Steel vs. Aluminum Trench Boxes

Trench boxes are installed at excavation sites to protect workers while on the job. These systems are made from either aluminum or steel and are held apart by spreaders. The spreaders (which are similar to beams) are placed perpendicular to the plates and function as braces. All the components of a trench box are welded together to strengthen the system.

The function of a trench box is to stabilize trench walls and allow laborers to work in peace knowing that even if the trench collapses, they will not be trapped under the pressure and weight of the soil. Excavation work can be hazardous to laborers, and cave-ins have been known to take place even after safety precautions are taken, but trench boxes create extra protection and minimize the risk to workers while on the job.

When comparing steel and aluminum trench boxes, there are four main factors to consider: the differences in weight, strength, cost and longevity.

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Steel vs. Aluminum Trench Box Strength

It should be noted that aluminum trench boxes may not always be strong enough to provide adequate protection to workers, and therefore are not always a viable option. Of the two materials, steel is stronger and more durable. Aluminum, on the other hand, is more malleable and elastic than steel. Generally, aluminum trench boxes are a good choice for projects involving lighter excavators or backhoes, while steel trench boxes are better for heavier excavations.

Steel vs. Aluminum Trench Box Cost

The cost of steel vs. aluminum trench boxes is an important factor to consider when choosing between the two. The price of steel and aluminum fluctuates constantly based on global supply and demand, fuel costs, and the availability of iron and bauxite ore. However, steel is generally cheaper per pound than aluminum, and therefore steel trench boxes may also be cheaper.

Steel vs. Aluminum Trench Box Size & Weight

Not all trench boxes will fit all projects. The most popular heights for steel trench boxes include 4′ tall, 6′ tall, 8′ tall & 10′ tall. Lengths for steel trench boxes start at 8′ long and reach up to 10′ long, 12′ long, 14′ long, 16′ long, 18′ long, 20′ long, 22′ long, 24′ long, 28′ long, & 32′ long.

Aluminum trench boxes are popularly found at 6′ high x 6′ long, 8′ high x 8′ long, 8′ high x 10′ long, 8′ high x 12′ long, 8′ high x 14′ long and 8′ high x 16′ long. In addition to these standard sizes, custom trench boxes can often be manufactured, but they will come with added cost.

As for the weight of steel vs. aluminum trench boxes, steel is stronger than aluminum and less likely to warp, deform or bend under weight, force or heat. The strength of steel means that it is also heavier and denser than its counterpart; steel is typically 2.5 times denser than aluminum.

Steel vs. Aluminum Trench Box Longevity & Resale

Trench boxes are often made of steel, which is a durable, long-lasting material that holds up well under pressure. For this reason, steel trench boxes hold their value and can be resold after use. Similarly, aluminum’s greatest attribute is that it is corrosion resistant without further need for treatment after manufacturing. In other words, aluminum often doesn’t rust, and there is no paint or coating on aluminum to wear or scratch off. Though aluminum is more prone to bending and denting than steel, it also has good longevity and can be resold after use.

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