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Using an auger to dig deck footings

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
In the process of building a deck for the house and am ready to start digging the holes for the footings. My father-in law is a contractor so he has laid out the framework and indicated where the footings need to be. Specs call for 10" suana tubes 48" deep. I have 7 footings that I need to dig and am not looking forward to it. I was thinking on renting an auger with a 12" or 18" to help speed up the process. Has anyone used one of these for footings before? The space is too tight to get a machine back there so anything I rent will need to be portable there is a 4' gate opening but other than that its pretty restricted. Any thoughts or ideas other than suck it up and grab a shovel?
post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
In the process of building a deck for the house and am ready to start digging the holes for the footings. My father-in law is a contractor so he has laid out the framework and indicated where the footings need to be. Specs call for 10" suana tubes 48" deep. I have 7 footings that I need to dig and am not looking forward to it. I was thinking on renting an auger with a 12" or 18" to help speed up the process. Has anyone used one of these for footings before? The space is too tight to get a machine back there so anything I rent will need to be portable there is a 4' gate opening but other than that its pretty restricted. Any thoughts or ideas other than suck it up and grab a shovel?


i had a stump ground recently, and although i didn't see it, there is a small tracked vehicle that can reduce its width to get through a 24inch opening

i would try calling a big tree company that also does landcsape work, or a larger landscape company

the attachemnt you call an auger is often referred to as a "mole"

i was enlisted to operate a dingo equipped with fairly wide mole during an open house at the nursery i worked at, and it did a darn good job digging a hole for a tree or shrub in very tough soil conditions- since i didn't need to go more than a couple of feet, i can't say how it would doing with the depth you will need

if you can't find the retractable machine, it might be feasible to remove a gate post so a wider machine will fit through

there are also two-man augers- a motor in the middle sttached to a strudy set of handles that looks like a bow tie when viewed from above

if there is a lot of stone present, that can be a problem

but having helped plant a bunch of big hemlocks with the aid of a stand on skid steer equipped with a mole, i know from personal experience that they can save a ton of back breaking work in the course of a day- you might have to dig the last bit of it yourself, and you will want a footing that is somewhat wider than the sono tube- just how much is a question for someone else

maybe pick up a trenching spade or other specialized shovel to make your life easier too
post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
if there is a lot of stone present, that can be a problem


The soil in my yard can best be described as stones with small bits of gravel between them.

Excellent drainage, but the only way to manually dig a hole is with a pick axe, pry bar, shovel, and coffee can.
post #4 of 19
I built a deck this summer with similar layout of tubes. Three hard days of digging with post-hole digger. Never again without auger.
post #5 of 19
A one-man auger would only be an option if the ground is soft (lots of sand).

The two-man auger does pretty good for harder soil conditions. But at 48" plan on doing a lot of bending as each hole is dug. And get two big guys to run this thing in case it "bucks" from hitting roots or hard pack.

Another choice would be a hand operated towable auger. It basically looks somewhat like a teeter-totter with an auger on one end and motor on the other. While I haven't used these it does look like it could be handled by one person with the wheels chocked. At least it would have some mass to keep it from "bucking" after hitting roots or hard pack.

Might be able to get a mini track loader with an auger attachment through a 4' gate. But this will cost more per day than the other choices.

Last thought, make sure there are no underground utility lines in the nearby area.
post #6 of 19
Unless your ground is very, very, soft, you would have the time of your life hanging on to a 12" auger.

You can do 4'd x 8"w with a rented, two man gas powered auger then widen it for your sono tube.

$0.02

YMMV
post #7 of 19
From personal experience the auger is a GREAT tool in soft, loamy or sandy soil. In central NJ where I live it is absolutely useless below 12". We are loaded with shale here. I had a 12" three point auger on an 80HP tractor and it was pretty much useless. Shale bar, shovel and pick axe were the only answer.

YMMV.

Good luck with your project!

Alan
post #8 of 19
I hate digging sauna tubes,
post #9 of 19
Augurs work great until they hit rocks, then they stop.The larger the blade the worse the problem is.

The best method is to use the smallest sized auger blade first. It won't get hung up as quickly on small rocks. When you get to the proper depth you then switch to the next biggest size. Keep doing this until you have the proper size hole. PS-You will have to remove lots of rocks by hand
post #10 of 19
I built my deck and put a 7 person hot tub on it. By code in PA it had to be a self standing structure and supported every 4 feet under the 8x8 hot tub. The deck is 12x30 so I had to dig lots of holes. I tried the two man auger and it did not work at all with the shale in our area. I dug each hole with a post hole digger and a digging bar. It was a long weekend.

Recently I installed electric at some outside locations for my Ice Cream stand. I rented a walk behind Bobcat with a Ditch Witch attachment. The Bobcat has elevation arms so it could dig straight down. This was awesome when we got to the retaining wall. I was able to dig right up to the wall from the other side of it. While this machine will not dig perfect holes for your pipe, it will dig 48" down so you can easily dig it out with post hole diggers. This machine was less than 42" wide. It dug easily through a #1 and #2 gravel base and 14" of shale.

The auger is your ideal machine and they may make one for the Bobcat which would easily dig through heavy crap. Good luck. The Bob cat cost me $200 for 4 hours and was well worth it.
post #11 of 19
Two man auger was invented by the Marquis de Sade.

I helped my BIL a month or so ago. 15 - 20 holes, 42" deep, 12" wide. Tons of rock and debris.

Definitely better than by hand but what a *****.
post #12 of 19
Get your father in law to work the non throttle end. That is what I did when I built a porch for him out near Buffalo.

He is a trucker so he was hurting for a week after we finished 8 holes (12" by 48 deep)

My wife gave me hell; "Dave, you're going to kill my father"... I said no just get him back a little. We went out there for a vacation and there were supposed to be 3 carpenters to help.

There was only 1, me. Took 5 long days to build a 12x16 with new roofline.

Now we only visit in the winter and my tools stay home.
post #13 of 19
As was said the type of sediment makes all the difference. Here on Long Island's North shore there is always a layer of clay and rocks. The auger is useless, unless its connected to a Dingo or Bobcat. The torque usually gives somebody a smackdown on the way to the bottom. I ended up digging 16 by hand with a post hole digger and a long handled curved shovel the utility company uses for setting poles. That is some great tool. I feel your pain
Pete
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks Guys,

I actually spoke with my brother yesterday and he was able to borrow a tow behind auger from his work that should make the job a little bit easier. He described it as a free standing struccture almost like a crane with hydraulic operating system. Should keep me from tearing a rotator cuff.

I'll be using it Monday night after work so I will report back with how it goes. Right now I'm guessing that I'll get about two holes finished and will most likely break his machine.
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Right now I'm guessing that I'll get about two holes finished and will most likely break his machine.
Murphy's Law
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