Digging post holes is the hardest part of building a deck - Fine Homebuilding
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Editor's Notepad

Editor's Notepad


Digging post holes is the hardest part of building a deck

comments (7) June 21st, 2012 in Blogs
ChuckB Charles Bickford, senior editor

Hold on tight.Click To Enlarge

Hold on tight.


It's 95 in the shade and the ground is like concrete. Not the best conditions for building a deck, especially when the first thing you do is dig holes for the footings. I've got the easy job, taking photos for an upcoming article (look for it in next year's special issue on decks). Clemens Jellema and his crew are building the deck just outside of Annapolis Maryland. He's built in this areas for more than twenty years, and he says the hardness of the ground is unusual. The power auger he rented yesterday has a hard time with it, so it's day two and they've excavated nine out of twenty holes. Of course, the heat isn't helping. Neither are the roots and rocks that lie about 18-in down from the surface.

But the auger helps, for sure.  It takes two guys to hold it, it probably weighs around 75 lbs., and uses either a 16-in. dia. bit or an 18-in. And when the soil is unfettered with obstacles, they can bore a hole in about 5 min. And the holes are clean and round, with straight sides. Very nice, if you're a connisseur of excavation. Having spent the better part of a day digging four foot deep holes in the rocky stuff New Englanders call soil, to me the $70 a day rental fee sounds like a bargain.

More as it comes.


posted in: Blogs, hvac, deck, site work, concrete

Comments (7)

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Posted: 5:26 am on May 15th

ajbremer ajbremer writes: Monday - June 25th, 2012 Mid-Oklahoma

Wow, all that hard work by 2 men and a machine. Makes me wonder if you both could have taken turns with a shovel, pick, and a long bar to break the rocks and roots. I don't know, either way out in the heat it's hard work.

I dug 15 pier holes by hand with shovel and bar last year at this time. It was 115 degrees out when I started pier hole number one. I put one of them canopies over where I was digging the hole, set a fan nearby, wrapped a sweat towel around my neck and went to town. I would simply lift the canopy and move it to the next hole when it was time. I used 8 to 10 bags of 80# Quikrete in each hole.

People got all over my case and wondered why I didn't just rent a machine, I just wanted to be old fashion and dig square holes. They each were over 3 feet deep and more than 2 feet across each side. The hole passed the test when my wife could fit in it all the way. Here's proof:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1O_vasTw2I

http://mrmachinist.net/20x30/pics/piertent.jpg

http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/10PiersinBestView.jpg

And here's a picture of where I am today:
http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/6-19-2012blocking.jpg
Posted: 6:35 am on June 25th

ajbremer ajbremer writes: Monday - June 25th, 2012 Mid-Oklahoma

Wow, all that hard work by 2 men and a machine. Makes me wonder if you both could have taken turns with a shovel, pick, and a long bar to break the rocks and roots. I don't know, either way out in the heat it's hard work.

I dug 15 pier holes by hand with shovel and bar last year at this time. It was 115 degrees out when I started pier hole number one. I put one of them canopies over where I was digging the hole, set a fan nearby, wrapped a sweat towel around my neck and went to town. I would simply lift the canopy and move it to the next hole when it was time. I used 8 to 10 bags of 80# Quikrete in each hole.

People got all over my case and wondered why I didn't just rent a machine, I just wanted to be old fashion and dig square holes. They each were over 3 feet deep and more than 2 feet across each side. The hole passed the test when my wife could fit in it all the way. Here's proof:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1O_vasTw2I

http://mrmachinist.net/20x30/pics/piertent.jpg

http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/10PiersinBestView.jpg

And here's a picture of where I am today:
http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/6-19-2012blocking.jpg
Posted: 6:34 am on June 25th

ajbremer ajbremer writes: Monday - June 25th, 2012 Mid-Oklahoma

Wow, all that hard work by 2 men and a machine. Makes me wonder if you both could have taken turns with a shovel, pick, and a long bar to break the rocks and roots. I don't know, either way out in the heat it's hard work.

I dug 15 pier holes by hand with shovel and bar last year at this time. It was 115 degrees out when I started pier hole number one. I put one of them canopies over where I was digging the hole, set a fan nearby, wrapped a sweat towel around my neck and went to town. I would simply lift the canopy and move it to the next hole when it was time. I used 8 to 10 bags of 80# Quikrete in each hole.

People got all over my case and wondered why I didn't just rent a machine, I just wanted to be old fashion and dig square holes. They each were over 3 feet deep and more than 2 feet across each side. The hole passed the test when my wife could fit in it all the way. Here's proof:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1O_vasTw2I

http://mrmachinist.net/20x30/pics/piertent.jpg

http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/10PiersinBestView.jpg

And here's a picture of where I am today:
http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/6-19-2012blocking.jpg
Posted: 6:34 am on June 25th

ajbremer ajbremer writes: Monday - June 25th, 2012 Mid-Oklahoma

Wow, all that hard work by 2 men and a machine. Makes me wonder if you both could have taken turns with a shovel, pick, and a long bar to break the rocks and roots. I don't know, either way out in the heat it's hard work.

I dug 15 pier holes by hand with shovel and bar last year at this time. It was 115 degrees out when I started pier hole number one. I put one of them canopies over where I was digging the hole, set a fan nearby, wrapped a sweat towel around my neck and went to town. I would simply lift the canopy and move it to the next hole when it was time. I used 8 to 10 bags of 80# Quikrete in each hole.

People got all over my case and wondered why I didn't just rent a machine, I just wanted to be old fashion and dig square holes. They each were over 3 feet deep and more than 2 feet across each side. The hole passed the test when my wife could fit in it all the way. Here's proof:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1O_vasTw2I

http://mrmachinist.net/20x30/pics/piertent.jpg

http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/10PiersinBestView.jpg

And here's a picture of where I am today:
http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/6-19-2012blocking.jpg
Posted: 6:34 am on June 25th

ajbremer ajbremer writes: Monday - June 25th, 2012 Mid-Oklahoma

Wow, all that hard work by 2 men and a machine. Makes me wonder if you both could have taken turns with a shovel, pick, and a long bar to break the rocks and roots. I don't know, either way out in the heat it's hard work.

I dug 15 pier holes by hand with shovel and bar last year at this time. It was 115 degrees out when I started pier hole number one. I put one of them canopies over where I was digging the hole, set a fan nearby, wrapped a sweat towel around my neck and went to town. I would simply lift the canopy and move it to the next hole when it was time. I used 8 to 10 bags of 80# Quikrete in each hole.

People got all over my case and wondered why I didn't just rent a machine, I just wanted to be old fashion and dig square holes. They each were over 3 feet deep and more than 2 feet across each side. The hole passed the test when my wife could fit in it all the way. Here's proof:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1O_vasTw2I

http://mrmachinist.net/20x30/pics/piertent.jpg

http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/10PiersinBestView.jpg

And here's a picture of where I am today:
http://i1128.photobucket.com/albums/m489/ajbremer/6-19-2012blocking.jpg
Posted: 6:34 am on June 25th

Vegetable_Gardener Vegetable_Gardener writes: Tell your buddies to rent a Toro Dingo the next time they need to dig holes. I rented one last year and dug 150+ holes in a few hours, beer breaks included. The hardest part was marking where to put the holes (landscape job). I dug through roots, rocks, pipe, etc. One section had debris from a large sewer line: #3 gravel, eight inch concrete slabs. The Dingo was so accurate you could drive nails with the auger tip.
Posted: 9:36 pm on June 24th

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