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Where can I find 'free fill' or free dirt?

March 8, 2005

Need some frugal advice. What are the best ways and best resources to get free fill or just plain free dirt?

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks in advance! :)

Comments (45)

  • mstrgrdnr

    I cannot offer you any suggestions on where to get it, but I will say this.

    If you find a source that is giving away dirt, you need to ask yourself why they are giving it away.

    Soil is a valuable resource and finding it for free would be a red flag for me.

    You have to be really careful about the quality of soil when you are paying for it, but especially when it is being given to you.

    My two cents worth.


  • Copperlilac

    Excellent point. Thank you...

    Another question to add to my above questions...when someone is having a house built and the contractor bring in fill, where do they get it?

    Also, what does the term "Clean Fill" mean.

    Sorry if these seem like silly questions but I am curious about the 'free fill' I've seen on signs which read


  • JenWestie

    Hi CopperLilac:

    My suggestion is avoid all free fill.

    Often contractors use the soil from excavating the basment or they pay a landscape place to haul in dirt. Trust me it's not free!

    Clean Fill means free of debris, such as broken glass, rocks and free of chemicals.

    Many places that have "Free fill" have contaminated soil with the above.

    You can purchase clean soil from a landscape company by the Yard. Not cheap, but at least you know you will getting clean soil. If you are trying to build up some beds, why not try lasagna gardening - the soil group will have information on it.

  • Copperlilac

    Ok, Thanks JenWestie...I think you and Aubrey have convinced me that it's NOT a great idea to look for free fill. I'll check out the lasagna gardening thing. Glad I asked about it here before filling my yard with contaminated dirt.

    Thanks so much!

  • brenda158

    If you know anyone putting in a pool for example ask them. When I landscaped my yard for my pool I had a tough time getting rid of the dirt, and it was beautiful clean fill. Our dumps won't take it, I couldn't even find a place that would charge to take it. Finally asked a friend who owns a paving company, he gave me a friends name that needed clean fill, thankfully or it would have taken me forever to get rid of it one shovelful at a time into the garbage bags.

  • taupe79

    I would just like to thank you for your idea... I passed by a new house being built in the midst of an established neighborhood just a few blocks from me. There was a huge pile of fill in front of them... I looked at it closely, and it was free of debris. (I'll test it at some point to confirm that it's okay.)

    On a hunch, I called the building company, whose sign was in front of the nearly-completed construction, asked them if it was clean fill and what they planned on doing with it. They were surprised by my call and assured me it was clean fill that they were going to have to pay to "dump" so to speak. So, I'm getting as much free fill as I like, since they only have to drive it over a couple of streets and dump it where I ask! YAY! Thank you, thank you--- I NEVER would have thought of construction as a source for dirt without your post!

  • brenda158

    I'm glad i could help. Happy gardening, now we just need some decent weather lol.

  • corar4gw

    If there is a commercial mushroom grower within a 1 or 2 hour drive from you, check to see if they give away their sterile medium that the 'rooms are grown in. As a rule, you can get as much as you can haul away for free. Down here in sandy Florida, it's worth it's weight in gold! cora

  • thecitychicken

    Also, don't forget craigslist.com to search for "dirt" "soil" "compost" "manure," etc. Or post a wanted ad.

  • selti

    Hi - I just seen an ad free fill under frugal garden.
    I was reviewing the comments you received and was wondering if you found anything,yet.
    We are looking for 100's of dump truck loads - like I mentioned to the person that commented on free fill. Did you by chance find out costs for contractors to dump loads by cu m3? yards? or dump truck ? if so I would be appreciative if you would share what they pay.


  • jollyrd

    I have three dump trucks of free clean fill dirt -- Central VA 23842. Nothing wrong with it, just did not want to pay for hauling it away. We've been trying to get rid of it for months now. We built a large basement, and it is just sitting on the side of the house - taking over what supposed to be our parking area, so we just park in a driveway. I will check some of these exchange websites you listed. People come and take few small pick up trucks loads but the mountain is still there. But the builder might be taking it for his next project -- house on a slope needs fill in.

  • tlee

    jollyrd, I had a sink hole in my backyard, and turn out that it was an old septic tank. I am going to need about 3 to 4 pickup truck of dirt to fill. are you in the valley, or Virginia. If near Fresno, CA let me know.

    email: cmeonthenet@sbcglobal.net

  • jollyrd

    sorry, but I am in Central Virginia sip code 23842, if anyone needs it -- please let me know

  • patskywriter

    when i moved into the house i live in now, i noticed that the backyard sloped pretty badly. it didn't look suitable for gardening. i was on a pretty strict budget and couldn't buy tons of fill dirt. the contractor who helped get the house ready (installing wood floors, etc) kept a lookout for opportunities to score some dirt. he saw large trucks hauling dirt from the american tobacco campus renovation project, caught up with one, and asked the driver how they were going to dump the dirt. the driver explained that they had to pay to dump it and my contractor told him that he knew of a place where they could dump the dirt free of charge -- my backyard! so now my backyard is nice and level. mind you, the dirt is very low in quality, but considering the fact that i couldn't afford to do this otherwise, i'm happy with it.

    i'm now doing a little this and a little that to get the backyard shipshape as i can afford to. so far i have four raised planting beds for crops (with brand-new, packaged topsoil and cow manure), a beautiful lily bed, and some cannas and dwarf fruit trees. in the planning stages are a putting green, small pond, and patio.

    durham NC

  • stanback

    Your fill may be better than you think. Call you State extension center and have them send you a sample mailer. Take several soil samples from different places (mixed in the same container) and return it. The results may surprise you. You know, top soil is typically only a couple of inches deep -- plants only start in top soil but real growth takes place way below that, so don't discount the quality of your fill dirt until you find out.

