How to Dig Through Roots with an Auger

If you discover roots in your soil, the games have just begun.  You will NEED to learn how to dig through tree roots with an auger to get your work done.

So, can an auger, by itself, get through tree roots?  Do you need other tools?  What are those tools that can chop through roots?

Read on to get the low down on all the equipment you need to get started digging holes in your rocky soil today.

how to dig through tree roots with an auger
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How to Dig Through Roots: Auger Tree Roots the Right Way 

Cutting through tree roots is not an easy task.  Do they make a specific auger for tree roots?  Will an auger go through tree roots? Is the best gas auger powerful enough to chew through tree roots?  What about the best propane auger?  Both are known for having incredible torque. 

Short answer is, not really.  The more torque your auger has, means it can get through smaller roots without having to stop and use a grub axe or a landscape bar to manually dig those out.  

Will an Auger Cut Through Roots?

Can you auger through roots? Do Roots resist auger drills? Anything larger than a thin root and your auger will buck and kick around. You could damage your auger and even yourself by trying to auger tree roots that are too big for your auger to handle. Some augers come with a specialized clutch that stops it from continuing to spin and bucking you around, so look for that feature if you’re drilling in soil with lots of roots.

How to Auger Through Tree Roots: Best Way to Cut Through Tree Roots 

Can an auger go through tree roots if it’s a more powerful two-person auger?  To be honest, all augers have issues with digging a hole in roots.   

How to Dig Through Roots: 12 Steps to Post Holes in Roots

Dealing with roots when digging through post holes is just par for the course. Digging post holes through roots is a time consuming process.  It will NOT be a fast and easy job.  You WILL have to use a ton of elbow grease and patience to get your holes dug so manage your (and everyone else’s) expectations.  We have a list of handy tools below that you should have on hand to get your job done without have to stop and wait.

  1. Make sure where you’re digging is safe and doesn’t have any utility lines or services underneath.  Once you’ve confirmed this you are safe to dig!
  2. Mark your holes.
  3. Start a small pilot or starter hole my digging down a tiny bit with your shovel, clam digger, or whatever other tool you have.
  4. Place your auger at a 90 degree angle to your pilot hole and start drilling.  Be ready for some kick back from your auger if you’re digging in soil with roots or rocks.
  5. When you hit some roots that are too big for your auger to get through, remove your auger from the hole by using either the reverse function or just by pulling it out.
  6. Remove all the extra soil from the hole with a shovel, clam digger, your hands, etc.
  7. Find the roots or rocks causing your auger to stop.
  8. Grab yourself a root saw, sawzall, shovel, digging bar, or a root slayer shovel.  Whatever you can get your hands on, you are going to use to break up and remove the roots from the hole.
  9. Break up all the roots and remove any rocks that are in the way of drilling your hole.
  10. Remove the debris from your hole.
  11. Place you auger back in the hole at a 90 degree angle and repeat steps #5 – #10 above until you’ve drilled your hole to the depth you need.
  12. Repeat this list with each hole you need drilled until your project is completed.

How Do You Dig in Soil with Roots? 

Digging around tree roots is never fun.  If you know you will be digging in soil filled with tree roots, like if you’re digging a fence post next to a large tree, you will want to know what tool removes tree roots.  But, what tool removes tree roots if an auger won’t do the trick?  What if the roots are too thick to drill through with an auger? Check out our handy list of things to have on hand when tackling root filled soil.  Trust me, you’ll need them.   

Click on the links below to check them out: 

How to Dig Through Roots: Best Post Hole Auger (Choose one from our review post!)

The size of the roots is sometimes too big for an auger to get through.  Roots can be tough. Grab yourself the best post hole auger with lots of power and torque to get you started digging your post holes. 

How to Dig Through Roots: The Tools We Recommend

How do you dig a hole where there are roots? You will need extra tools on hand on top of your auger to tackle tree roots.

Root saw  


Hand powered root saw to get through roots fast and work within your budget. 

Reciprocating Saw: The Sawzall 


Forget hand sawing, if you don’t have one already, a Sawzall is useful for so many things around the house including plumbing, gardening, landscaping, woodworking, and all sorts of DIY. 

Digging Bar (Landscape Bar) 


digging bar is an essential tool here.  When you are drilling a hole in the ground and you got some roots, you will reverse your auger out of the hole and use your landscape or digging bar to break up the roots manually.  Does this take extra labor and time?  Sure.  But you can’t get through those roots without using a bit or a TON of elbow grease. 

Grub Axe  


grub axe is also called a mattock.  It comes with an adz blade that can be used as a tool for digging in hard ground and breaking up roots.  One side is like a pick for dealing with smaller objects like rocks and the other side of the grub axe has a cutting edge which is perfect for chopping and dicing up roots. 

Root Slayer Shovel  


Here is a cool tool, that is a shovel and a root saw in one.  The Root Slayer Shovel comes with a lifetime guarantee in the US built with carbon steel. 

Clam Shell Digger/Shovel (Make sure the blades are sharp) 


Taking your shovel or clamshell digger, remove the extra soil from the hole.  Take your digging bar and stab and pry at the hard ground and roots to break them up.   Your shovel and/or clam shell digger is used to remove extra soil, rocks and broken up roots from your post hole.  

How to Tell if a Tree Has Thick Roots

Some types of trees have thicker roots than others. Some types of trees also grow deep roots rather than surface roots. We aren’t the experts on trees but head over to this website and take a look at the tree root info they provide before you start drilling. As a rule of thumb, older trees with thick trunks will have thick roots.


How to dig through roots with an auger is not easy.  You will need a ton of elbow grease, time and more tools than just your auger. Develop a plan and leave yourself enough time to get the holes dug and you’ll have your fence posts etc. dug in no time flat.


How to tell if there are roots in your soil

If you have trees, you probably have roots in your soil. Dig a test hole and then you will see if you have roots.