Easy Methods to Dig Out a Fence Post and Concrete Footing Working with Hand Tools

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When a post has to be fixed there is normally simply no other option than to clean out the present fence post and cement footing before you to put in the new one.  Creating a plan of attack and then implementing the plan could make the difference between a 1-hour job and a long, difficult day of frustration.

Make sure excavating is the best way

To begin, judge the overall condition of the fence post and the cement footing. Solid posts offer a sizable advantage and will make removal far easier. Also evaluate the cement base (if applicable) – is it still sturdy or is it damaged/deteriorating?

In the event that the post is cracked or the concrete base is deteriorated there might be no other solution than to dig out the fence post and concrete footing – but before deciding on difficult manual labor try the Wood Post Puller technique – it offers the advantage of working in synergy with all other leveraging and digging techniques.  It greatly increases their capability and can smoothly remove fence posts and cement bases that stop alternative approaches. If you still you conclude there is no other way than to dig out the fence post, the following instructions will make this difficult undertaking as easy as possible:

How far down and how big to dig?
Dig a hole alongside the existing post and cement of roughly equal dimension as the post and concrete base – don’t dig all the way around the fence post and don’t dig a hole that is bigger than the post – you will only be doing excess work digging and then re-filling the hole after you are done.

Do you know how deep the post is buried? The following are normal starting dimensions before posts are put in the ground:

  • 4 x 4 wood fence posts will commonly be 8 feet long put 3 feet in the ground
  • Metal t-posts will commonly be 7 feet long put 2 feet in the ground
  • Galvanized fence posts are generally 8 feet long put 3 feet in the ground

If you are not sure, you could also measure the height of the post that is above the ground (or the length of the section if it is broken off) and estimate the amount that is buried. Dig your hole at least 75% as deep as the fence post that is buried – for example, a typical wood post will be set in the ground 3 feet or 36 inches, so make the hole to a depth of at least 27 inches (36 x 0.75 = 27).

Excavating method
Start the hole using a round point shovel to get through any turf, roots, or other surface debris. As the hole becomes deeper, a trench shovel (also referred to as a ditch spade or trenching tool) can make the digging much easier until you are down to nearly 16-24 inches. With spades you are making use of your legs and whole body weight to loosen the soil to be removed – keep going until the hole is too deep and confined and prevents you from getting leverage at the bottom of the hole. Dig as far as possible, then switch to equipment which is pushed by arm power – the fence post hole digger and digging spud.

Tip – Pick a post hole digger that is compact and light – unless of course you are a bodybuilder type. The large, brawny fence post hole diggers with the fiberglass handles will tire you out – the shorter, lighter fence post hole diggers with wood handles are more maneuverable and tend to be easier for most users, even if they compromise some reach.

Tip – Use a digging bar – a San Angelo bar is created to make digging more comfortable – it provides a chisel end to break up the dirt at the bottom of the hole and to trim the sides of the hole, the other tip of the bar is a point for splitting up difficult soil. Different kinds of excavating bars will include a packing tip for compacting loose dirt. Look for a bar that is high quality heat treated steel – don’t waste your money to purchase a trusted brand name, excavating bars may be obtained at supply stores for around $25.

After you have obtained the target depth, use the chisel end on the digging bar to clean out any dirt still in between the fence post and your hole. When you dig a round hole next to a round post foundation there will be a ridge that should be removed.

Extracting the fence post
As you begin the removal process, the essential idea is to push the post into the hole you just completed. Start by simply pushing the top of the post towards the hole, it should break free from the dirt and slide into the hole – after that you can push the pry bars below the fence post and cement base and take it out. If the fence post won’t budge, attempt pushing the pry bar into the soil next to the fence post or concrete footing on the side opposite the opening and push it towards the hole. To maximize the force from the pry bar, use a leftover piece of 2 x 4 or similar wood on the ground to make a pivot and stop the pry bar from sinking in the ground.

If the post still is not going to budge, employ the digging bar to increase the hole around the circumference of the post footing. Go on prying the post out and enlarging the hole around the fence post until eventually it breaks free and moves over into the hole. The essential step is to release the fence post free – often a few firm hits using a sledgehammer are essential to start the post moving – after it moves even a little bit the effort is finished and the fence post will be removed.

2 thoughts on “Easy Methods to Dig Out a Fence Post and Concrete Footing Working with Hand Tools

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this counsel. I own a ranch with horses that I inherited from my father. The fences are very old and it is high-time that I replaced them. That’s going to be my big project for the summer; so I’ve scheduled out the project based on the equipment I need to rent. Though now I wonder if it is just better to rent the auger at the same time as a cement mixer and just work my way down the fence line.
    Aiden |

  2. Pingback: How To Put A Post In The Ground With Concrete

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