Right Time, Right Place For Piercing Tools

April 2013, Vol. 68 No. 4

Among the longest-established trenchless installation methods is the use of pneumatic piercing tools: an option that has been providing contractors with a cost-effective and easy-to-use alternative to trenching for nearly half a century. Water, gas, sewer and electrical interests have all benefited from this established and proven underground method, which also serves as an efficient alternative to larger directional drilling equipment. As is the case with nearly every installation approach, piercing tools are most effective when used in specific situations.

“We started using piercing tools more than a decade ago because of the flexibility they provide,” says Del Dixon, project manager of United Cable Construction, based in Ladson, SC. “Piercing tools is ideal in situations where there is limited access and in tight spaces. One of the biggest advantages is that piercing tools don’t require a very large launch pit for operation.”

United Cable, which has been in business since the early 1980s, specializes in underground utility installations of all types, including trenching, plowing, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and the aforementioned pneumatic piercing tool method. The company has completed projects in many East Coast states, although they like to focus on jobs originating close to home in the Carolinas and Virginia. According to Dixon, the various soil types most prevalent in their primary trade territory are ideal for employing piercing tools as are the types of installations United Cable has become so proficient in completing.

The company recently expanded its arsenal of underground installation equipment with the addition of the Vermeer Hole Hammer pneumatic piercing tool, manufactured by McLaughlin, based in Greenville, SC.

“With the soil types we have in this area, and the types of installs we prefer, the use of piercing tools is an efficient and effective solution,” Dixon says. “It’s been our experience that piercing tools are a relatively low-cost approach for completing shorter bores, especially in highly congested areas with an already well-established underground infrastructure. It is also a very productive method. Depending on bore sizes, we’ve been able to use just one compressor to power up to three tools at a time.”