A Comprehensive Guide to the Different Types of Backhoes Used in Heavy Equipment

A large construction excavator removes contaminated soil from an urban brownfield development site.


Backhoes are versatile pieces of heavy equipment commonly used in construction, excavation, and landscaping projects. They combine the functionality of a loader at the front and an excavator at the rear, making them invaluable for various tasks. However, backhoes come in different types and configurations, each designed for specific applications and operating conditions. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different types of backhoes used in heavy equipment. We will delve into their features, functionalities, and applications, providing you with a clear understanding of the diverse options available in the market.

1. Standard Backhoes

1.1. Overview

Standard backhoes, also known as conventional backhoes, are the most common type of backhoes found in the heavy equipment industry. They feature a standard-length boom, bucket, and dipper stick configuration.

1.2. Features and Functionality

  • Standard backhoes typically have a digging depth ranging from 14 to 18 feet (4.2 to 5.5 meters), allowing them to handle a wide range of excavation tasks.
  • They offer excellent maneuverability, making them suitable for working in tight spaces and congested job sites.
  • Standard backhoes often have quick-attach systems for swapping out attachments, such as buckets, augers, or hydraulic hammers, to accommodate different tasks.
  • They are known for their robust lifting capacity, allowing them to handle heavy loads during material handling operations.

1.3. Applications

  • Excavation and trenching: Standard backhoes excel in digging trenches, foundations, and general excavation tasks on construction sites.
  • Material handling: They are commonly used for loading and unloading materials, such as soil, gravel, or construction debris, into trucks or containers.
  • Utility work: Standard backhoes are employed in utility projects, such as laying pipes or cables, thanks to their versatility and compact size.

2. Mini or Compact Backhoes

2.1. Overview

Mini or compact backhoes are smaller in size compared to standard backhoes, offering increased maneuverability and accessibility in tight or restricted spaces.

2.2. Features and Functionality

  • Mini backhoes typically have a lower operating weight, making them easier to transport and maneuver on job sites with weight restrictions.
  • They are equipped with narrower frames and reduced tail swings, allowing them to navigate through narrow passages and congested areas.
  • Compact backhoes often have telescopic booms or articulating arms that provide enhanced reach and flexibility.
  • They offer a range of attachments, including buckets, augers, or hydraulic thumbs, to adapt to various tasks.

2.3. Applications

  • Landscaping: Mini backhoes are well-suited for landscaping projects, such as digging trenches for irrigation systems or creating garden beds.
  • Residential construction: They are ideal for small-scale construction projects, such as digging foundations or utility trenches for residential buildings.
  • Municipal maintenance: Compact backhoes are commonly used for maintaining parks, gardens, or municipal infrastructure, thanks to their versatility and maneuverability.

3. Extendable Stick or Extendahoe Backhoes

3.1. Overview

Extendable stick or extendahoe backhoes are designed with an extendable dipper stick, allowing for increased digging depth and reach compared to standard backhoes.

3.2. Features and Functionality

  • Extendable stick backhoes offer extended digging depths, often reaching up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) or more, enabling them to tackle deep excavation projects.
  • They have telescopic or extendable dipper sticks that provide added reach, making them suitable for tasks requiring extended reach, such as ditch cleaning or working below ground level.
  • Extendahoe backhoes maintain similar functionalities to standard backhoes, including loading, lifting, and material handling capabilities.

3.3. Applications

  • Deep excavation: Extendable stick backhoes are commonly used in projects that require deep digging, such as pipeline installation or basement excavations.
  • Utility maintenance: They are valuable for maintenance and repair work on underground utilities, including sewer lines, water mains, or electrical cables.
  • Land clearing: Extendahoe backhoes are employed in land clearing operations where increased reach and digging depth are required.

4. Long Reach Backhoes

4.1. Overview

Long-reach backhoes, as the name suggests, are designed with extended reach capabilities. They feature longer booms and sticks to facilitate work in challenging or hard-to-reach areas.

4.2. Features and Functionality

  • Long-reach backhoes offer significantly extended horizontal and vertical reach, allowing them to access areas beyond the capabilities of standard backhoes.
  • They are equipped with larger buckets to handle increased volumes of material during excavation tasks.
  • The extended reach of long-reach backhoes makes them suitable for tasks such as dredging, slope grading, or working on waterways.

4.3. Applications

  • Waterway maintenance: Long-reach backhoes are employed for dredging rivers, lakes, or ponds, ensuring proper water flow and navigation.
  • Environmental projects: They are used for slope stabilization, land reclamation, or other projects that require extended reach to access difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Demolition: Long reach backhoes are employed in demolition operations, allowing operators to safely and efficiently reach high or inaccessible structures.

5. Side Shift Backhoes

5.1. Overview

Side shift backhoes are equipped with additional features that enable lateral movement of the entire backhoe assembly. This allows for increased flexibility in positioning the boom and bucket.

5.2. Features and Functionality

  • Side shift backhoes feature a mechanism that allows the boom and bucket to move horizontally, independently of the main body of the backhoe.
  • This lateral movement enhances precision and flexibility, allowing operators to work in confined spaces or reach areas that are difficult to access.
  • Side shift functionality is often combined with other features, such as extendable sticks or telescopic booms, to further enhance reach and maneuverability.

5.3. Applications

  • Road construction: Side shift backhoes are employed in road construction projects, allowing operators to work alongside existing structures or barriers without needing to reposition the entire machine.
  • Urban environments: They are valuable in urban areas where space is limited, such as working on sidewalks, alleys, or narrow streets.
  • Utility installations: Side shift backhoes excel in utility installations, such as digging trenches or excavating near existing infrastructure while maintaining precise positioning.


In summary, the heavy equipment industry offers a range of backhoe types tailored for specific applications. Standard backhoes are versatile workhorses suitable for a wide range of tasks. Mini or compact backhoes excel in maneuverability and are ideal for tight spaces. Extendable sticks or extendahoe backhoes provide increased digging depth and reach. Long-reach backhoes offer extended reach capabilities for challenging projects. Side shift backhoes provide lateral movement and precision in confined spaces. Understanding the features, functionalities, and applications of these backhoe types will help you choose the most suitable option for your specific heavy equipment needs.


Backhoes are crucial pieces of heavy equipment widely used in construction, excavation, and landscaping projects. Each type of backhoe offers unique features and capabilities that cater to specific applications and operating conditions. Whether it’s a standard backhoe, mini or compact backhoe, extendable stick backhoe, long reach backhoe, or side shift backhoe, choosing the right type depends on the requirements of the task at hand. By understanding the different types of backhoes available in the heavy equipment industry, you can make informed decisions to optimize productivity, efficiency, and success in your projects.

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