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Best way to dig post holes for a deck?

dpbellus's picture

I am planning on building a deck soon, and wanted opinions on the best way to dig post holes.  I have to go down about 36" in clay with some rocks, the bottom of the hole needs to be 12" diameter, and I'll probably need 10 or 12 holes.  Options I've been entertaining are:


1. Shovel and handheld clamshell type digger; free, but tiring.


2.  One of those handheld gas-powered auger ones that you raise and lower yourself; about $40 for 3 hours from the local rental shop.


3. A Toro Dingo mini skid steer, which I think would be nearly effortless, but would  cost about $200 to rent and I'm trying to keep costs to a minimum.


The deck I'm building is at my home so I'm not in too much of a hurry, but I don't want to spend too much time digging holes.  Any advice wuold be appreciated.


While I'm at it, I'm leaning towards using screws to fasten the decking (2x6 treated).  Some people say they like nails because they're faster, I think screws might be better in the long run??


 

(post #108300, reply #1 of 27)

My choices:


>> 3. ...Toro Dingo mini skid steer, ...... nearly effortless, ...... cost about $200 to rent.......<<


and worth every penny.


Nails vs screws - I vote for screws - they are indeed slower and more expensive, but they don't pop up and "visit" your bare foot. 2nd choice would be SS annular ring shank nails - gun driven for speed.


Be careful as to fastener selection since you are using PT.  Stainless or other PT rated coatings only.


Good - Fast - Cheap - you only get to have two.


Jim


 


Never underestimate the value of a sharp pencil or good light.
Never underestimate the value of a sharp pencil or good light.

(post #108300, reply #2 of 27)

#3. Are you talking about a power shovel or a skid steer with a hydraulic auger?

If you have clay and rocks then #2 will be torture and Nancy Pelosi will want you investigated. You'll kill yourself going 36 inches in clay with a one man auger.

Get a Bobcat with a hydraulic auger at the rental store.

Go to McFeely's online to get your deck screws if you use a composite deck and you want them pretty.

(post #108300, reply #3 of 27)

i'd go with option #3 as well.  Dug holes by hand (option #1) for our fence in compacted soil.  Freeze depth here is also 36" (i stopped around 24"-30" because any further by that point was just tedious).  Tried option #2 and it was worthless. The auger bit spun around like trying to put a screw through a tank tread.


Like you, i wasn't in any rush so i just finished by hand.  But a lot of work.  For $200, you could be done in a day, pour footings another day, then go at your own pace from there.


 

(post #108300, reply #4 of 27)

Screw it with quality screws. Much easier to change out boards later.

(post #108300, reply #5 of 27)

#3  With that many holes, do your body a favor & rent the machine.


That being said, I know its your money not mine, but it is your body


Good luck


 


Screws,  Anything but treated for decking



 No one should regard themselve as "God's gift to man." But rather a mere man whos gifts are from God.


Edited 5/9/2009 12:21 am ET by CardiacPaul

 No one should regard themselve as "God's gift to man." But rather a mere man whos gifts are from God.

(post #108300, reply #6 of 27)

For 3 or 4 holes I'd use the clamshell, but only because I have a process that's fairly efficient. First, I use a long handled garden claw to break up the dirt/clay/rocks, as I'm using secondly, a heavy, compound-jawed clamshell digger that pulls up about 2x the amount a regular digger pulls up.


However, for as many holes as you're digging, I'd rent a gas powered auger if I have a helper and I don't want to destroy the lawn, or the mini-skidsteer if I'm working alone and don't care about the lawn.


Also, use stainless screws for the deck boards. Even screw-shank nails eventually work their way out.


~ Ted W ~


Cheap Tools! - MyToolbox.net
Meet me at House & Builder!

~ Ted W ~

(post #108300, reply #7 of 27)

Option 1 with the addition of a Bosch Demolition hammer with a clay spade. I have used a clamshell digger since 12 years old with moderate satisfaction. After getting Demolition hammer and a clay spade I feel ready to tackle anything my soil has to challenge me.

I find a big hammer with a clay spade is too much effort to move in and out of the hole.

I used to have an old makita that was too heavy but it only cost me a hundred dollars. Overall it worked ok. After it died I bought a new one that was worthless for digging as it was too heavy.

I think IMERC suggested this one

http://www.amazon.com/Bosch-11316EVS-SDS-Max-Demolition-Hammer/dp/B00004SUPW

I bought it and it is awesome. It dug out 800 sq feet of basement six feet deep and aside from wearing out one clay spade it doesn't even seem to show any signs that the basement project even challenged it.

I always keep it handy if I need to dig post holes, trenches, etc.

If you don't need to own one it may not be cost effective to rent one compared to the dingo auger option 3.

Karl

(post #108300, reply #8 of 27)

We did roughly the same using a 2-man auger (with three men and a boy hanging onto it at many points). But for $200 I'd rent the skid-steer -- it wasn't an option when we did it. (Keep in mind that you're probably going to go over 3 hours on the 2-man.)

Use deck screws.


The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -John Kenneth Galbraith


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #108300, reply #9 of 27)

This style of digger is pretty cool.


http://www.digga.com/one-man-post-hole-borer.html


 


Nails for framing, screws for decking.


 


 


 

 

(post #108300, reply #10 of 27)

dpbellus,


I used the Toro Dingo last summer in the same type of soil,it was worth every penny.I had my doubts at first and we used an 18" auger but it was sweet.


Took longer to pick up and bring back the machine then dig the holes.


