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I need to dig a circular hole, 20 ft in diameter, and approximately 4 ft deep. The shape is important, it shouldn't be approximately a circle, but a nice clean circle. The bottom can be flat or round, doesn't matter. I can clean it up with a hand shovel afterwards, but want to minimize manual labor as it is a big hole.

enter image description here

If I use a backhoe like this in the picture, the backhoe can only park in a couple of places.

In the illustration below, I've marked red areas where there is something in the way preventing the tractor to park. Mostly these are short stone walls, fencing, swimming pool, etc. I tried hiring a contractor to dig the hole, but he said he'd smash down my stone walls and break many things to get the job done, so I want to try myself and be more careful.

enter image description here

(illustration not to scale)

Basically I can only park the backhoe along 1/3 of the perimeter of the hole. Dirt will be piled nearby and taken care of later with a skid steer.

Is it possible to complete the project, being only able to park the backhoe along this limited angle?

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    you might have to dig a ramp down to the bottom and fill it back in later, but that's not a huge deal since you have, you know, a backhoe. – dandavis Feb 9 at 20:15
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    Just out of interest, what's going into that hole? A Starship launching pad? You burying a dead alien from the planet Circulonia? Or just a nice Koi pond? – Carl Witthoft Feb 10 at 16:57
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    A koi pond. Hopefully it will be nice. – Village Feb 10 at 16:59
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    I certainly encourage you to give it a go, but I've got to wonder, if your contractor, presumably a guy who does this kind of thing daily for a living, doesn't think he can safely navigate the scene without running into things, why do you think that you, an amateur (who has likely never operated a backhoe before) think you can do better? That said, I agree fully with manassehkatz's answer and would suggest that, if you're willing to hire the job out, you find another contractor who understands the concept outlined in that answer. – FreeMan Feb 10 at 17:21
  • Yes, I will hire someone else to do it. Small town though, so limited options. – Village Feb 10 at 17:31
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Not sure why this is a problem. You drive in and dig the farthest part first, with a lot of trips back & forth to bring each bucket of dirt all the way out. Then you work out a couple of feet at a time. Exactly the same thing you would do if you were shoveling by hand and putting the dirt in wheelbarrows.

Mark the entire circle at the beginning. The biggest issue I see is making sure you don't dig too much. Unlike Kindergarten drawings, you must stay inside the lines.

Really not that much different from a much more common problem - how to paint the floor of a room. Start at the farthest spot from the door and work your way backwards to the door so you don't literally paint yourself into a corner.

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    Reminds me of a great kids' storybook en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Mulligan_and_His_Steam_Shovel – Carl Witthoft Feb 10 at 16:55
  • Would a small size backhoe be able to do this job better than a medium size? – Jim Stewart Feb 10 at 17:44
  • Probably, but I am no expert on the size of backhoes. I'd suggest asking your local rental place. If you get the guy who has been there for years and used to dig holes every day, you'll get good answers. If you get the order taker who knows as much about backhoes as burgers, not so much. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Feb 10 at 18:04
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    The biggest backhoe/excavator you can fit/afford tends to do the job well, and faster. Only go small where you can't get a bigger hoe to the job, or you cannot afford a larger one. i.e. A large hoe can sit in the middle and scoop dirt from half the circle, dumping it on the "access side" for skid-steer removal. A really big one can sit beyond the edge of the hole and dig the whole circle (dumping dirt outside for the skid-steer) without moving the machine at all. – Ecnerwal Feb 11 at 0:30

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