Against Popular Advice, Dig Yourself a Hole (A DIY)


Need to install a fencepost, birdhouse pole, mailbox, or your ex-boyfriend upright on your property? For the latter, it is more efficient to dispose of his body in a large body of water using an impermeable tarp and dumbbell weights. (There’s a precise scientific reason for those details, so don’t skimp to save a few bucks. Lawyers are very expensive. Good ones are, anyway. Stupid ones are free.)

You’ll need to buy a bag or two Sakrete or Quikrete quick-setting concrete mix. If you’re using it to set PVC plastic pipes, it takes much less than a traditional wood post. If you’ve never used Sakrete or Quikrete to set posts, this is an ideal way for you to learn to use it. It doesn’t take as much strength as you would imagine. Leveling such posts is easier than it seems, too. If you’re not concerned with the idea of ‘level,’ forget I mentioned it. If you’ve ever bought a Rausch-Coleman home, you know what I mean.

It’s better to have extra quick-drying cement mix than you’ll require. In most places, it is about $6 a bag. If you have leftover dry mix, pour it in the back of your neighbor’s pickup truck. That last part is a joke.

Employees in the outdoor, masonry, or construction part of your local home improvement retailer can answer questions for you. It’s best to pretend you’re poor as you approach them. Feigning stupidity works well for me, too. They’ll know to avoid trying to up-sell you on things you don’t need for the project.

If you’re a day drinker, you’ll soon discover that none of those concerns come into play at all.

If you are not attaching fence panels, very heavy items, or lopsided weights, you should be less concerned about getting it exactly right. You’re going to be nervous the first time you use fast-drying cement. There’s no reason to. If it turns out horribly, you can also have a teenager drive over the post or pay him/her to take out his aggression on the ruined pole with a sledgehammer or your mother-in-law’s banana bread recipe.

If you’ve never used the stuff, once you learn, show someone else. It seems too easy.

You’ll want to dig a hole about a foot wide for a 4″ post. If it’s larger, it will cause no harm. You might need to use more Quikrete or Sankrete, though. You’ll want the hole to be 18″ – 24″ deep. Honestly, you don’t have to go much past a foot if you’re putting in one of my PVC drainage pipe poles, but it helps to make the hole as deep as possible – and doubly so when you’re placing a wood post. If you watch YouTube DIY videos, they’ll blather on endlessly about ratios and radius. Ignore that.

Most people also mention avoiding digging where all the utility lines are. This seems like overkill if you’ll pardon the pun. If you need more excitement in your life that includes random chances of death, you should dig with glee and abandon.

Utility companies have a number for you to call in the event you’re not seeking immediate death. If you want to kill yourself slowly, get an internet package from Cox or AT&T.

While I’m at it, let’s talk about post hole diggers. You don’t need one. A good shovel and a spade will do the work nicely unless you’re putting up a border wall in Afghanistan. Don’t waste your time making an elegant hole. You’re just going to fill it in again. The one exception to this is if you plan on digging trip holes in the local golf course. In that scenario, keep the hole as clean as possible.

You’ll need somewhere to dispose of the dirt you remove, too. Holes result in more dirt than most people expect. If your lawn isn’t manicured and professionally maintained, you can scatter the soil over a large area of your yard, removing all the rocks and debris from it. If your neighbor is often gone, just shovel it over the fence instead of his or her yard in the dead of night. Since you’re reading a DIY I wrote, it’s safe to assume that you are drinking and lack any sensibilities.

My preferred method is to put the extra dirt in a tarp on top of my Ford Focus. I then drive until I find a dump truck and pass it. Once I’m ahead of it, I slowly pull the release cord until the dirt, rocks, and debris come out at 70 mph all over the dump truck’s windshield. I estimate I’ll be even with those evil bastards in 20 years.

Additionally, this method is often referred to as both ‘green’ and ‘felonious.’


Quick-drying cement comes with directions on the back in case someone thinks it would be an ideal thickening age for soup. It’s absurdly easy to use.

You don’t have to wear a mask or bandana when you pour quick-drying cement, but it doesn’t hurt. I’ve seen some cartoonish outcomes and gritty teeth while watching people pour it quickly or during high winds.

If you fill the hole around your pole carefully, you’ll see that you have plenty of time to do it without help. You can use a garden variety level to check each side of the pole as the cement sets and hardens. It hardens fairly quickly – in about the same amount of time it takes your father-in-law to become set in his ways.

You can cement a pole without anyone helping you if you’re interested.

Note to self: replace cremation urn contents with quick-drying cement and observe the effects on those standing nearby during the scattering ceremony. (And hope for rain…)

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