That's not me in the pic ,it's from a toro site.



   Vince Carbone


Riverside Builders


Franklin,NY


Edited 5/9/2009 8:32 am ET by VinceCarbone

   Vince Carbone

Riverside Builders

Franklin,NY

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(post #108300, reply #11 of 27)

Clamshell to clean the hole and a long pry bar to loosen soil deep in the hole.

15-20 minutes per hole at a leisurely pace.

Plus, when you're through you'll have actually earned the beer.


There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those who understand binary and those who do not.


(post #108300, reply #21 of 27)

one thing I actually learned from watching an episode of TOH is you can and should sharpen digging tools!


never occured to me before.


but the stone / garden guy said they sharpen all their spades and post hole diggers.


 


I use my grinder to sharpen the edge and hit it with wd40.


makes a world of difference ...


who'da thunk it?


sharp tools working gooder ...


 


Jeff



    Buck Construction


 Artistry In Carpentry


     Pittsburgh Pa


Edited 5/19/2009 12:12 am ET by JeffBuck

    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

(post #108300, reply #22 of 27)

I do sharpen all my digging tools. Definitely makes a difference.

You ever oil your shovels? Take a drywall bucket and fill it 2/3rds with sand. Next time you have Cathy change the oil in your truck, pour some of the oil into the sand and mix it up.

Before you put your digging tools away, plunge them in the sand a couple of times. The gritty sand cleans the blade and the light coating of oil will offer some rust protection.


There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those who understand binary and those who do not.


(post #108300, reply #24 of 27)

I always get the strangest looks from people when I'm "caught" sharpening my digging tools or questioning the edge on their shovel.

I tell them that a shovel is a knife designed to cut dirt. Then the light seems to click on... ("But, won't it get dull again?") Most of my old oilstones live out in the shed now for touch-ups - the workshop is all waterstones or sandpaper.

But everyone still thinks I'm pulling their leg when I talk about sharpening screwdrivers...

-t

(post #108300, reply #25 of 27)

> But everyone still thinks I'm pulling their leg when I talk about sharpening screwdrivers...

Yeah, how you gonna use it for a chisel if it isn't sharp? (And of course I blunt the end of my chisels so they make better screwdrivers.)

(Probably lots of folks have never heard of sharpening a screwdriver, but it's not rocket science -- flat grind the faces then square off the tip.)


As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. --Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #108300, reply #26 of 27)

"but it's not rocket science"

My favorite line from Leonard Lee's book on sharpening was something like "...it should not be beyond the wit of a man to sharpen a pair of scissors"

That always cracks me up!

-t

(post #108300, reply #27 of 27)

as my Dad would say ...


to a mechanic ... everything's a hammer ...


'cept a chisel ... cause that's a screwdriver.


 


Jeff


    Buck Construction


 Artistry In Carpentry


     Pittsburgh Pa

    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

(post #108300, reply #12 of 27)

Your profile doesn't say where you are located so this may not be an option.  Google "Techno Metal Post".  We use these a lot for decks,  They come in and just screw the footing into the ground.  When we submit plans for a permit we note that we are using them and the building inspector says to just call for a final, no footing inspection required.

 

 

Often in error but NEVER in doubt! 

(post #108300, reply #17 of 27)

Paul Can you tell me pricing on the install of the posts


Thanks


Zeeya


(post #108300, reply #18 of 27)

They get about $165 per post here.  Not quite as cheap as you could do it yourself, but a lot less then it's going to cost someone else to get me to dig a 1' x 4'  hole, put a sonotube in it, fill it with concrete and stick a bolt and anchor plate on it. 


Plus, at least up here, no footing inspection.

 

 

Often in error but NEVER in doubt! 

(post #108300, reply #19 of 27)

Paul


Thanks for the info. at least I'll have a comparison there are two installers in Ma. none in RI so if the time comes when there's a lot of digging I'll check out the pricing here


(post #108300, reply #13 of 27)

After about two feet, the gas powered auger will beat you to death.


Nails for framing (with nailer, of course), screws for decking and railing. Hot dipped or stainless only.

(post #108300, reply #14 of 27)

If you go with the gas auger, practice by going to the local airport and grab a helicopter by the blades.  Those augers will beat you up. 


If you go with screws, get a cordless impact driver instead of a screw gun.  Makes driving screws into PT a breeze.  Also by a bunch of bits for the screws, they seem to chew them up.  Also get ear plugs.  The impact drivers are noisy enough to make it impossible to think.


I meditate, I burn candles, I drink green tea, and still I want to smack someone.

I meditate, I burn candles, I drink green tea, and still I want to smack someone.

(post #108300, reply #15 of 27)

I'm with Mongo, digging bar and clamshell, have it done before you could get to the rental place and back.

(post #108300, reply #16 of 27)

Did you see where he says he's got 10-12 holes to drill, 12" diameter, 3 feet deep? That's not an easy afternoon with a bar and a clamshell. In the soil around here that would be 2-3 days of a guy stronger than I, working steady 8 hours/day.


The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -John Kenneth Galbraith


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #108300, reply #20 of 27)

You may want to check out a pin foundation. Diamond Pier is one that I know of. I have never used one in person, but I think that it looks like a slick system.

I recently saw a pin foundation installed on Renovation Nation with Steve Thomas. Depending on the price it could be worth consideration.

(post #108300, reply #23 of 27)

Have you considered using clips underneath the flooring? This would eliminate any nail or screw holes on the deck surface.