Most people believe that dirt is just simply dirt. However, any construction worker or gardener knows that the quality of the dirt and what the dirt is composed of makes a massive difference in how the dirt can be used. The two main categories of dirt that used when working on a landscaping project are fill dirt and topsoil. Knowing the compositional differences between the two types of dirt can help you make the right decision for which one is best for your project. You may even find that you have to combine the two kinds of dirt together to get your desired result. Once you’ve determined what kind of dirt you’re going to need for your project, you want to make sure that you’re obtaining clean fill dirt.
Fill Dirt Described
Fill dirt is the material used to fill holes and low areas or build up ground elevation on construction sites. Subsoil, which is found 12″ below, is called fill dirt. It consists of partially broken down soil that contains clay, sand, silt, and stones, and any other materials found in the source ground. If the fill dirt comes from the subsurface of old farm fields or from woodlands, it will contain whatever materials are there. It may contain some organic material, but desirable fill dirt is mostly inorganic. Its inorganic qualities make it ideal as fill because it does not decompose and settle like organic soils are prone to do.
Fill dirt is usually less expensive than topsoil or other types of dirt needed to support landscaping plants. For example, you need certain types of highly organic dirt for gardening, depending on what you may want to grow. However, for building a home or a road bed, you cannot use topsoil or other garden soil because the organic materials will decompose and the surface will sink. This soil also erodes quickly and will not support building structures. For construction projects, you must use rockier, heavier, inorganic fill dirt.
Where Does Fill Dirt Come From?
Fill dirt is most often used to change the grade or elevation of a property to make it more ideal for its intended use. Fill dirt is known as subsoil because it is taken from below the topsoil. Depending on where the dirt is being taken from, this is usually about six inches below the ground. Taking the dirt from this deep is intentional because it does not contain any organic matter. Organic matter breaks down over time, and as it does so, it enriches the dirt with plenty of nutrients to help support plant life. However, this organic matter is what also makes topsoil very unstable. As the organic matter breaks down, the dirt around it begins to shift, which is why topsoil cannot be used for construction purposes. Fill dirt lack of organic matter is what makes it a terrible choice of dirt if you’re looking to start a garden.
What Distinguishes Clean Fill Dirt?
The words “clean” and “dirt” sound like they shouldn’t go together, but in this case, it’s very important that they do. Clean fill dirt is fill dirt that does not contain toxins, organic matter, or large debris. If any of those things are found within your fill dirt it could compromise the stability of your fill dirt and could potentially ruin the final outcome of your project. To avoid this, you should always make sure that you are ordering your fill dirt from a certified Virginia fill dirt contractor that screens their fill dirt.
While the idea of fill dirt may bring to mind the ease of just simply digging it up from your backyard and getting to work immediately, it actually isn’t that simple to obtain. The optimum, clean fill dirt has to go through some processing first in order to work as well as it does. It must be checked for any large chunks of debris that could be hidden inside of it. It also must be tested and cleaned to ensure that it does not contain any chemicals, toxins, or other manufactured byproducts. Finally for the dirt to be considered clean fill dirt, it must be screened to make sure that it contains no organic matter. Because these processes are necessary, fill dirt has to meet certain local regulations to be used. So, when you’re searching for fill dirt for your project, make sure to find a local fill dirt company that provides only certified, clean fill dirt.
The term “fill” is a generic term for any kind of dirt material used to fill low areas. Though often made of subsoil, fill can consist of any material – sand, clay, gravel, and so on. The term “clean” fill simply means the material contains no contaminants. Screened fill dirt means the dirt has been screened to remove roots, or other objectionable materials. When ordering clean fill, check with your supplier for proper delivery of materials.
In the case of fill dirt comprised of natural subsoil, “clean” fill generally means it is free of rocks and detectable contaminants. If the fill is not subsoil, but instead is made of concrete pieces, bricks, gravel, or asphalt paving materials, clean fill means it is inert and is not a fire hazard and poses no danger to groundwater.
What Is Clean Fill Dirt Used For?
Fill dirt used in construction projects must meet specifications for gradation outlined by the project’s geotechnical engineer. The supplier of clean fill should be willing to certify in writing that the fill is virgin material from a commercial or non-commercial source and that all of the materials in the fill dirt are natural and do not contain any additives or dangerous materials such as refuse, rubble, muck, metal, glass, wood or other foreign materials.
