How to Dig a Hole Fast with a Shovel?

While it might seem like a simple question, there’s actually more to digging a hole fast with a shovel than meets the eye. If you need to dig a hole fast with a shovel, there is actually a right and wrong way to go about it.

Digging a hole with a shovel can be stressful on your back, so using the proper technique is important. Additionally, if you’re digging a hole in an area with buried utility lines, then you’ll need to be safety conscious and make sure you don’t hit anything underground.

Let’s take a look at the right way to dig a hole fast with a shovel, so you get the job done quickly without injury.

Tools & Materials

  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Spray paint
  • Spade
  • Digging/Tamping bar (optional)

How to Dig a Hole Fast with a Shovel – Guide

Step 1: Determine Underground Utility Line Location

If you’re digging a hole in your yard, then you’ll want to confirm the location of any underground utility lines. You can typically do this by calling up your local municipality and they will provide the exact location for you.

Accidentally digging into an underground utility line can damage them (which you’ll likely be liable for), and in the worst-case scenario can lead to electrocution and even death. While this is a very rare situation, it makes sense to be on the safe side and map out any underground utility lines.

Step 2: Mark Hole Location

Next, you’ll want to mark the location of your hole. Spray paint is an easy way to do this, but if the hole needs to be highly precise, then you may wish to use a string line and stakes to map out the hole’s location.

hole marked with string line and stakes
Hole location marked with both string lines and stakes.

Another thing to start planning out at this stage is to consider what you’ll do with all the soil you dig up. You’ll be shocked at how much soil you’ll dig up from digging a single post hole, so it’s a good idea to have a plan for this beforehand.

A wheelbarrow is useful for transporting excavated soil to a spot in your yard where you can dump it. If you don’t have a wheelbarrow, you can also use a tarp or even a heavy-duty garbage bag to pile up the dirt and then drag it to your dumping spot.

Step 3: Dig the Hole Perimeter

To start digging the edges of your hole, use a square-edged spade to create the hole’s perimeter. A spade is perfect for creating the hole’s outline, but it’s not as useful for digging as a shovel.

Step 4: Start Digging

Once the perimeter is done, you can swap over to using the shovel to actually get the digging done.

Use your legs to get the work done, not your back. Your legs are a lot stronger than your back and arms, and you won’t get injured when using leg drive to power the shovel.

Use your leg to drive the shovel into the ground and then pivot your body to move the shovelful over and dump it.

Keep in mind that digging is tough physical work and it will take several hundred shovelfuls to remove the dirt from a single medium-sized hole.

Once you get deep enough, you’ll need to use leverage to dig effectively. Lean the shovel handle against the edge of the hole to get deep and scoop out dirt.

If you’re digging in rocky, clay-rich, or rooty soil, then consider using a digging/tamping bar to break up the dirt as you go. These are great tools for digging in tough soil, as you can utilize the weight of the digging bar to break up the dirt and then a shovel to remove the loosened soil.

using digging tamping bar to break up soil
Using a heavy digging/tamping bar to break up the soil.

If you encounter large rocks, your digging bar can pry the rocks free from the surrounding soil.

Step 5: Dispose of the Excavated Material

When you’ve dug down to your desired depth and removed the excavated material from the hole, you’ll want to dispose of the excavated material. A wheelbarrow makes this job infinitely easier, but if you don’t have one, then dragging a tarp along can also work.

excavated dirt piled on garbage bag
Even a medium sized hole will result in a surprising amount of excavated material. Make sure you have a plan to transport/dispose of it ahead of time.

If you’re digging fence post holes, then you might want to reserve some of the soil to cover up the hole after you’ve finished the concrete footing.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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