Disclaimer: This is an instructional How To: for digging a hole IN DIRT out of doors, within your own private property. Do not attempt to dig a hole using these instructions on wood flooring, concrete, asphalt, or where power lines or sewage pipes are buried. KNOW WHERE YOUR UTILITY WIRES AND PIPES ARE or you will regret it later.



Digging a hole is one of the most complex and simplest concepts ever; depending on the size and function of the hole. Digging a hole to plant a tree requires minimal amounts of effort and tools (maybe some permits, depending on where you're digging). Digging a hole to China requires a lot more heavy duty equipment and maybe a few nuclear devices. This write up will basically describe to you how to dig a good size hole with tools of the non-powered variety.


What You'll Need

Tools. They're in every man's garage. You'll need a few. All available at your local hardware store or home improvement super-warehouse of savings.

What you WILL need:

What you might want:

The Round Point Shovel - A common gardening shovel, with a rounded point that looks more like a spade than a circle or even semi circle. Sometimes it has no round parts at all and is just a point.
Digging Bar - A very heavy metal bar with a point on one end. It typically weighs about 30-40 pounds and is about 5-6 feet tall.
Square Point Shovel - A shovel with no point. It's more square and when digging a hole, is used to make the walls (sides) of the hole go straight up and down.
Post-hole Digger - Essentially a large pair of pliers with scoops instead of flat things for a head. It is used to pick up loose dirt or create loose dirt.
Measuring Tape - a long metallic measuring tape coiled into a box of some sort.
Rope - Your rope should be long enough to lay out the shape of your hole.



Before you Begin

Before you begin you need to know what sort of zoning laws are in effect for the area you're digging. If you live in a neighborhood in suburbia, you'll probably have to get approval from some board of homeowners (or something) for where you're digging and why. If you live in rural backwoods Kentucky, more than likely no one is going to care where or why you're digging a hole unless its for a new two story outhouse.

Also, and I can't possibly stress this enough, KNOW WHERE YOUR UTILITY WIRES AND PIPES ARE. If you dig up your power line, or worse, your plumbing and break the wire or pipe, god help you. You're going to have to call the respective companies to come and repair them and I don't think they'll do it for free. Then you'll have a very large hole in your once-was-a-yard and a bill to boot.

How to Dig a Hole

  1. Find a purpose. Why are you digging a hole? To plant a tree? Bury a corpse? Hide from the Nuclear Apocalypse? Is your Mother-in-law in town? Just because? Whatever the reason, you need one.

  2. Pick a spot. And remember where your utilities are. Picking the right place for your intended purpose is very important. Also, know your terrain. Digging in some woods or a gravel bed is not a good idea. Ideally, you'll want soft, slightly moist soil with little or no rocks. This is hardly the case however. And you'll almost always have *some* rocks to deal with. Dry or frozen ground also is a bad choice. I once broke a shovel point trying to dig into frozen dirt.

  3. Pick the dimensions. If you're digging a hole just because, then you can skip this. But generally it's a good idea to know how deep and wide you'll want your hole. A good size hole is two feet deep and two feet in diameter for circular holes; for square, two feet per side. A hole that size takes me about 45 minutes to dig alone with horrendously rocky soil. That is a good size hole. If you need deeper or wider, that's up to you.

  4. Mark off the shape of your hole with the rope. It really doesn’t need to be exact. Usually it is a good idea to over-dig a little more than necessary. You can always fill the hole back in.

  5. Take the round point shovel and place it inside the confined area that your rope has bordered. Right on the edge of the rope. Hold the shovel straight up, then jump on it, landing on the top of the spade of the shovel. The shovel should wedge itself into the ground some. Then, remove the shovel from the ground, move either left or right (pick one and stick with it) of the space you just 'dug' and repeat jumping on the shovel. Make sure you stay within and alongside the rope. When you have completed the circle or square, or whatever, in this fashion, continue to the next step.

  6. Once you complete the circle (assuming), remove the rope. You no longer need it. Unless you are digging a hole so deep you have to climb your way out. Now you have to remove the top soil (the top six inches). Usually, the top soil you're digging in has a hell of a lot of grass roots in it. To do this you have to go underneath the roots of the grass (the reason for the previous step). Use the round point shovel to do this. It can be rather difficult. Set the clumps of grass aside, you may want it later when you fill in your hole (to put back on top). When you are finished removing the grass, you should have a hole about six inches deep and in the approximate shape you originally chose.
                         Cross section of hole at this point.
    
    WWWWWWWWWWWWWW                 WWWWWWWWWWWWWW   (Grass)
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  7. Next you should start to try to dig vertically downwards (as opposed to digging a hole upwards). Again the round tip shovel is best for this. Or, maybe even better, the Digging Bar when you want to just loosen dirt. Take out as much loose dirt as you can going vertically. Removing loose dirt by going horizontally across the hole is a bad idea. Mostly because you aren't really digging then. After you get a foot and a half down, you should be deep enough to use the Square point shovel to straighten the walls and the Post-Hole Diggers to pick up the loose dirt at the bottom (so you don’t strain your back). Continue to use the digging bar, or round point shovel to actually dig downwards. The post-hole diggers can also be used for this, but they're not as efficient when digging a large hole.
                        Cross section of hole at this point.
    
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  8. Once the lowest part of your hole is the desired depth, remove as much loose dirt as possible. That's it. You're done. You've dug yourself a hole.
                        Cross section of hole at this point.
    
    WWWWWWWWWWWWWW                 WWWWWWWWWWWWWW
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Useful things to do with holes-

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