The Wet vs. Dry Debate

When it comes to providing soft-digging excavation needs with the most efficient tools available on the market, project managers are no strangers to the terms hydrovac excavation and dry suction excavation – or more to the point – wet or dry vac. While they might sound one and the same, a few distinct variations set these two essential methods apart and can make all the difference in whether or not they’re properly utilized. To clarify how these methods are optimized, here’s everything you need to know about vacuum excavation equipment.

What is Vacuum Excavation?

If you’ve ever wondered how building foundations, roads, and reservoirs are built, all while in the presence of pre-existing underground infrastructure, you need to know about vacuum excavation.

Vacuum excavation is one of the most widely used construction methods for what is known in the industry as soft-digging, or non-mechanical digging. Simply put, there needs to be a very controlled and safe method of moving earth, rock, and other solid materials away from construction sites when utilities or gas plant are present. This is primarily done with vacuum excavation as water and/or air does not produce the same force during excavation as yellow steel, or even hand shoveling, and it’s the safest way of identifying and digging around infrastructure elements.

Still, not every excavation project is the same. Due to the soil types and trenching necessary for this method, most of the production process is spent in planning and preparation.

Hydrovac truck

Vacuum Excavation Options

While all excavation methods primarily have the same goal in mind, there are more than a few ways to reach them. After all, there are a lot of different digging scenarios you can encounter in Ontario – excavation areas have a tendency to go through multiple material layers and soil types in the same block, let alone the same region.

Super Sucker has the subject matter expertise required to understand the scope and requirements of your excavation project and has the most advanced and diverse fleet in Ontario that can be applied to your application in the safest and most efficient way to get the job done.

What is Hydrovac Excavation?

Hydrovac excavation is probably the most well-known method of non-mechanical digging, especially in Ontario. It’s safe, efficient, and most importantly, knows how to work through harsh winter climates. This method of excavation utilizes high-pressure water to break up dirt and material, which is then collected with a positive displacement system which generates high levels of suction power to collect excavated materials. For construction projects that wish to dig around buried infrastructure safely, hydrovac excavation is often the way to go.

Some of its applications include:

  • Trenching
  • Daylighting
  • Tree root protection
  • Service pit creation
  • Debris removal
  • Potholing
  • Tank cleanouts

Hydrovac Truck

What is Advanced Dry Suction Excavation?

Even though hydrovacs are very popular in Ontario, around the world the most well-known and safest method of digging in the vicinity of underground utilities is with advanced dry suction excavation, or dry vacs. This method does not require water and instead uses high-pressured air to displace dirt and material, which is then collected with extremely powerful air conveyance or vacuum power. With proper planning and facilitation a dry vac can work on an excavation project until it is completed in its entirety as it does not require to be refilled with water, or dispose of wet slurry. This is very beneficial and cost effective on large infrastructure excavations, or on sites where dry excavated materials can be dumped and reused as backfill.

In the right situation a dry vac can save utility owners thousands of dollars and multiple days on any given excavation project which is why they are the most popular choice in the world for this type of work.

It’s applications are the same as a hydrovac but also include:

  • Inside the fence work
  • Commercial cleanouts
  • Groundwater removal
  • Spill cleanup
  • Debris removal
  • Rail maintenance


Hydrovac excavation and advanced dry suction excavation are both some of the most versatile non-mechanical methods in excavation but their primary purpose is safety, especially in urban environments. They have a lot of similarities, and they both have areas in which they will excel and project managers would do well to work with Super Sucker subject matter experts to accurately assess the scope of their job in order to benefit in productivity and cost savings opportunities that these pieces of equipment have to offer.

With over 20 years of experience serving in the province of Ontario, Super Sucker is committed to providing every client with safe, efficient, and professional services. No matter what your construction requirements are, we have the right tools for your project, the right people to get the job done and we produce the results that ensure our clients are happy.

We proudly service the Burlington, Hamilton, Mississauga, Newmarket, London, Cambridge, and Tri-City areas. If you have any further questions, contact us at or call our Book-A-Truck hotline.