Can an Auger Dig Through Tree Roots?

  • By: TheWalledNursery
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Augers are spiral-shaped drills that dig into the ground. However, you might need to navigate through tree roots. A high-quality drill can cut through many tree roots if they aren’t too strong. Drilling through roots is very effective when you want to install a fence. 

While augers can dig through tree roots, you need to be careful in how you go about it.

Auger digging through tree roots
Can an Auger dig through tree roots?

You won’t want to break the end of the drill on hard objects below the earth’s surface.

There’s a lot to learn to get the best possible results. 

Do Tree Roots Resist Auger Drills? 

Tree roots thicker than three to four inches can cause problems for auger drills.

You’ll need to be careful and shut the machine off if you suspect it’s stuck on the root. 

If you’re not sure where the roots are in your yard, you’ll first want to dig with a shovel. You can try removing them with a strong spade if you see tree roots.

You can easily rip smaller tree roots out of the ground most of the time. 

Auger digging backyard
Auger digging tips

It’s best to remove as many of the thicker roots before you begin using the drill.

Thick roots are solid and can stop a lower quality auger in its tracks- leading to a jam. If the drill’s motor doesn’t stop, but it’s stuck, it could cause a lot of harm to you. 

Overall – Some thicker tree roots can resist auger drills. You’ll want to do your best to remove them if you suspect they’re under the ground. 

How To Tell If a Tree Has Thick Roots 

You’ll also want to know if the tree you’re digging under has thick roots nearby before you start.

Tree roots are usually in the top foot of soil and extend out to 1.5 times the tree’s total height. Older, thicker trees are also more likely to have solid roots. 

However, you’ll still need to be careful of younger trees. Certain species of trees can have thicker roots than others.

For example, walnut, white oak, black gum, hickories, and butternut trees have some of the strongest tree roots out there. 

In Short – Most older trees will have stronger roots than younger trees up to a certain point. Tree roots can extend 1.5 times the length of the tree underground, so you’ll need to be careful of tall trees.

Even if you think you’re far enough away, there could still be roots beneath the surface. 

Choose the Right Pickaxe for Your N...
Choose the Right Pickaxe for Your Needs

How Do I Dig Through Tree Roots? 

Tree Roots can Resist Auger Drills
Cut through tree roots

In cases where you need to dig through roots with an auger, you’ll need to follow these steps: 

  1. Use a shovel and spade to remove any roots near the surface. 
  1. Dig a starter hole to place the drill tip into. Doing so makes it much more stable. 
  1. Have someone help you hold the drill steady if it hits the root roughly. 
  1. Start the motor and hold the auger on the handles. 
  1. Don’t let go over the auger while it drills!  
  1. Keep it steady until it cuts through the root, then turn it off. 

You’ll first need to know how to operate the auger before you try using it for the first time.

It’s a good idea to watch videos online and read the instructions that come with the machine.

Every auger is slightly different, so you’ll need to know the steps to use your unique model. 

When To Dig Through Tree Roots 

You may need to cut through tree roots when performing certain tasks.

Many people need to remove them when installing fences around their property. The more trees you have, the more likely it is that you’ll have to deal with their roots. 

Dig through tree roots 
When to dig through tree roots 

You also might need to dig up tree roots if you’re starting a garden or removing soil to place a shed or pool on your property.

In short, you could run into pesky roots in any instance where you need to dig a foot or more into the ground. 

Before you start digging, make sure that you contact 811. They’ll let you know where you can and can’t dig on your property. 

What If the Roots Are Too Thick? 

If the tree roots are too thick for the auger to cut through, turn it off immediately.

You won’t want to get hurt if it jams. 

You can cut tree roots without killing a tree, as long as they’re far enough away from the tree’s base. Start by softening the ground with water- this also helps soften the roots so you can take them out.  

Dig up the soil until you see the root. Next, use a grub hoe to cut roots.

You’ll only need to remove the small portion where you plan on using the drill. The tree should be fine, as long as you don’t take out large portions of the root. 

Auger digging through roots solution
Auger digging

You can also put the auger into reverse if it gets stuck in a thick root. Running the drill backward causes it to pull itself out of the soil instead of digging deeper. 

Key Takeaway – You should do your best to remove large tree roots before trying to drill in those places. If they’re too thick, you may want to contact a professional to do the work for you.

They’ll have access to more tools and the experience needed to remove roots without making the tree unstable. 

What Tools Can Cut Through Tree Roots? 

Some types of tools will cut through tree roots easier than others.

If your auger didn’t do the trick, you could try using a sharp pair of gardening shear to chop through the root.

Branch cutters, root shovels, grub axes, spades, and hoes all work. 

These tools are usually sharp enough to cut through roots. However, you’ll need the physical strength and determination to get through the root with them.

Sometimes, you’ll need to slowly wear through a root until you can cut part of it off. 

Using other tools is a good idea when the auger can’t safely make it through the tree root. You wouldn’t want it to jam and hit you- stuck augers can be very dangerous to handle! 

Final Thoughts

While augers can dig through tree roots, you need to be careful in how you go about it.

You won’t want to break the end of the drill on hard objects below the earth’s surface.

In cases where you need to dig through roots with an auger, you’ll need to follow these steps: 

  1. Use a shovel and spade to remove any roots near the surface. 
  1. Dig a starter hole to place the drill tip into. Doing so makes it much more stable. 
  1. Have someone help you hold the drill steady if it hits the root roughly. 
  1. Start the motor and hold the auger on the handles. 
  1. Don’t let go over the auger while it drills!  
  1. Keep it steady until it cuts through the root, then turn it off.

Overall, Augers is a brilliant drill to use but there are a few things to consider. find out more details above.

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