drive over rough terrain. A bulldozer cannot drive on uneven terrain, and will only ever be seen traversing on level ground. This is because bulldozers have tires rather than rollers. Unlike bulldozers. regular excavators move using hydraulic powered rollers. These rollers can adapt to the terrain under them, allowing them to drive over rock.

A regular excavator utilizes hydraulics to move the bucket and arm that you see picking up and hauling material. Did you know, an excavator is a relatively quiet and eco-friendly machine on a work site? Many excavators are becoming all electric, or are a hybrid machine. Using a battery-operated engine, these types of excavators are quieter on a site, and leave less of an eco footprint!

Bridge at night

Types of Excavators:


It’s important to note that there are multiple different types of excavators. A crawler or compact excavator is the most common type. These excavators are on those tracks that we talked about earlier, and have an enclosed cab for the driver. Crawlers are easy to drive on uneven or muddy terrain, but can be slow, and shouldn’t be driven on asphalt, since they can cause damage to the road.

Wheeled Excavators

Wheeled excavators are similar to crawlers, except these machines have wheels rather than tracks. They are faster because of this, and can be maneuvered on roads. However, they are not suitable for uneven terrain, and will need a more skilled driver to operate them.

Long-Reach Excavators

Long-reach excavators are the machines you count on for digging into hard-to-reach places. These excavators have longer arms that stretch up to 100 feet. Usually, a long-reach excavator will be used when the machine is at risk of sinking into material, so it needs to be placed further away from what it’s hauling out.

Ultra-High Demolition Excavators

Ultra-high demolition excavators are your go to machine to bring down tall buildings with precision. These machines can demolish structures that are up to 200 feet tall, and allow the operator to be a safe distance away from the falling debris.

Suction Excavators

Suction excavators are the machines you need when digging through buried and actively underground utilities.  They use a pressurized water jet system, similar to a pressure washer,  to break apart dirt and material. This broken up material then gets sucked up a metal hose and hauled away. Sometimes, suction excavators can extract material from a site at 200 miles an hour. These types of excavators are usually mounted onto trucks, and are not driven around individually, like regular excavators do.

Bucket-Wheel Excavators

Last but not least, the biggest excavator of all. The world’s largest excavator is a Bagger 293, which is a bucket-wheel excavator. This type of excavator is not commonly used due to its size, and is only used when absolutely necessary to haul a 31.3 million pound piece of machinery to the job site. 

Bridge at night

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Why Are Excavators Important in Construction?

Excavators are extremely useful pieces of equipment on a job site. Not only do they save time and labor, they are versatile because of their ability to handle a variety of projects. You can find an excavator on a job site digging trenches and foundations, mining material, moving material, dredging rivers, and loading hauling trucks.

Excavators can be outfitted with attachments to allow them to break down other machinery, cut down trees, demolish buildings, and create mulch. Excavators wear many hats on a construction site!

With many different types of excavators, it’s easy to find the right one for the job. Their ability to handle a variety of tasks makes them one of the most important machines on a job site. Without excavators, jobs could take hundreds to thousands of more hours, and require infinite amounts of manual labor.

On the construction site, the RedStone crew always makes sure we have the right tools for the job, including excavators. We utilize the best equipment and technology in the business to supply our customers with the efficient, expert-level services they require. For more information about the services we offer, visit our services page.