Selecting the Appropriate Excavator Bucket

Choosing the right excavator for your work is just the beginning of getting the gear you need. Excavators, whether small or large, are very adaptable thanks to the various bucket and attachment options. Given the numerous types of backhoe and excavator buckets available, a number of considerations play a role in selecting the best bucket for the project.


The first thing to consider when selecting an excavator bucket is the application and type of material you’ll be working with. In most cases, you’ll want to choose the largest bucket for the job, taking into account the material density and the hauler truck’s size.

Keep in mind that the bucket’s weight restricts your cycle time, and the bucket only gets heavier when it’s full of heavy items. To avoid reduced production, utilize a smaller bucket for higher-density materials as a rule of thumb. To save money on fuel, wear, and downtime, you want to be able to load your hauler vehicle fast and with as few cycles as feasible.

Different applications may necessitate different bucket kinds. With a 30-inch bucket, for example, you wouldn’t be able to dig an 18-inch trench. Some buckets have features that allow them to handle specific materials. A rock bucket’s cutting edge is V-shaped, and its teeth are long and sharp, allowing it to break through hard rock and push heavy loads with greater force. A digging bucket is well-known for its ability to handle tough dirt. Consider the sort and density of the stuff you’ll be hauling and choose a bucket that can handle it.


Excavators are capable of a wide range of tasks, including trenching, pipe installation, landscaping, and snow removal. Within these applications, an excavator can use a variety of bucket types to handle distinct materials. While there are many specialty buckets available, the following are the five most popular:

Buckets for general use, all-purpose use, or digging

Buckets for grading, cleaning, or dumping

Buckets that are heavy-duty or severe-duty

buckets for trenching

Buckets with an angled slant


The most versatile bucket is a general-purpose bucket, which may be used for a variety of excavation activities. It’s also referred to as a digging bucket, and it’s the typical excavator attachment. If you don’t specify a bucket while renting an excavator, you’ll most likely get a general-purpose bucket. It has short, blunt teeth that perform well on soil and come in a variety of sizes for different applications.

The following are some of the materials that an all-purpose excavator bucket can move:

  • Dirt
  • Sand
  • Topsoil
  • Clay
  • Gravel
  • Loam
  • Silt

Stones or loose gravel are used to create the foundation.

Soil that has been frozen over

Wear-protection components are also available to allow an all-purpose excavator to cope with more abrasive materials.


Smooth edges, a wide construction, and flat cutting edges distinguish grading buckets. Lift eyes, weld-on side cutters, and reversible bolt-on cutting edges are also included. This design produces smooth edges for all digging areas and is best used with soft materials and soils. Grading buckets, also known as clean-up or ditching buckets, can be used for a variety of tasks including loading materialgradingleveling, back-fillingsloping, and cleaning ditches for better drainage.

When you know how to utilize a grading bucket, you can do a variety of things with it, such as:

  • Landscaping
  • Ditch maintenance
  • Slope shaping
  • Road construction
  • Utility work


A heavy-duty or severe-duty bucket is often made of abrasion-resistant, high-strength steel. These attachments are frequently used in rock quarries to load trucks with high-density material in fewer passes due to their exceptional endurance.

General-, heavy-, severe-, and extreme-duty excavator buckets are available. They improve digging for materials that are heavy or abrasive, such as:

Blasted rock

Hard-packed clay


Sharp rock

Ripped basalt


High-silica sand

Shot granite


Even heavier materials can be handled by severe- and extreme-duty buckets, such as:

  • Limestone
  • Sandstone
  • Broken slag
  • Basalt


A trenching bucket is similar to a grading bucket in that it is used to dig trenches. It’s ideal for cable trenches, pipe culverts, and drains that are narrow. It has a thin profile, a sharp, flat blade, and a front part that is expanded for easier access. This machine is capable of digging deep ditches while retaining a quick cycle time. For high-precision work, such as excavating around pipes, a trenching bucket should be utilized.


Many of the same uses apply to an angle tilt bucket as they do to a grading bucket, with the extra benefit of 45-degree rotation in either direction. These buckets are useful for constructing exact slopes due to their tilting capabilities. They also allow an excavator to move or shape more terrain while reducing the amount of time spent changing positions. With heavy-duty construction, these features may help you to achieve higher uptime.

