Helpful Tips

What are Post Hole Diggers for?

man using a manual post hole digger

As the name implies, this tool is mainly used to dig holes to install posts. If you’re a homeowner and searching for must-have yard maintenance tools, then a post hole digger should definitely be part of your yard maintenance arsenal. Using a post hole digger will prevent you from having to use too much physical effort which comes with manually digging a hole. Instead of using other tools, such as a shovel or spade to dig holes, using the best post hole digger can make it easier to install a post, requiring much less physical effort and time. You will no longer have to constantly bend over to dig. However, these tools can be used for more than just installing a new fence, which I’ll discuss below.

What are Post Hole Diggers for?

Digging tools such as a spade or large shovel are not ideal for installing your new fence since they tend to create holes that are much bigger than what’s needed, due to their shape.

For a fence, the hole must be cylindrical and deep enough to support a post. The hole is typically required to have even sides that work to support the bottom of a post once it’s installed in the ground.

A digger can also dig much deeper than other tools and is equipped with two handles that you can use to dig deeper post holes at a depth that would typically be out of your reach. The long handles provide the leverage you need to reach the correct depth.

A post hole digger can also be used for:

  • Fence posts
  • Signposts
  • Holes for solar panel posts
  • Planting a tree
  • Gardening
  • Ice fishing
  • To install clotheslines

Using the Post Hole Digger

man working on his yard with a post hole digger

Whether you have a large 6-acre property or farm that consists of hundreds of acres, digging a fence is a huge job. Regardless of the type of fencing that you use whether it’s wooden or electric fencing for livestock, welded wire designed to keep predators out of your orchard or garden, or it’s a decorative fence, each type of fence requires posts.

To install a fence securely, there are a few tricks you can use to get the job done to ensure that the fence you install lasts for several years to come. The first step is purchasing the best post hole diggers. There are several different types to choose from. Your choice should be based on the type of fencing material you’re working with, the type of ground you have, and the size of the job.

Types of Post Hole Diggers

There are many different types of post hole diggers you can use to install solid fencing.

Manual Post Hole Digger

For smaller fence jobs, you can use a hand-powered manual post hole digger. A  manual post hole digger can do the trick, especially if it’s a single-person job, you’re not in a rush and can afford to take your time tackling this type of job, if you’re working on only one or two holes at a time. If nothing else, you will certainly get a good workout.


Manual post-hole diggers can prove their value when you’re repairing your fence. Let’s say you have only one or two posts that need work. They may be rotting at ground level or just need to be replaced.

In the amount of time it would take to warm up your tractor and detach whatever attachment is currently on it, then hook up a 3 point digger and maneuver the tractor into the correct spot, you could have already used a manual post hole digger to get the job done. Obviously, if you have a large property and need to dig 20-100 posts, then this isn’t the right tool. But a manual model can be a simple, fast, and reliable solution for those smaller jobs.

Can Be Used with an Electric Model

A manual post hole digger can also play a role when you’re using an electric auger tool. You may need to use the manual digger to straighten out the edges of holes that are crooked or to make fine adjustments. Manual diggers can also help you get more leverage for narrower holes and are a great choice for smaller projects.

Handheld Electric Post Hole Digger

Handheld electric post hole diggers are a step up from a manual model. The best post hole digger comes equipped with a small engine to power it and they are available in a variety of sizes and designs, from the one-person model to the two-person electric post hole digger.

This tool will have fiberglass handles and an engine that takes over the job of penetrating the earth and raising the dirt to the surface. If done correctly, a hole can be dug in only a couple of minutes.

Offering Plenty of Torque

Unfortunately, an electric model can be tiring to use because the auger has high torque from the engine. This torque causes the two long handles on the auger to pivot constantly with a powerful jerking force, should the post hole digger hit concrete or stone. Because of the sheer power of an electric digger, the operator or operators must constantly brace against the machine, which can be challenging work, making augers hard to control. Once the auger has made its way to the bottom it can be very difficult to raise it back up again, especially if you’re digging deep holes.

3-Point Post Hole Auger

If you have a tractor with a 3 point hitch then using a 3 point hole digger will make a lot of sense. This option will eliminate most of the physical work and simplifies the entire job of determining the locations of the post and operating the tractor.

