I'm digging post holes in my yard for a fence and have come upon hard
clay soil with tons of tree roots below. I cant get my shovel more
that 2 inches deep. I have to finish my fence because i have half done
all this work to get 1/2 up already. The one side was very moist and
muddy but the trouble section is hard/clay like cememnt.
What are the tools and options I have to inexpensively get these holes
dug? Is there any reasonably priced machine that I should use? I'd
rather do manually if anyone has any tricks....
Neighbour with posthole digger on their tractor? I suspect any hand held
power tool would be useless as anything powerful enough to turn through hard
clay would rotate you in the opposite direction and anything you could hold
still would get through. Aside from that it's a heavy crow bar and muscle.
maybe 2-3 mates helping you bore the holes with a hand held digger? Get them
round for an hour or so, dig the holes & then give them some beer. Enough
muscle may be able to keep the digger stable whilst cutting through the
Why are you using a shovel for post holes, you're a glutton for punishment,
at least try a manual post hole digger; like $30 at your local hardware... a
good quality one with forged blades can often make quick work of clay and
roots... btw, if there are roots through the clay then it's not very tough
Clay and roots isn't nearly so bad as rocks.
You don't say the size of the post holes (or even how many)... for anything
up to say a 6" diam. hole you could rent a two man auger... anything larger
you'll likely need a vehical mounted auger. For more than like ten holes I
wouldn't have even considered the typical manual post hole digger, I would
have rented a power auger from the git-go... I've never had much luck with a
manual post hole digger for putting in a planned line of holes, always seem
to be battling rocks.
I have a wrecking bar that I use when I run into roots or rocks when digging
It is 6 feet long 1.25 inches in diameter and weighs about 25 pounds. One
end is pointed and the other end has a chisle shape.
It would be nearly impossible to dig some holes without it.
I have the heavy clay soil here in California too.
Dump a gallon of water in the hole, more if you can. Wait a few hours
for it to soften the soil. Gypsum will help soften clay soil, they
also have water additives that help it go into the soil better if you
want to get crazy. When the soil is soft you can go in and work on
the roots, are they too big for a hand saw?
One thing about the clay; it is famous for making those adobe bricks.
So try not to work with it when it is too runny. It's hard to work
with and will harden like a rock!
Your local tool rental place most likely has a power 'auger' used to drill
into soil. Sizes range from 4" blades to 24" blades. One man, two man and
mount operation. Sounds like you would use the small one man operation.
Tool rental places like home depot, lowes, abc rental.
Manually, you can also rig up a power drill with an auger bit (such
as used in electrical work. Try a 3/4 or 1" variable speed drill with a right
angle handle for leverage.....
There are chisel bars about 1" diameter ranging in length. 2', 4', 6'
Used with a heavy sledge that would do the trick.... labor intensive
and a good chance you bust your knuckles with the sledge.....which after
you do several times, you'll feel motivated to rent a power auger.
Final note.... beware of underground utilities. I've seen pipes laid
24" below the surface... and the local phone companies and fiber
companies i.e. verizon, att, etc barely bury their cables at all.
So if you have any utility boxes at all in your vicinity, it might be
a good idea to have the lines marked...and remember, the markings
are plus or minus a foot or so...
Do it easy, Do it quickly, Do it right, but most important...get it done !!
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