How To Dig A Fence Post Hole Without An Auger

Renting an auger is indeed expensive. And maybe you don't want to spend that much so, you're looking for alternative digging methods. Well, you have come to the right place! We have a well-researched answer on digging a fence post hole without an auger.

To dig a fence post hole without using an auger, you must follow the steps below:

  1. Set up your stakes and string line
  2. Make a divot in the soil with a shovel
  3. With a tile shovel, loosen the dirt
  4. Utilize a clamshell digger
  5. For large roots, utilize a reciprocating saw
  6. Remove rocks using a digging bar
  7. Tamp the earth with a tamper
  8. Mark the post edge locations
  9. Cover all holes with plywood
  10. Set the fence posts

There is still so much information you should know about digging fence post holes which we will discuss below. And we encourage you to keep reading throughout this post to expand your knowledge about fences.

Placing a 2x2 fence post, How To Dig A Fence Post Hole Without An Auger

How To Dig A Hole Without Using An Auger

Before you start digging, you should thoroughly prepare all the materials and tools you need for your project. Doing so will help you save time because you can execute the process correctly and efficiently. The necessary tools are:

  • Level
  • Posthole digger
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Marker
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Steel bar
  • Tamper

Don't limit yourself to a shovel and clamshell digger if you need to dig more than a few postholes. Two other tools will be as valuable to you. Get a tile spade. The long, narrow blade can reach locations that no other shovel can. Get a tamper-end digging bar as well.

worker digging a hole for a post and fence.

We will guide you in digging fence post holes using the easiest and most accurate way. You don't have to worry anymore if you don't have an auger to use for your project. All you have to do is to follow the step-by-step guide below. Also, we will include several labor-saving recommendations that will surely help you out.

Step 1: Set Up Stakes And String Line

Using a two-pound hammer, drive the stakes to mark the center of each posthole.

Mark the outside edges of the posts with a line. Untwist the string and drive a nail through the strands to mark the post centers on the line. By sliding the nail to the correct area, you may fine-tune the placement. Then, to designate the middle of the holes, pound stakes. It will be a little about two inches if you use 44 posts derived from the string.

Check out this two-pound hammer on Amazon.

Before you dig, take time with this step to layout your fence properly. Have a look at the demonstration below for a visual of laying string lines:

Step 2: Make A Divot In The Soil With A Shovel

You should excavate around the stake to center the hole. And be sure to be careful with the string. It would be best to set it aside so you don't ruin it while excavating. Plus, don't just start digging without first drilling a pilot hole.

Next, you should outline the posthole. And to do that, carve out a spherical plug. That will put you in the ideal place to begin. To safeguard your yard, pour the dirt over a tarp.

Step3: With A Tile Shovel, Loosen The Dirt

A unique tile shovel slashes through roots and turf, making it easier to start the excavation process.

Unless you have really soft dirt, you'll be digging considerably too hard with simply a clamshell digger. Loosen the soil and utilize the tile spade to slice away at the sides. It can cut through small roots with ease.

Check out this tile spade on Amazon.

Step 4: Utilize A Clamshell Digger

Digging a hole for a fence using a hole digger

If you want to remove loose dirt quickly, you should utilize the clamshell or post hole digger. A clamshell digger is straightforward to use. You have to grab a load of fill by plunging the open clamshell digger blades into the loose soil.

Check out this posthole digger on Amazon.

See this great visual on how to properly use the post hole digger: 

Step 5: For Large Roots, Use A Reciprocating Saw

A power reciprocating saw used for cutting wood

In this step, you have to saw through more extensive roots using power digging tools. Utilizing a reciprocating saw, especially with a long blade, will reach deep into the hole and cut those thick roots.

Avoid chiseling out roots at all costs. Simply utilize a reciprocating saw with a long and coarse blade to pierce the dirt at the root's ends and cut it off.

Check out this reciprocating saw on Amazon.

Step 6: Remove Rocks Using A Digging Bar

With a steel bar, loosen the rocks and lift them out with the clamshell digger. With your digging bar, remove rocks from the hole's sidewalls. Allow them to fall into the hole before removing them with your clamshell digger.

Check out this digging bar on Amazon.

Step 7: Tamp The Earth With A Tamper

For this step, you need to compress any loose earth. And all you need to do is pack the bottom of the hole. So, before fixing posts or pouring concrete, compact the soil using the tamper end of the digging bar. That will deter any settling.

Check out this tamper on Amazon.

Step 8: Mark Post Edge Locations

You have to measure the post spacing once more and mark the string lines. Restring the line, remove all the nails, and utilize a permanent marker to keep the post edge areas on the line.

Step 9: Cover Holes With Plywood

If you plan to leave the location of your project, it would be best to cover all post holes for safety. Getting away from the site without having the holes covered may injure a person. In addition, if you cover all the holes with plywood, you can prevent them from collapsing during a storm.

Step 10: Set The Fence Posts

Man pouring concrete on the fence

Before backfilling or pouring concrete into the holes, correctly position and plumb the posts.

Position the posts. Do it correctly by letting one side brush against the string and the other edge is even with your mark. Then fill the hole while keeping the post plumb. Every foot or so, tamp the soil with the tamper end of the digging bar once you finish filling every hole.

How Deep Should you Dig Fence Post Holes

Man digging a hole for a fence

The most straightforward part of the process appears to be excavating a hole; it will take a short amount of time for a DIYer of any stamina level. However, the hole is a crucial part. If the hole construction is too large, it may not be able to withstand heavy winds. A too tiny hole is inconvenient since you must remove everything and begin digging all over again.

If you want to make an excellent and lovely fence, it would be best to produce a well-made post hole. Excavate a third of the post height above the ground to dig a suitable post hole. You will dig down at least two feet if your post is six feet tall.

Make the hole three times the width of the post you intend to use for the width. For a 4 feet wooden post, you'll need to dig a 12 inches broad hole. A hole in the ground with a depth of 36 to 40 inches and a diameter of at least 12 inches is best for gates.

Additional Tips When Digging Fence Post Holes

Check out these additional digging helpful tips.

Tip #1: Utilize The Back Of Your Shovel, Wet

To remove sticky clay, lubricate the digger with water and bang it against a shovel. Dip your clamshell digger in a pail of water if you're digging in sticky clay soil, so the soil doesn't stick. Using the back of the shovel, break up clumps. To keep dirt off your grass, lay down a tarp.

Tip #2: Small Is Beautiful

Choose a digging process and materials that are simple. In this case, a compact digger is usually more convenient to operate than a huge one. You will just go to exhaust yourself quickly using huge ones. That is why we recommend using a lighter and smaller digger.

Wrapping It All Up

Placing a 2x2 fence post

Indeed, using an auger can make digging fence post holes easier. However, using other and correct materials can also do the job correctly. All you have to do is a little bit of elbow grease to do the project at its finest.

We hope you find this post helpful. And if you want to read further, you can check the posts below or just visit our website and find articles that might be of your interest.

9 Types Of Gate Hinges [Your Guide To Choosing Outdoor Hinges]

Can You Electrify A Chain Link Fence? [And How To]

Why Do Concrete Fence Posts Crack? [And How To Fix That]