(3.5-min read)

There are many symbols synonymous with the construction industry — the construction cone, the hard hat, the toolbelt, etc. There is one piece of equipment that is so essential to many construction projects that it might as well be on the emblem of the construction industry — the excavator. Let’s take a look at the role of the excavator in the construction industry and learn why it is so incredibly essential to the process.

What is an Excavator?

One of our friends reported to us that he noticed his 4-year-old nephew playing with some construction-related toys. As he joined the boy on the floor, he took on of the toys in his hand. 

“What a cool tractor!” 

His nephew just looked at him with disappointment.

“That’s not a tractor — that’s an excavator.” 

Most of us don’t know what an excavator is or precisely what it does. For those wondering exactly what sets an excavator apart, let us clarify. An excavator is a versatile piece of heavy machinery capable of a wide variety of uses. Most excavators are composed of an operator’s cab or “cockpit” where an experienced operator controls the many facets of the machine. Most excavators have at least one mechanical arm which can support a variety of ending attachments for different jobs. The excavators typically have tank-like tracks or large tires to ensure stability and traction on a wide range of terrain. 

What Do Excavators Do?

When investigating excavators, a better question may be “what can’t they do?” Because of the wide variety of accessory attachments, excavators are the veritable Swiss Army knives of any construction site. In order to explore the many functions of the excavator, let’s take a look at the function of its many arm attachments. 

  • Compactor attachments are used to compress and reshape the soil. 
  • Hammer attachments are used to break through hard rock or cement. 
  • Grapple attachments are uses to grab large objects or materials for relocation. 
  • Ripper attachments are especially good at uprooting trees and clearing the soil of debris. 
  • Bucket attachments are great for digging and removing all sorts of materials on a site. 
  • Cutter jaw attachments can “chew” into all kinds of materials for demolition purposes.
  • Auger attachments are exceptional for drilling holes.

The variety of excavator attachments can be dizzying, and there are always new attachments being developed. 

How Big are Excavators?

Construction excavators come in a variety of sizes and abilities. Which size excavator used depends on the requirements of the construction job. 

  • The smallest, most agile excavators come in under 7 tons. These are used for smaller jobs where space is limited, or where only a certain amount of power is necessary.
  • Average-sized excavators run between 7-45 tons. These are used on a wide variety of jobs. 
  • The largest excavators can run up to 80 tons or more. These titans are frequently employed when extreme torque and reach are required. 


Excavators have allowed for a dramatic reduction in construction schedules and an incredible increase in worker ability. What used to take months or years can now be accomplished in weeks or even days thanks to the power and agility of the modern construction excavator.  

If your business is looking to build a new home or you need construction assistance, the Oklahoma-based construction experts from Cowen Construction would be happy to help. 

You’re invited to learn more about the experienced construction professionals from Cowen Construction today.