A Checklist for Augering Footings and Post Holes
I recently rented a hydraulic auger for a day. My buddy, Daan and I drilled (20) holes in one day: (14) 8″ holes for 4×4 posts at Daan’s house, and (6) 10″ holes at my house for deck footings. It was a challenging project, and a learning experience for both of us. I thought that I would share my mental checklist of lessons learned to help others that plan on tackling a similar project.
There are manual types of one-man and two-man augers like these also…
The machine that I rented from the Home Depot is shown in the top photo of this post. Unless you only have a few holes to dig in fairly soft ground, this is what I recommend…
Before you Start
- Call 811 a week before you plan on digging to have any utilities in the area marked. It is a free service.
- No matter which machine you rent, this is a two-man job.
- Even with two guys, this is not an easy job!
- If you need to auger holes close to other obstacles, make sure the machine you chose will work. Generally, the simple one and two-man hand-held machines cannot get very close to obstacles.
- Rent the biggest machine that you can afford… And will fit where you need to auger the holes. More power and a larger machine makes the work easier.
- Also consider access to the area (fences, gates, etc.) when selecting the rental machine.
- Typical auger bits will only drill about 36″ down. If you need to go deeper, you will need an extension.
Augering the Holes
- Go slowly! Go down only about 6 inches to a foot at a time and then pull the auger back out. You don’t want the auger to clog up.
- DON’T USE REVERSE, unless absolutely necessary. This is the easiest way to clog up the auger bit and get it stuck. Trust me on this one. Keep the auger turning forward and pull it out at the same time. This will clear the dirt out of the hole and the auger bit.
- If you are drilling in hard ground, like the clay in our yards, you will need both guys to pull the auger back out of the hole.
- A reasonable estimate is probably 15-20 minutes per hole. That includes moving the machine between locations, water breaks, and overcoming the inevitable tough digging conditions in some spots.
FYI… I really need (11) 10″ footings for the new deck, not (6). Because of the utility locations in my yard I have to hand dig (2) holes. We didn’t get the last (3) holes done that day because we got the auger bit stuck. Rookies!… And this is why I decided to write this post. Enjoy.
To finish the project at my house, I decided to rent a different machine for a few hours called a Dingo. This thing was awesome! Basically, it’s a walk-behind skid steer. You can actually get them with a number of attachments: forks, bucket, plow, rock-hound, trencher, etc. I rented one with the auger attachment.
There are two things that make this machine so much better than the augering alternatives:
- Horsepower – plenty!
- Weight – The machine is stout, so it can drive the auger in and pull it back out of the hole.
I was able to finish off all of my holes (and redo some of them) and I also used it to easily pull the stuck auger out of my yard. It only took about an hour.
My advice… don’t waste your time with the wimpy machines. If you can find a place to rent a Dingo, do it. You will be finished in less than half the time, so the cost difference will be negligible also. Lesson learned.
Till next time…