Angle tilt buckets are available in a range of sizes for a variety of purposes, including:



Cleaning the ditches


Land or snow clearing




Digging in difficult-to-reach places


You can discover a range of specialty bucket designs to utilize for specific jobs in addition to the most typically used buckets:

A riddling bucket, also known as a skeleton bucket, is made up of heavy plates with holes between them. Small particles fall through, separating fine soil from coarse dirt or pebbles.

V-bucket: A V-bucket is a specific type of trench-digging bucket that can dig long, angular, V-shaped trenches. Pipes and utility wires are frequently laid with it.

A rock bucket is similar to a general-purpose digging bucket in design. For maximum pushing strength, it boasts long, sharp teeth with a V-shaped cutting edge. The rock bucket may easily break through hard rock.

A hard-pan bucket is similar to a rock bucket in appearance and comes with ripper teeth connected to the back of the bucket. While digging, it can release compacted dirt.


With so many different varieties of excavator buckets available, it’s a smart idea to rent one when you need to complete a certain task. You can save money by purchasing a used excavator bucket if you plan to use it for multiple tasks. If you choose a used or rented bucket, you must know how to inspect it for damage or repairs. Keep an eye out for the following elements:

Cracks bend, and dents: The bucket’s weld spots may acquire cracks, dents, or bows with time. A rusty fringe will form if there is a fracture in the welding.

Rust: In an excavator bucket, rust is one of the symptoms of excessive wear. If you notice rust, think about whether you can repair it or if the bucket is beyond repair.

Excavator bucket teeth are constructed of low alloy steel that is designed for strength and longevity. If the bucket teeth become worn over time, they will take on a half-moon form. Scalloped teeth are nonetheless functional, albeit at a lower level of efficiency. If your teeth are worn down, you may want to consider investing in replacement teeth or replacing them as soon as possible.

Parts are available: Teeth and other customizable features on the bucket will ultimately wear out. If the bucket is no longer in production, replacement teeth may be difficult to come by. Check online before you buy to discover where you can get the right parts and if they’re reasonable and easy to find.

The bucket must fit your excavator, whether you rent, buy new, or buy used. A bucket that is too large for your excavator will be ineffective and may even cause harm. Attach it to your excavator once you’ve double-checked that it’s the right size and weight for your machine.

Playing or moving: Attempt to open and close the bucket once it has been attached. Examine the bushings, pins, and couplers for any looseness.

Dig: If everything appears to be in working condition, test the bucket by digging with it. In comparison to other buckets, think about the cycle time you can obtain.


Most construction projects benefit from a bucket that reduces the number of passes the tool needs to make, increasing productivity. Unless you have a specific size requirement, such as when digging a trench, use the largest excavator bucket that won’t compromise efficiency. Remember that the bucket on a 20-ton excavator is much larger than the bucket on an 8-ton excavator. A bucket that is too large will cause the excavator to work harder, which will cause each cycle to take longer, reduce efficiency, or cause the excavator to collapse over.


For the excavator you have, a variety of bucket sizes will work. Bucket sizes on mini excavators range from specialty 6-inch buckets to 36-inch buckets. Keep in mind that some bucket sizes are solely for grading buckets, and you shouldn’t use them for anything else. Use this sizing guide to check what bucket size is appropriate for your excavator’s weight:

  • Bucket widths of 6 inches to 24 inches, or 30-inch grading buckets, for machines up to 0.75 tons.
  • Bucket widths of 6 inches to 24 inches, or grading buckets 36 inches to 39 inches, for a 1-ton to 1.9-ton machine.
  • 2- to 3.5-ton machine with 9- to 30-inch bucket widths or 48-inch grading buckets.
  • Bucket widths of 12 inches to 36 inches, or 60-inch grading buckets, for 4-ton equipment.
  • Bucket widths of 12 inches to 36 inches, or 60-inch grading buckets, for a 5-ton to 6-ton machine.
  • Bucket widths of 12 inches to 36 inches, or grading buckets of 60 inches to 72 inches, for a 7-ton to 8-ton equipment.
  • Bucket widths of 18 inches to 48 inches, or 72-inch grading buckets, for a 10-ton to 15-ton machine.
  • Bucket widths of 18 inches to 60 inches, or 84-inch grading buckets, on a 19-ton to 25-ton machine.


