• I thought it was clear and follow up comments clarify , the boards are buried in 4" of mud with only 2" showing, how would a person of limited strength remove the boards?

*EDIT** (to resolve questions/for clarity):

Thanks all. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer. The boards are set thin side up--so if it is a 2x4, the approximate depth would be 4". That is, the narrow side is 2": that is the part visible. As for the "horizontal," I really confused things there: I just meant that I have these long, narrow boards sunk about 4" in the ground, running about 40 feet across my yard total. And that is what traps the water: it pools in lower lying areas, especially where two boards meet. I can't post a pic now, but will do if it is still needed in the next few days.

Planning to dig out around the boards, and looking for a recommendation for a tool that 1) is narrow enough to wedge 2-4" into the ground (after digging), under the narrow part of the board (approximately 2").

Is this better? again, apologies. Hopefully I haven't confused things even more.

I moved into a rental where the previous tenant had begun a decking project that he didn't complete. He left behind 2x4s (I think--they're about 2" wide and I'm assuming 4" deep) stuck deep in the ground: at least 40 feet vertically all over the yard. It's messed up the water flow and I'm planning on planting a lawn this summer; I live in the Northwest and just have mud puddles in random places all over the yard.

Additionally, I'm fairly weak--a 43-year-old woman with no muscles :). Trying to find the best possible implements to DIY this (although I'm on a serious budget).

I think I need a heavy duty, long pry bar and, of course, a shovel. I have just a rudimentary understanding of outdoor tools, so forgive me in advance.

PRY BAR/WRECKING BAR Know that something longer will give more leverage, but also need to make sure will be able to wedge under these boards, and that isn't too heavy to use. I think what I need is a "flat prybar," but I've found sites that list like 30 types of prybars, and none seem totally on point for this project. Is there a better implement? Considering something like the Stanley 55-525 15-inch Super Wonder Bar Pry Bar. Is this good for this purpose, or should I look for a longer model? Really loathe to spend more than $20 since this isn't something I'm going to continue to use.

SHOVEL Going to have to get out in the rain when the soil is wet and dig before I use the pry bar. I'm assuming a standard round pointed shovel is best for that: is there anything special I should look for given my weakness/ineptitude? Something that is lightweight, with better leverage? Willing to spend more for this since I'll be using it on an ongoing basis.

  • 1
    old style bottle jacks, car bumper jacks, hydraulic jacks, etc; one of these devices would be a must have. Its not strength you need in this case. (The jack is a lever arm with tremendous power beyond what you can pry). What you will need is a solid base, like 2x2 plywood on a makeshift frame, concrete blocks, etc. Then you need a way to attach it to the 2x4. Use a U-Bolt, or some other fixture that will hold the jack at a safe location and give you a strong lift point. avoid crazy setups because kickback can be dangerous. Check out a local junk yard so you can get items cheap & get a helper.
    – noybman
    Jan 30, 2018 at 4:40
  • 4
    what does this mean ? at least 40 feet vertically
    – jsotola
    Jan 30, 2018 at 5:44
  • 1
    i posted an answer, but i am not so sure that your situation is what i think it is .... the part about the water flow does not make sense .... can you post a picture?
    – jsotola
    Jan 30, 2018 at 6:14
  • you can also rent tools from a place like home depot
    – jsotola
    Jan 30, 2018 at 6:18
  • i use a pressure sprayer to "erode" dirt around old cemented-in fence posts, saved my back a lot of mileage
    – dandavis
    Jan 30, 2018 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


I would use a shovel and a short piece of wood. Drive the shovel under 1 end ov the board to be lifted pry with the shovel, when the end raises up slip a short piece of 2×4 or other scrap wood under the board, move down and repeat. I live in the PNW also and sometimes wood gets stuck in the mud, if done while wet a wrecking bar should not be needed. A constant pull on the shovel handle should pop it out of the mud. One of my grandsons had 5-6 pealing poles for a fort down by our creek 1/2 covered in mud, I showed him how to pop the end out (I used a rock to support the first end) then the second so he could start building again. He got the rest out by himself and he is only 11.


It isn't clear whether the boards are vertical or horizontal (horizontal would make more sense if they're interfering with water flow). If they're horizontal, Ed Beal's answer covers it. Start at one end. Once you get the end up and can grab it, it won't take much strength to break the rest free. Knocking the other end with a hammer may loosen the dirt and help release it.

If they're vertical, you may not need to pry them out. Dig away a little surface soil to get at the board a few inches below the surface. Cut it off there, leaving the buried part in place, and put the soil back over it. Over time, it will rot away. If you find a small depression at the spot in a few years, just add a little soil.

  • Thanks all. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer. The boards are set thin side up--so if it is a 2x4, the approximate depth would be 4". That is, the narrow side is 2": that is the part visible. Jan 31, 2018 at 4:47

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