If you are preparing to take on a construction project around your property, there’s a great chance you’ll need to acquire dirt at some point during the process, regardless of the actual size of the project.
What to Know About Buying Dirt
There are several different ways to acquire dirt for your project’s needs, but there are also more than a few factors you should consider beforehand to ensure that your project is completed successfully and without any delays or other issues.
What Type of Dirt Do You Need?
For those that may not already know, not all dirt is equal. In fact, using the wrong dirt type for a particular task could end up being costly for several reasons. Knowing the right dirt type required can avoid this.
Fill dirt is the most common dirt needed for a construction project. This type of dirt is commonly found at depths over 12 inches in the ground. Fill dirt is usually dry, lacking in organic material, and full of rocky sediment that gives it a tougher composition. It is for this reason that fill dirt is used for larger-scale projects, or any project that requires any kind of structure or foundation.
Breakdowns and air pockets from more nutrient-rich soil can cause the soil to move and sink in certain areas. This may be okay for planting, but not for a foundational dirt layer that is intended to provide stability for structures and landscaping built on top of it.
Fill dirt is the only type of dirt that is suitable for grading and site preparation around your property. It provides stability and protects against breakdown and unevenness on the surface.
Some uses of fill dirt can include the following:
- Site preparation
- Drainage pathways
- Under Sidewalks
- Under driveways
- Under sheds
- Raised flower beds/planters
- Inground pools
- Man made hills
While fill dirt is found deeper in the earth’s soil, topsoil refers to the very top layer of dirt near the surface. Topsoil can be found around 4 to 12 inches deep, and contains a high amount of nutrients and organic matter throughout. Higher quality topsoil generally contains a high amount of carbon, nitrogen, and other helpful nutrients that contribute to healthy vegetation and growth.
Topsoil is the best choice when it comes to your actual yard and any gardening. The high amount of organic matter and nutrients encourages more oxygen to reach the plants, which results in better growth and stability for the vegetation. The nutrients and organic matter can cause air pockets and gas as it breaks down over time, allowing some of the soil to shift and even sink. This isn’t a concern when topsoil is used correctly, since the soil isn’t supporting any structures.
Topsoil is fairly versatile. Fertilizers and compost can be added to topsoil to increase the amount of nutrients and oxygen inside, making it even more suitable for gardening. Regardless of how you use topsoil, it must always be placed on top of fill dirt if you are desiring proper vegetation growth with optimal support found further underneath.
How Much Dirt Should I Buy?
Now that you know what type of soil you should use, it’s time to determine how much you actually need. This process is a bit different from the usual measurements you might utilize when acquiring other materials.
Dirt is most often sold in either cubic feet or cubic yards. Topsoil usually comes in cubic feet, as most projects don’t require an extensive amount. Fill dirt is often sold or offered in cubic yards.
1 cubic foot equals 12 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches, while 1 cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet. If you need a visual of this, picture an empty cube that has sides of 1 yard. Fill that empty cube up with dirt, and you have a perfectly-packaged cubic yard of dirt.
Here are a few ways to figure out how much dirt of either type that you’ll be needing:
How to calculate how much topsoil you would need for a flower bed that’s 6” deep and 12’ long by 12’ wide:
- Convert the dimension in inches to feet (6” ÷ 12” = 0.5’)
- Multiply the three dimensions together to find the number of cubic feet (0.5’ x 12’ x 12 = 72 cubic feet)
- Divide the cubic feet by the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard (27) to find the number of cubic yards (72 ÷ 27 = 2.67 cu. yd.).
Therefore, you would need 2.67 cubic yards of dirt to fill the flower bed.
Here’s a different calculation for the same amount. This involves converting all three dimensions to yards:
- Convert the dimension in inches to yards (6” ÷ 36” = 0.167 yards)
- Convert the dimensions in feet to yards (12’ ÷ 3 = 4 yards)
- Multiply the three dimensions together to find the number of cubic yards (0.167 x 4 x 4 = 2.67 cu. yd.)
If you aren’t comfortable doing the calculations yourself, there are several dirt calculators online available for free that can help.
Where Can I Buy Dirt?
Dirt is available in several outlets, including hardware stores, nurseries, and more. These locations often have topsoil or gardening soil, but fill dirt may be a little harder to find. At Dirt Connections, we offer free dirt delivery to your commercial or residential site, all throughout and around the greater Washington D.C. area. Give us a call today, or contact us online to learn more about how we can help you acquire the dirt you need!