Fence & Deck Construction – Digging

Correct Construction starts with proper preparation.

Digging holes for post footings may not be most glamorous job, but it is necessary.

Before you start digging, you must first “call before you dig”. You need to ensure that there are no power lines, gas, water or other utility lines where you are digging. Every municipality has a local phone number that you can call to have someone come out and mark all the utilities. The best part is that it’s a fast and free service.

You also want to take the time to contact your building department to see if permits are required. The building department can also advise how deep you need to dig your footing. A hole must be large enough for what you are trying to support and deep enough to go below the frost line.

As for digging the hole, you can use a shovel or spade, a clam shell digger, or a hand or power auger.

Digging out a deep narrow hole in the ground is not as easy as it sounds – especially if you only have a shovel or spade.

As with all tools, be sure to carefully read and follow the products instructions. Eye, ear and gloves should be used to increase your safety.

The Hand Auger is the tool I recommend for basic fence and deck construction. The hand auger is a large cork screw with a wide T bar at the top. You push down and twist around to screw the blade into the ground (much like a cork screw for wine bottles).

The Clam shell Digger is necessary if you are going to dig deep fence or deck post holes. This tool has two shovels facing each other and connected together. You push the blades into the ground then separate the handles to bring the shove heads together.

You will want to rent a power auger if you are installing a fence and have a lot of holes to dig. A power auger is just like a hand auger except that a motor turns the blades. Some people are a bit intimidated by power augers so this tool may not be for everyone. Also if you are using a power auger, you need to make sure that you do not wear any loose fitting clothing that could get caught up in the blade or motor.

Whichever tool you decide to use, just take your time, plan ahead and if you have any questions, consult a handyman or professional.

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