The bucket capacity of each job is determined by the size of your bucket and the substance you’re working with. The material fill factor and density, the hourly output need, and cycle duration are all factors that go into bucket capacity. You may calculate the capacity of your bucket for a specific project in five steps:

Calculate the material’s weight in pounds or tons per cubic yard. To get the fill factor for that specific material, consult the bucket manufacturer’s Fill Factor Data Sheet. This number, which can be stated as a decimal or as a percentage, indicates how filled the bucket can be with this substance.

Using a stopwatch, time a loading process to determine the cycle time. Start the timer when the bucket starts digging and stop it when it starts digging again. To calculate cycles per hour, divide 60 by the cycle time in minutes.

Divide the project manager’s hourly productivity demand by the number of cycles per hour. This formula yields the per cycle payload, which is the number of tons transferred per pass.

To get the nominal bucket capacity, divide the per cycle payload by the material density.

Subtract the fill factor from the nominal bucket capacity. This figure indicates how many cubic yards of stuff you’ll be able to lift during each cycle.


You can personalize your excavator bucket with a variety of add-on features to suit whatever uses you have in mind:

  • Different types of teeth: On the front of the bucket are one of the most common ways to modify an excavator. Teeth come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit a variety of needs. Most applications benefit from chisel teeth, which have a smooth, angled tip and a flat bottom. The chisel tip of a rock chisel is reinforced, making it appropriate for rock and hard soils. The sharp tip of single tiger teeth allows for superior material penetration. For even superior penetration, twin tiger fangs have two sharp prongs per tooth.
  • Teeth spacing: For various uses, you can modify the teeth’ spacing. Teeth with a wider spacing can penetrate rock better, whilst teeth with a tighter spacing work better in soil and trench digging.
  • Buckets can be made with a spade or straight edges. Harder materials and quarry applications benefit from a spade edge. In soil work, trenching, and site-building, straight edges produce a smoother cut.
  • Side cutters: Side cutters on excavator buckets are normally thicker than the bucket’s side. Additional bolt-on side cutters, also known as root cutters, can be added to your bucket to help you dig through roots while excavating.
  • Wear protection: In addition to bottom and side wear plates and sidebar protectors, side cutters can help with wear protection. These accessories will help your bucket last longer.
  • Quick coupler: Excavators come with a variety of bucket attachments and can also contain rippers, augers, rakes, and grapples. It’s critical to be able to swap out attachments on the job site. With a fast coupler, you can quickly move between a variety of equipment and buckets.
  • A power-tilting coupler is a device that allows you to tilt your head back and forth. For the highest precision, a power-tilting coupler allows any tool to tilt along a 180-degree arc, or 90 degrees left or right of center.
  • Excavator thumb: An excavator thumb can be attached to the top of the excavator bucket to pinch material and keep it in place for bulky or irregularly shaped loads.


Before the teeth completely wear down and expose the bucket adapter, it’s advisable to replace them. Follow these nine steps to replace the bucket’s teeth:

To begin, put on your safety glasses and put on your safety boots. A hammer, a pin removal tool, a wire bristle brush, and the new teeth you want to implant are all necessary tools. Before working on the bucket, tag out the machine for safety.

Place the bucket in such a way that the teeth are parallel to the ground.

Remove the existing teeth with a pin-removal tool. Push the pin removal tool against the retainer side of the tooth as you hammer it into the pin.

Remove the tooth and use a bristle brush to clean the tooth adapter.

Place the retainer in the adapter’s appropriate recess.

Position the tooth on the adaptor while keeping the retainer in place.

Insert the pin through the tooth and the tooth adapter from the opposite side of the retainer.

The pin should be hammered until it is flush with the tooth’s end.

Check to see if the pin’s recess is securely locked into the retainer.