Good quality inorganic clean fill dirt from subsoil consists of at least 50% clay. If you have doubts about the dirt composition, you can have it tested by the county agricultural extension office or a reputable lab. Also, before you order your fill dirt, be sure that you have checked all applicable Federal, state, and local laws and regulations to determine whether permits are needed and the type of fill you can use.
Clean Fill Dirt For Construction
Clean fill dirt is mostly used for construction purposes. This can be for land grading, highway maintenance, creating foundations, excavation, acting as backfill, etc. It can also be used for landscaping projects that require elevation changes, such as the addition of a swimming pool, the removal of a swimming pool, or the addition of a waterfall. With all of these projects the dirt will likely go unseen when the project is completed. However, just because it’s not obvious at first glance, doesn’t mean the fill dirt isn’t playing a major role in the structure and stability of the completed project. Because fill dirt is such a big part of the overall success of your project, you need to make sure that you’re only obtaining and working with clean fill dirt.
Clean Fill Dirt For Land Grading & Landscaping
Sometimes your property can have dips and low points that you would rather not have to deal with in your yard. You may want them filled in for aesthetic purposes, or it may be for more practical purposes such as filling in low points to prevent flooding after rain or snow. You may also find these low points cause unwanted challenges when mowing your lawn. The solution to this problem is to perform land grading, which is the process of leveling out the land. Land grading is very common in construction projects because it makes the land much more suitable to build on top of. To do some land grading, you just need some clean fill dirt to fill in the low points in your yard to make the area more level.
On the other hand, you may find that your landscape is too boring and flat. In this situation, you can use fill dirt to do some landscaping to shape the terrain to your desired appearance. This could include creating dimension by adding hilly areas or creating multi-level terraces.
Clean Fill Dirt Used For A Strong Foundation
The most important part of any construction project is a strong, firm foundation. Fill dirt is so valuable for the creation of foundations because its composition of clay, sand, and rock, won’t move or shift over time. This means your project is guaranteed to have a strong foundation that lasts. Fill dirt is great for creating the foundation of houses, driveways, and roads. Clean fill dirt is also often used for highway maintenance.
Clean Fill Dirt Used To Support Topsoil
An example of when you can use fill dirt and topsoil together is if you have a low point in your yard, you can fill it with fill dirt and then lay down topsoil over it so grass or other plants can grow. You could also use fill dirt to create a terrace in your backyard that you can lay topsoil down on so that you can create a residential garden. Using both types of dirt together can help you create your ideal backyard.
Other Types Of Fill
When you are planning a construction project of any kind, you will likely need some type of dirt that is suited for your needs. What other types of dirt are commonly used as fill in various projects? Here is a description of some of them:
To fill low areas, use fill sand which is like fill dirt although both are very different. Fill sand is made of fine particles of rock that have been broken down and eroded into sand over thousands of years. It is good for improving drainage around wet areas and to fill areas around septic tanks and ponds where drainage is important. Sand tends to be prone to shifting and displacement, while fill dirt is very stable. Fill sand with more than 50% sand is good fill for areas that will be used for plants, and then topped with several inches of topsoil. In summary, fill dirt is the best option for other projects, while sand is best used that involve regular exposure to water and moisture.
Topsoil is organic. It contains nutrients that will support grass and plants. If you just need to fill shallow low spots in your landscaping, topsoil works well. It contains few, if any, rocks or other debris. Clean topsoil is easy to spread and level with a hand rake because of its purity.
Rock fill contains big rocks, often larger than a football, to fill in deep openings. You can also use the large rocks to landscape your yard. It usually comes from blast sites or deep excavation sites. To grow grass or plants, you will need to top it with heavy layers of organic clean topsoil perhaps followed by compost, mulch, or manure.
Contact a Reputable Dirt Supplier
Make sure you are getting the correct type of fill for the project you are planning. Consult with a reputable dirt supplier. A knowledgeable fill dirt provider can discuss your project needs, help you comply with any applicable laws and regulations, and deliver the quality of dirt necessary to help ensure your project’s success.
Fill dirt can give your backyard the shape and slope you desire, while topsoil will help support healthy plants. Reach out to a Virginia fill dirt contractor for more information and to schedule your fill dirt or topsoil delivery. Additionally, you can use the Dirt Connections Portal using the button below to see the materials available to you.