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Digging post holes advice

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  • #31

    Re: Digging post holes advice

    Well, that was a long day of hard labour.

    Some of the holes were as deep as we could go, about 3 feet with the two-man gas auger. Some are significantly shorter.

    It's weird how different the stuff underground is in such a small area. I expected all of them to have the same stuff except perhaps debris.

    Other than one hole we were lucky, there were almost no rocks and only a couple of roots. Had to use a nice chisel to cut one of the roots, but I don't think I damaged it too much.

    The one obstruction we found looked like a 30cm diameter corrugated pipe between the two houses. I've done the locates and nothing was supposed to be there, and it was at a strange angle so I suspect it was leftover construction garbage but I didn't feel like messing with it so we moved all the posts by a half a meter. Amazing luck that we tried this hole first!

    And that was one good reason not to hire someone else. They would have started digging holes at one end and after hitting this thing would have (quite reasonably) charged me double to redo half the holes.

    The two-man auger rented from home depot has a clutch, I never felt it could throw me, even when it was clearly stuck at full throttle. Other places I looked at were closed on the weekend.

    I'll go see today what hand tools I can get to try and go a little deeper. To be honest I'm skeptical that any hand tool can go through this type of clay more than a half a meter down, even if wielded by a big tough guy which I'm not. The stuff down there is incredibly hard, but it's just clay.

    My neighbour's brother claimed to have dug 20 posts 4 feet deep by hand. I'd like to see that before I'll believe it. Maybe 40cm, not 4 feet

    Thanks a lot for the suggestion to fill the holes with water. Without that the whole project would have been a complete failure!

    In fact I dislike most fences. IMHO they are just an eyesore and are totally unnecessary between neighbours.
    We have a really nice layout in the back with lots of privacy already. The fence I'm building is part of a 3-purpose project, and it's a picket fence which you can see through. I don't want a full solid fence because it will make the back yard look much smaller and won't add any value whatsoever The picket fence is more for looks than anything else, to replace the ugly chainlink.

    I am currently working on a chain link frnce for my home aswell. We dug our holes with a 2 man auger and tried as best we could to get down to 36”. Id say 6 of 8posts are at 36”, ones at 30” and ones at about 26”, by then i was fed up and am hoping it will be fine.
    I pulled the old chain link fence posts out - all but the corner posts didn't have concrete at the bottom, they were just hammered into the dirt/clay. Too late for you but I'd suggest that was perfectly fine. It still took a big car jack and a pipe wrench trick to pull them out of the ground.

    The corner posts that did have concrete barely had 20cm of concrete each. Even so it was really really hard to pull them out, even with the hydraulic 2-tonne jack. I don't see the point in setting chainlink posts into concrete, it's not holding much.

    Thanks for the advice everyone! I'll post photos once the whole project is finished (hopefully this year).
    Andrew Smith

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    • #32

      Re: Digging post holes advice

      If you fill the holes with some water and leave it for a couple days it will soften the clay and make easier drilling. Punching some holes in the bottom with a pry bar can help the water work into the clay.
      Erik

      Canada's Island Paradise - Prince Edward Island

      Proud member of the Wadkin Blockhead Club

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      • #33

        Re: Digging post holes advice

        I do understand your project Andrew which has been posted on 3 or 4 different threads. If I remember rightly part of it is on a sidehill elevation between properties. Hopefully I'm wrong but the sidehill is where I think you will have the bigger issues. You may have even changed that portion of your project and I missed it. I dunno. Good luck.

        It really isn't rocket science in Ontario's Greater Toronto Area, which obviously for those who don't know, includes Thornhill where you live. It's all Clay and it's famous Clay that's harder than most other soil on the planet. Combined with the frost you get because of the Lake effect humidity, the suggestion to "go down 4 feet below the frost" is very good advice and should not be taken lightly. Honestly folks I have seen that frost lift a house!!
        schor likes this.
        "Do it Right!"

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        • #34

          Re: Digging post holes advice

          Originally posted by ErikM
          If you fill the holes with some water and leave it for a couple days it will soften the clay and make easier drilling. Punching some holes in the bottom with a pry bar can help the water work into the clay.
          Exactly!

          I'm not a big guy (at all), but I've dug all the fence posts here and my last place by hand, to almoat 4' with a clam shell, and a heavy iron spike (princess auto and/or tsc should have them).

          They were all solid and hard clay, but pre-filling with water and letting it absorb helps. The iron spike can loose it up a bit too (but I use it mostly for prying out rocks).

          The most annoying part is getting the heavy chunk of clay which the clamshell scrapes out of the ground actually *off* of the clamshell... it sticks to it so well when wet.

          Also; I hear you Rusty! My last place already had a tall wooden fence on 2 sides... we ended up continuing the fence along the other side and front to keep the dog in but it really closes off a yard.

          In our new place theres only chain link on the sides. Keeps the view more open and still keeps the dog in (and we can still easily talk to the neighbours).

          That said; the new place is 160' wide while the old place was less then a 1/4 of that. Nothing ever really felt private in the old place.

          -Jeff

          Sent from my SM-G950W using Tapatalk

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          • #35

            Re: Digging post holes advice

            Originally posted by carbonBased View Post
            Exactly!

            I'm not a big guy (at all), but I've dug all the fence posts here and my last place by hand, to almoat 4' with a clam shell, and a heavy iron spike (princess auto and/or tsc should have them).

