Digging a hole in frozen ground

Page 1 of 2  

I got my new barn all closed in just before our heavy freeze took over. But I still need to put 3 posts in the ground INSIDE the barn. The soil in there is fairly dry on the top so I am hoping its not frozen too solid or deep yet. But I did find the shovel was hard to penetrate it yesterday. It was really too cold to proceed with the job anyhow.
Anyhow, I know the public utilities have a means to build a coal fire on the top of the ground when they need to dig up something in the street. I dont have access to coal, nor would I want to burn it indoors because of the odor. But I can get regular charcoal. My question is this: What is the best method to burn the charcoal to melt the ground? Do i just burn it right on top of the soil, or should I put some sort of metal container around it, or what? I mean in order to deflect the heat downward, not as a safety measure. I am not worried about causing a fire, when the nearest flammable (wall) is at least 9 feet away, and I am not planning to make a huge fire, just the amound needed to grill some burgers on the grill.
One other thing, would it be best to start the fire right on the ground, or to start it in a grill first????
Yes, I know3 about ventillation to prevent CO2 poisoning. I'll leave a door or window ajar, plus the barn has plenty of small leaks by each rib in the steel along the roof edge. I will gradually plug those with foam after the stalls are done.
PS. I recall the city used to place a half of a steel barrel drum over the coal. I wonder if that helps thaw the ground, or is only to prevent sparks from flying. I know regular coal tends to spark more than charcoal.
Mark
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

why can't you just pour boiling water on the ground so soften it up? It's easier to heat up a big pot of water on a barbeque outside the barn, and the water will work quickly working its way down, I think.
Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

No problem, but it gets expensive heating 100 gallons of boiling water at a time and nothing less will have any effect.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Why so you think you would need 100 gallons? I think about 5 gallons of hot water for each hole would be enough. Like other posters have said, how deep could the soil possibly be frozen this early in the Winter? Do you live in Alaska? If you do, I guess it would be real deep :-)
Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

5 gallons won't even soften the top half inch.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Got any of the sheet tin left, or something similarly heat proof? Prop up 4 walls and a lid, (like a deer blind or fishing shanty) and run the output from a construction heater into that confined space. Local rentall place probably has them. The rental and the fuel cost will be unpleasant, but you probably only need it for a day or two.
aem sends...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
AZ Nomad wrote:

Is this the antarctic? Aside from being expensive, 100 gal. would be a load to carry. I think we've been had.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

CO2 is relatively harmless. It's the CO that you have to worry about, a lot. Burning charcoal indoors is favorite way to commit suicide in some countries. Very low concentrations of CO can be lethal so be careful!

The trouble with boiling water is... if the conditions are sufficiently cold, the boiling water can soon turn to ice thereby making matters considerably worse.
Don't use water usless you're sure it isn't going to end up frozen before you've finished the job.
I've never had to deal with excavating frozen ground but I'd probably try an electric radiant heater. If you have (or can borrow) one it would be relatively easy and safe to try that technique. If it doesn't work you still have the option of trying something a little more aggressive, and dangerous.
--
|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
| Malcolm Hoar "The more I practice, the luckier I get". |
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Just buy a pickaxe.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Goedjn wrote:

Or do it the lazy man's way: go rent an auger for a couple of hours.
--
Mortimer Schnerd, RN
mschnerdatcarolina.rr.com
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

I would recommend a bottomless steel barrel. I often use that for cooking ground wasp nests, but the ground doesn't freeze here.
For charcoal something the size of a #10 can should work, you want a long slow fire because it takes time for heat to go down.
--
Free men own guns - www.geocities/CapitolHill/5357/ (add .com after geocities)

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Nick Hull wrote:

how hard it is to break through. once you break through in one spot, it gets easier to break the frozen soil off in chunks.
another trick i've seen is dumping a bag of rock salt on the spot you want to dig for a day or two
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
A bucket of hot water will go a long ways. the ground couldn't be frozen very deep.
--
Steve Barker


< snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com> wrote in message
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Steve Barker LT wrote:

. What about a regular cold water hose?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Better than blowing on it with a drinking straw. Would carrying a 5 gallon bucket of hot water out there be all that big a deal???
--
Steve Barker



"terry" < snipped-for-privacy@nf.sympatico.ca> wrote in message
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

Thawing before digging looks like making a mountain out of a molehill considering the time of year. If you are in the lower 48 it is unlikely the frost will have penetrate very deep yet. A heavy breaking bar and a few minutes work with it or a pickax should take you through what frozen soil there is.
Harry K
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 03 Dec 2006 02:33:55 -0600, snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

Seems like the long way around. When we had a pipe frozen next to our foundation, the plumber just beat at the ground with a heavy bar to break it up.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just attach a garden hose to the drain on your water heater.it is probably due to be flushed anyways and use that. Do you have a post hole digger or auger?
If you want to do it the easiest way rent a 1 MAN not 2 post hole digger with the hot water it will be a snap and worth the cost
her is a pic I have rented them a few times and they work really well!
http://www.clarkstownrentals.com/products/1man_augerfull.jpg
snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 03 Dec 2006 02:33:55 -0600, snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

What is a "heavy freeze"? How cold has it been and for how long? How cold was it in the barn?
Pending an answer, I agree with Hary and Chris. If not a pick, a GM tire iron/jack handle, the ones with a lug wrench on one end and a point on the other. Or a big screwdriver and a hammer. Once you get part way in it will be easier.

You don't? I'm sure there is someone near who sells coal and will sell you as small or large a quantity as you want. It's not as dirty as it looks btw. In fact the pieces I have, from loose coal that fell off a truck in Pennsylvania coal area, isn't dirty in the slightest. It's solid black, but nothing comes off when I touch it.

I don't think the odor is that strong. I can't think of the odor of burning coal. But isn't your barn easy to air out?
These last two paragrpahs of mine are not meant to imply that you actually have to have a fire.
The boiling or hot water idea sounds good, unless you get a phone call, or people drop by, or you get tired, and the water cools off and turns into ice. If it is that cold, then you'll be worse off. If it is not that cold, I don't think you need hot water. Any water will do.

It helps the fire burn. They sell such things for starting charcoal fires in a grill. In fact the instructions on the bag, last I looked, said to pile the charcoal up until it is burning all over, and then spread it out. The cylinder enables one to do an even better job of piling it up. Not sure how big it should be , but I think one could make one from a large coffee can, as coffee is still sold in. Or a piece of heating duct, or one of the decorative cannisters sold for sugar, flour, and a couple other things. A thrift store might have an old set, or better yet, just the size one wants. I think one has to put holes in the size.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

Forget all the hoses, charcoal, hot water, tactical nukes, yadda, yadda...
Get a medium-sized cardboard box or wash tub. Place a 40-60-watt light bulb on the spot to be defrosted and cover it with the box/tub for a day or two. The frost, however deep, will be gone. Nuttin' to it.
As for frost in "the lower 48" - we have it here for sure. I live (and dig) in Nebraska where the frost is often deeper than 2-1/2 feet. "Running" a frost bar is WAAAAY too much work. Good luck!
--
:)
JR

Climb poles and dig holes
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.