Endsleigh specialise in Home Contents Insurance for people in the UK

Installing a Fence: Layout & Setting Posts


On Saturday we returned to our roots and put in an all-out, full-throttle, no-holds-barred day of work at the house. Back in the day when we were young and fresh, we’d do at least one of these every weekend. We regularly knocked out 24+ hours of work on our two days off, but that was back when we had holes in our walls and cat urine seeping out of the hardwoods. Extreme embarrassment tends to make you move a little faster.

It was fun throwing ourselves into a project once again – we’ve been laying low lately, and I really missed that feeling of accomplishment at the end of a hard day. My creaking, achey body wasn’t quite as enthused about the rigorous activity, but it’ll adapt.

We marked off our lines and 8′ sections earlier in the week so we could get straight to digging when the weekend rolled around. We used string, a few wooden stakes, and mini flags to do this. Before digging, we checked these measurements one more time and spray-painted the ground around the flags so we could get them out of our way. (Be sure to get the upside-down friendly “marking spray paint” for this purpose.)

We rented a 2-man auger from Home Depot on Saturday morning. It was about $50 for a half-day rental, well worth it for the time it saves. They have 1-man and 2-man versions – we went with the big guns since we had 27 holes to dig. Teague’s truck bed was absolutely full of construction debris, but shockingly the auger fit in the backseat of my Toyota Corolla. The auger bit comes off for travel, but the handles had to stay on. One handle ended up hanging out the back window about 2 inches. It was almost as big as me – here it is all put together :

2-man augur

Teague took the pic, so you can blame him for cutting my head off. When they say two-man, they aren’t kidding. This thing is a BEAST. It’s very heavy and hard to maneuver. One person runs the throttle while the other pulls the choke. When you let up on the throttle, it automatically shuts itself off. It was honestly kinda scary to use at first bccause it really “takes off” when you start it up – but we got used to it pretty quickly. It made light work of the digging. Each hole took about 30 seconds to dig, I’d say. The hardest part was carrying it from point to point.

Auger hole

As you can see, it throws the dirt everywhere and digs a nice round hole. We have hard clay soil, and at about the 2′ mark it would start to buck and resist. That’s about when it hits this type of soil:

Clay soil - sucks to dig.

It becomes a weird whitish-gray color and is VERY hard to dig. We had experience digging this out back when we put in a french drain at the back of the house. It was tremendously hard to dig out, and even harder to put back into the hole once it had solidified into a giant heaping pile. We decided 2′ was plenty deep for a 4′ fence post, and didn’t fight it.

The holes were all set by noon; we used a post-hole digger to clean out any remaining debris, and started setting our posts. We used Quickrete to set them – it took about 3 80# bags for every 2 posts.

Setting them was pretty tedious and time consuming. We had to constantly mix concrete batches (in a wheelbarrow), check that our measurements were correct, and make sure each post was level and lined up straight. We also set stakes on either side of the hole with a brace in between, which we nailed to the posts temporarily to keep them level. It took about 15 minutes per post from start to finish.

We purchased a great little post-leveler tool at Home Depot that helped tremendously. It looked like this:

Post Leveler

The rubber band straps it onto the post; it’s easy to keep an eye on and move from post to post. For $4, I highly recommend picking one up!

Here, you can see the braces we used to keep each post in place:

Putting up fence posts

By end of day Saturday, we had all the holes measured and dug out and 16 of the 27 posts set. We finished up yesterday, cranky and tired but relieved to have the not-so-fun part out of the way. Once the concrete sets we’re ready to start putting panels on!

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Patricia in Jackson had this to say on 05.14.07:

You two are amazing!

Eilis had this to say on 05.15.07:

You guys are great! Looks good so far…can’t wait to see the progress!
Thanks for the auger tip…our land is all rock and clay. Ugh.

John had this to say on 05.15.07:

Looking good.

On the upside, at least you have two feet of decent soil before you hit nightmarish clay. I don’t think we could use one of those where I live. I’ve spent over an hour digging a single 18″ post hole with a pick, prybar, shovel, and (sometimes) a sledge hammer. Red clay + sandstone is not fun.

Good luck!

colleen had this to say on 05.16.07:

oh my god that thing is a beast!!!!! will be fab when your done tho and your pooches will be sooooo happy.

Beth had this to say on 05.16.07:

I can’t believe y’all could handle the two-man! It took both of us to handle the one-man!

Fred had this to say on 06.14.07:

Hi there, we have been digging holes when we hit a huge bunch of clay. We have to go down 4 ft because of city laws. We rented an auger but, it would get stuck we only got down 3 ft with the holes. I need another foot but, have no idea how to do it. We called post hole diggers but, they cannot fit through our fence. Does anyone have an idea on how to make this clay softer and easy to work with or any kind of tool that will help…

We love to hear from you, dear readers.

Please note: Comments are moderated to keep out the spam. It may take a while for them to show on the page.