Stitch Boring with Piercing Tools is Efficient Method for Crowded Residential InfrastructureDamage Prevention

When residential areas are in need of new or improved utilities, it becomes problematic to efficiently install new services without running the risk of damaging existing utilities. In addition, homeowners typically don’t want their landscapes disturbed with the holes and open-cut trenches often necessary to visually identify underground lines. To alleviate this issue, contractors are increasingly turning to stitch boring with piercing tools for a safe yet preservation-minded method of installation.

“The primary reason for using stitch boring in confined, residential areas is that the tools are small and hand launched, which allows for very productive yet surgical installation of small lines or conduits. In addition to those advantages, the piercing tools have a low cost of ownership and maintenance,” says Jeff Wage, vice president for McLaughlin Boring Systems.

Many utility expansion projects are in residential neighborhoods with finished landscapes. The need to bring new or improved lines to these neighborhoods requires tasks such as service drops on each property. To begin this process, potholes are dug to expose existing utility paths that the bore may cross, and serve as good locations for starting or completing a bore with a piercing tool.

Stitch boring is advantageous for property owners concerned with damage prevention. In residential areas where there are a number of utility lines running across various properties, hand digging is the primary option for exposing those lines. Once the project is completed, the goal is to have the yard or landscape returned to the original aesthetic. It is this determination to maintain beauty that leads contractors to utilize stitch boring.

According to Wage, stitch boring is a good solution for both small- and large-scale projects. Projects can range from as small as 5,000 to 10,000 feet, and sometimes as large as 80,000 feet. No matter the scope of the project, the major goal for operators and project owners is to promote safety and prevent damage to property.

“Contractors and utility workers are looking for installation methods that are trenchless, portable, economical and feature high productivity; you get that from piercing tools,” Wage says.

Stitch boring utilizes compact and precisely dug launch and receiving pits that minimize damage done to a lawn or landscape. Typically a crew will dig a narrow slit trench that is the length of the piercing tool, approximately 4 feet long by 12 to 18 inches wide. Then, piercing tools are used to bore at the depth required for the installation, which is commonly anywhere from 18 to 30 inches of cover. A stitch boring crew often features only a few operators, and a crew running three tools can complete 300 to 450 feet of stitch boring per day.

To help bolster the safety of the crew and increase productivity, regular maintenance is also important. Replacement of the head can save wear on other components on the tool body or tool head assembly, saving extra expense in the future. Adjustments are done on a case-by-case basis, but the head should be replaced anywhere from every six months to every few years.

A number of factors contribute to the regularity of service, including hours on each tool and the ground conditions in which the tool has been used.The external tail hose and the wear ring should be replaced 1 to 4 times per year. The piston inside the piercing tool cycles at approximately 400 blows per minute, and well-maintained seals eliminate steel-on-steel contact and keep the equipment running.

With the ability to have a small crew working safely and efficiently, stitch boring is earning a place in the boring repertoire for contractors looking to achieve utility expansions without upsetting a brilliant landscape.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Damage Prevention Professional magazine.  For more information, please visit 

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