how long does it take to dig a grave

How Long Does It Take to Dig a Grave? [All Types and Scenarios] 

One of the most challenging tasks at a funeral is digging the grave. Whether it’s for a family member or pets, you need to know the estimated time so it will align with the schedule. But how long does it take to dig a grave?

There is no definitive answer to this. The question depends on how deep the grave is, what you are using, the type of soil in the terrain, your strength, and the number of people that help you.

For the sake of the discussion, let’s break down the task. For those who don’t know, gravedigging, in reality, is a time-consuming and energy-draining activity. The thing people see in movies is just portraying the easy part when you can spend more than ten hours digging a 2.5′ x 8′ x 6′ (standard size) grave by yourself; If it’s your first time.

Not to mention the grave-digging law where you are currently live. Many states require permission and have regulations for the activity. This includes minimum grave depth, permitted area, and paperwork.

Consider also the time of the year. You will considerably weared out and be slower in the mid-summer. However, during the winter, the weather could freeze the top of the soil, and you will need additional tools like a pickaxe to get through it.


The Grave Size

how long does it take to dig a gravehow long does it take to dig a grave 

The standard size is suitable for human graves. For animal graves like dogs, cats, or rabbits, you might dig a little shallower, around three to four feet deep. In addition, you need to consider enough depth so it won’t air the stench smell of the corpse to the surface.

The Tools

Now for the tools, you might use a shovel or a backhoe. This will impact your digging time. A professional gravedigger with a compact backhoe can dig a common grave in only thirty to sixty minutes. While when using a shovel, an experienced agency can take up to six hours employing two diggers.

You may need to prepare other supporting tools to speed your work:

Large tarps

Consider bringing more tarps in case of rain. You will need them to outline the grave and give room for moving beside it without too much risk of falling in.

Lawnmower, weed eater, chainsaw, loppers, and pruning shears

how long does it take to dig a grave

These tools help clear the space around the surface.

Spud bars/rock bars

They are helpful when large, heavy stones or significant rock shelves are encountered.

Post-hole diggers

You can use them as markers and earth removal. With specialty tools in your arsenal, they will make the amount of time to dig the grave shorter.

Pick, hatchet, or chainsaw.

how long does it take to dig a grave

They will break up tough deposits or roots that obstruct the digging, although some may require a chain saw.


There are available on the market for shovels specially designed for grave-digging. This will make it faster. However, any shovels would do the job.


how long does it take to dig a grave

If you don’t have it, you can rent it in a heavy equipment rental near you. This tool is the MPV in the grave-digging business.

The Soil

The types of soil also determine the time needed to dig a grave. Digging a six-foot hole in alluvial soil is difficult because the first few inches are wealthy, but the clay is easy to dig through.

how long does it take to dig a grave

For the type of soil, check if the soil is sandy, soft, or rocky. You may also need to consider the ecosystem it lives in. It would be best to calculate fungus, bacterias, microbes, and the amount of dirt you need to put back to the soil. 

Sandy soils are “easier” to dig, but they would tend to cave in a lot more than heavy clays. So the speed would be very variable. If you dig the grave in adobe, clay, or rocky soil, the difficulty level will increase.

Upon digging, you may also run to a layer of water. In this case, you need to come out of the water faster than it flows, and then after that seal, it on the sides before you dig deeper.

Check for the water table. It is about three feet deep. The deeper you go, the more potential you have for flooding, cave-ins in the summer. In the winter, of course, the frozen ground would be more frozen. This will add a considerable amount of time.

Keep the soil layers separate.

On a separate tarp, place the excavated earth from the organic matter and topsoil layer. This layer is characterized by the shallow roots of grasses and herbaceous plants on the surface. There can be a fair amount of variation from site to site, but experienced diggers can usually tell when the soil changes color and composition.

You need to do this to your best to remove the majority of these undesirable roots from the grave soil. This is for them the unwanted roots to not re-establish dominance over native plants. More additional time need to take to dig a grave.

In Conclusion

Experienced grave diggers would know the ground like soft clay will take less time than very rocky earth, and so on they can estimate the time needed to dig a grave. Some agencies will also take care of all of the paperwork and regulations involved so you can sit back and focus on the funeral.

For those who want to dig the grave themselves and need to estimate the required time, compare all of the factors above against your resources for the risk of miscalculation or slipping from your mind. 

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