I need to dig a rectangular box hole for a rainwater cistern. The dimensions are 4m x 3m x 2m (13ft x 10ft x 6ft). There is a slope of about 10 degrees, and the dirt will be used at a point of lower elevation. The soil is a mix of clay and residues of bricks.

Given the amount of soil that needs to be removed, I'm looking for the easiest way to excavate this much material. I have a wheelbarrow, shovels, and pickaxe to use for the task. Is there any way I can use the slope itself to make the task easier?

  • 6
    Be VERY CAREFUL digging a deep trench and then working in it, unless you are digging a grave and don't care if you are the eventual occupant of said grave. The walls can collapse, leaving you less than happy.
    – user558
    Commented Sep 3, 2012 at 22:54
  • 4
    Wow - 780 cubic feet of soil, or about 32 tons.
    – dbracey
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 1:06
  • 4
    Not digging by hand would avoid a lot of work...
    – gregmac
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 13:16
  • Get some dynamite... ;) Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


Rent a small excavator, perhaps including a person to operate it. A machine can do in hours what you would spend days (or weeks!) doing with two hands and one shovel.

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  • +1 In my opinion it is silly to do a job like this without heavy machinery. Digging a 6ft hole by hand is backbreaking work.
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 15:52

You should try to rent a dirt conveyor:

enter image description here

Also, dig across, not down - do it in horizontal layers, a foot at a time, not vertical stripes. That will be much less dangerous.


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