However, while the tractor is doing all of the heavy work, this is a time-consuming job, especially if you’re installing several posts.

Electric Tool Power

During the process, you’ll need to expertly maneuver the tractor to the correct spot within just two to three inches of your target. You must also ensure that the post hole digger is penetrating the ground correctly and going in straight.

Additionally, fencing tends to be one of those tasks that you don’t do often, so the question becomes, should you buy a post hole digger or rent or borrow one for a fencing project?

Other Tools to Have on Hand for Fence Installation

best post hole digger

Like most farm and construction jobs, installing fence posts requires a small arsenal of tools to help you dig to the desired depth. In addition to using the best post hole digger for deep holes, you’ll need to load up on the following tools:


Uneven ground and slopes can fool your eyes into seeing a post that is set straight, even if it’s not.

You can solve this problem by using a carpenter’s level. You can also use a level that fastens to the post that you’re installing. A post level utilizes bubbles that will ensure the post is properly oriented during the backfill.

Digging Bar

You won’t use the digging bar to dig holes. However, you’ll need it to pry out any large rocks or pieces of concrete that can appear in a hole. A digging bar can also be used to tamp down the earth during the backfill process. You’ll need to use the tapered end of a digging bar to force dirt down into the hole around the post. You can then use the flat end of the digging bar once you’re finished to tamp down the earth at ground level.

Rake and Shovel

Digging a hole for a post removes a lot of dirt from the ground, so you’ll need all of it to backfill again around the post unless you’re using gravel or concrete for backfilling. Shovels can help you get the majority of dirt back into the hole, while a rake will help you even out the soil around the post once you’re finished backfilling. You can also use a shovel to remove sod or turf before you use a post hole digger. Keep in mind, the majority of three-point attachments do not apply force down, so this can make it difficult to penetrate thicker grass.

Container for Water

Pouring a little water into a post hole can help with dirt compaction, making the difference between posts that are a bit loose and one that’s firm.

Other Gear You’ll Need

  • Extension cord
  • Two shovels
  • Tank of gas
  • Pair of work gloves

Post Type

digging a post hole

If you’re concerned about rot there are some techniques you can try that will keep a fence post standing as long as possible. Using cedar posts is a great option since this material is rot-resistant. However, you can also choose pressure-treated lumber.

Some pros will also coat the bottom of a post using a roofing tire to prevent moisture from seeping in. However, it’s difficult to say whether or not this will extend the life of a post.

You can also try using posts that are made of heartwood only, instead of a mix of sapwood and heartwood. Heartwood is derived from the interior portion of a tree and is said to be more rot resistant.


For a study fence post that won’t move around, backfilling a post hole is key. Some pros recommend digging a hole that is significantly larger than the post that will go in it.

You can also consider adding and packing down a few inches of aggregate or fine gravel as a base at the bottom of a hole. This will provide additional drainage and will prevent any water from pooling at the bottom of the post, thus preventing any issues with rot.

Pace Yourself

When you are backfilling a hole, make sure you take your time and break up any clumps of dirt and remove any concrete or small rocks that can cause air pockets around a post.

When you backfill too quickly, you’ll find that the dirt is too loose at the bottom of the hole, which will cause the post to rock back and forth and pivot when you push on it.

Be sure to tamp down the soil regularly as you go, using a little water when needed. You can also consider backfilling all the way up using fine gravel, which will add extra cost to the job, however, it does provide excellent drainage. For posts that need to be extra long or for sandy soil, you can backfill using a fast-drying concrete mix, then pour in water.

One issue with using a fast-drying concrete mix is that the water may try to seep into the joint between the concrete and the post. Using concrete can also be problematic if you ever need to move the post or replace it.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you can use a post hole digger for more than just installing a new fence or bigger fence projects. In fact, there are many benefits to using a post-hole digger, such as digging holes for planting trees or shrubs and it’s a better option than  installing a fence by hand. While you may not need a heavy-duty electric post hole digger, manual models can come in handy for a variety of small jobs around the yard, whether you need to replace your mailbox, plant some beautiful fruit trees this spring, or make a few simple repairs to your existing fence. Post hole diggers can be invaluable, especially if you’re short on time and don’t want to spend your day off using a shovel to get the job done. If you want a tool that can save you time and effort, then consider adding an electric or manual model to your yard maintenance tool arsenal.