            They were all solid and hard clay, but pre-filling with water and letting it absorb helps. The iron spike can loose it up a bit too (but I use it mostly for prying out rocks).

            The most annoying part is getting the heavy chunk of clay which the clamshell scrapes out of the ground actually *off* of the clamshell... it sticks to it so well when wet.

            Also; I hear you Rusty! My last place already had a tall wooden fence on 2 sides... we ended up continuing the fence along the other side and front to keep the dog in but it really closes off a yard.

            In our new place theres only chain link on the sides. Keeps the view more open and still keeps the dog in (and we can still easily talk to the neighbours).

            That said; the new place is 160' wide while the old place was less then a 1/4 of that. Nothing ever really felt private in the old place.

            -Jeff

            Sent from my SM-G950W using Tapatalk
            That is exactly how I dig them.
            Id get them as deep as you can.

            42 inches is better than 30.

            Nathan
            Last edited by nnieman; 09-26-2018, 07:54 AM.

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            • #36

              Re: Digging post holes advice

              I'll borrow a clamshell digger tonight and try it tomorrow. It's an old one so probably very rusty. I might try to sharpen the edges a bit with a grinder.
              Andrew Smith

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              • #37

                Re: Digging post holes advice

                Originally posted by AndrewSmith View Post
                I'll borrow a clamshell digger tonight and try it tomorrow. It's an old one so probably very rusty. I might try to sharpen the edges a bit with a grinder.
                The big spike is key to success with the clamshells.
                You loosen everything with the spike and use the clamshells as a scoop.
                If you try to ram the clamshells into clay you will just end up with sore wrists & elbows.

                Nathan

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                • #38

                  Re: Digging post holes advice

                  In clay I used to use a flat plate with a cutting edge bent down on a handle with a cross handle. perfect for cleaning loose out of bottom of hole and could be used to dig a whole if you were ambitious. Don't know what it is called, I hope I still have one somewhere.
                  Rob

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                  • #39

                    Re: Digging post holes advice

                    Well, I bought the massive spike and borrowed a manual digger. After soaking the holes for almost 24h I managed to dig a little deeper.

                    Honestly though I don't understand how anyone can dig 4 foot holes in this sort of clay by hand. Maybe if you had a week and nothing better to do, but even then I'd still start with a machine in order to get a nice cyllindrical shaft. I completely believe the clay here is (like Rusty said) one of the hardest soils on the planet

                    Interestingly when wheelbarrowing the output from the bottom of one of the deeper holes I thought I smelled sewage. That was worrysome. But there's nothing visible in the hole that I could have broken. Maybe it was my imagination
                    Andrew Smith

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                    • #40

                      Re: Digging post holes advice

                      The black streaks you see in the clay is organic matter it gives off the same gas as sewage. nothing to worry about unless you're throwing a pot.
                      Jerome
                      Canada's South Coast

                      Port Colborne On.
                      Every loaf of bread is a tragic tale of grains that could've become beer.......but didn't....

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                      • #41

                        Re: Digging post holes advice

                        The trick in that clay is to understand you may only get down an inch at a time. It's hard work but the reality is it's doable. If it weren't doable no one would have a post below frost. Of course if a person is not used to that kind of work they are easily discouraged. I once hired a body builder with muscles everywhere and I had to let him go at lunchtime. LOL
                        "Do it Right!"

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                        • #42

                          Re: Digging post holes advice

                          Biggest problem today is the availability of proper hand tools. Bars can have different chisel ends, be longer and heavier, spoons on a handle of various shapes and sizes, grabbing tongs for rocks and so on.
                          Egon
                          from
                          The South Shore, Nova Scotia

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                          • #43

                            Re: Digging post holes advice

                            Isn't there an app for post holes?
                            Jerome
                            Canada's South Coast

                            Port Colborne On.
                            Every loaf of bread is a tragic tale of grains that could've become beer.......but didn't....

                            Comment


                            • #44

                              Re: Digging post holes advice

                              I'm definitely not a bodybuilder, but I'm in good shape, and my stubborness allows me to do what seems impossible, like moving a 480kg saw from a muddy basement into another basement in another city

                              The trick in that clay is to understand you may only get down an inch at a time.
                              Yep, that was my experience exactly. And if you do the math - that's 576 inches, which at 10 minutes a piece is 96 hours.

                              I can't afford to pay even half of minimum wage for that much work
                              Andrew Smith

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                              • #45

                                Re: Digging post holes advice

                                I have a buddy that has a bobcat business. He will come and drill holes for me 5 feet deep at a dollar in inch diameter. But his price goes up if he hits rocks or breaks his auger teeth (he charges me extra). It’s an understanding (and this is what I work with). He is a buddy and he doesn’t charge me for the unload and load of the machines (which is usually common) for personal jobs. Business jobs he usually charges me double the price and he charged me 1 hour for loading and unloading($65). This is an understanding.

                                I can usually clamshell a whole 8 inch diameter 4 feet deep in about 20 minutes. But I owen a clamshell, long prybar and a hoe to get this job done.

                                so my break point with him is aboat 6-10 holes personally or double that, plus $65 as a business.

                                edit; A clam shell is manual tool to dig a post hole. I have easily done about 200+++ of these in my life! It is good exercise!
                                Last edited by Matt Matt; 09-29-2018, 01:13 AM.
                                For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
                                Sir Isaac Newton.

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