How to dig post holes for a deck

Written by beau keyes
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Digging proper post holes are necessary for the sound placement and mounting of deck posts. Digging the holes is not the simplest of things to do and it requires some strength. Post hole digging tools are basically constructed of two hinged and curved blades with poles attached to each blade. The cut into the ground and create a rounded hole ideal for posts and poles of all types. These tools are available at most hardware and home improvement stores.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Spray paint
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel, spade or hoe
  • Garden hose
  • Post hole digger
  • Garden trowel

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  1. 1

    Determine the location for each post hole for the deck you plan to build. Use spray paint to mark the ground where the holes will go, and take care to keep the proper spacing between the hole marks by measuring with a tape measure.

  2. 2

    Use a shovel, spade or hoe to loosen the top layers of the ground for the hole. Use a garden hose to fully saturate the ground for the hole, and leave it be until the water fully absorbs into the earth--which may take a couple hours. Loosening the dirt and saturating the area with water makes the holes easier to dig.

  3. 3

    Position the post hole digger over the centre part of the hole and grasp both handles in such a way as to easily drive the blades downward. Begin by steadily outlining the area for the hole. A common sized hole for a 4-by-4 post is 1 foot wide by 2 feet deep. Force the blades down into the ground and pull the handles apart to grasp the dirt. Lift it out of the hole and position the handles together again to release the dirt. Focus on getting the hole to the right depth and then go back and widen it as necessary. Repeat for all post holes.

  4. 4

    Scoop out any extra dirt from the hole by using a garden trowel. If the hole needs to be widened at all, use the trowel to shave more off the sides. If there are any large stones in the ground, make sure they will not impede placement of the post and that the hole is large enough to mount the post in.

Tips and warnings

  • Apply more water to the hole if it becomes harder to dig into it. Scar the inside of the hole with the digger and spray water into the hole.
  • Use eye protection so as not to get dirt or debris in your eye.
  • When digging out the hole, be sure to bend and lift properly to avoid injury.

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