  • sunnny

    A few months ago I was told about a site called Free Cycle which is a forum (my local one is a yahoo group) where you can post what free item you're looking for or what you have to offer for free. You can get anything from bike parts to dirt. I posted that I was looking for manure or compost and got numerous offers. I ended up hauling 4 HUGE truck beds full of already composted horse manure from a lady who'd just bought some property with a barn that needed cleaning out. She was thrilled to have someone clean it out for her and I was thrilled to have it. Now, I had to do the work but it was FREE! Another lady kept rabbit 'poop' and I filled several horse feed bags and another lady had more manuire and plants she was willing to share with me. I also built a HUGE lasagna bed and got lots of newspaper and cardboard there to use for the base layer - all FREE. It's a great place and if you google Free Cycle it will ask for your area.
    I built a bed across most of my backyard, about 4-10 wide (depedning on what area of the yard it is) and 80 feet long for less than $100 which I bought a few truck loads of peat mix and compost from a waste/recyle place.
    Hope this will help others out,

  • gpearl

    Hello Jollyrd,

    Just wondering, do you still have fill dirt that you need to get rid of? I live at Lake Monticello, I think that's near you...Any help is appreciated. Thank you!

  • jessi_Lynn24_yahoo_com

    I am making a new garden and live beachside. I have sandy dirt. nothing but weeds seems to grow in it. I have no money to spend for bags of store bought dirt. I need options that are free. please email to jessi_Lynn24@yahoo.com

  • leira

    jessi, don't think in terms of replacing your soil, but rather amending it. Try adding lots of organic matter. With a bit of asking around, you can often find free sources of this -- manures (horse, cow, rabbit), used coffee grounds from your local coffee shop, shredded leaves, shredded seaweed (you're near the beach, right?).

    If you're not composting, start! Your own kitchen scraps, plus those weeds that you say are growing, can seriously improve your soil.

    If you're willing & able to spend a small amount of money to improve water retention, I would consider buying a big bag of peat moss, and working it into your soil exactly once (make sure you get it damp first, or else it might repel water). Bags of peat are compressed, and when you fluff it up and get it wet, you'll find that one bag goes a long way. Peat won't add much in the way of nutrients to your soil, but it could seriously help you with water retention while you undertake the longer, slower process of adding more nutrient-dense organic matter.

    Then, as I said, go for the organic matter, and expect to add more every year. After you plant, make sure to mulch really well, too, in order to hold in the moisture, and so that the mulch will break down and add even more nutrients to the soil.

  • cherry_davey_live_co_uk

    pond needs filling in and made safe for grandchildren to play safely.can anybody help

  • dawnpd_gmail_com

    I need free clean fill dirt for my potbellied pigs' mud bath. The hole has sunk down too far for them to use it. Also, there are parts of my desert yard that need to be built up. The quality of the dirt isn't important, only that it is really clean, since my pigs will be rolling around in it. A pick-up truck size load would be plenty, & would need to be delivered. Thank you for considering my need.

  • ga_karen

    "Clean Fill means free of debris, such as broken glass, rocks and free of chemicals.

    "Clean Fill" may be free of debris including chunks of concrete....but by NO means will it be chemical free! NO ONE could guarantee that with all the pollution in our ground water!

    Some places to check for "free" fill is with your road departments.
    Down here they have to dig out ditches & clean out culverts & creek beds so you can sometimes get it if they are working in your area.
    It will be full of "junk" but it is generally better dirt than the so-called top soil sold in bags! So you could build a screen w/hardware cloth & sift it before use!

  • bchekwa

    Hey I am actually trying to get rid of a load of dirt in front of my house, and anyone can get it for free. I recently stated a project but my home owners association is making me undergo this big process just to finish or really even start what I wanted to do, so now I'm just tired of dealing with them. If anyone is interested the can have it FOR FREE... I live in Florida if anyone is interested. My email is bo19@msstate.edu

  • CaptainOhWow

    Don't listen to people stating about "why would someone be giving away valuable topsoil?"

    Hey MsterGrdnr - Because my back yard has a 3% grade towards the house and I need to level it.

    THere is no where else to place it on my property.


  • decorativefloor

    If you want free fill dirt I would suggest that you check near construction sites. In most cases the dirt dug when constructing a house is left just at the site of the construction.

  • dani33

    I just dug up my yard to level it, and I have a ton of fill I need to get rid of. I tested my soil and it was perfect. There are some rocks in it, but it's good clean dirt. Anyone know how I can get rid of it? I'm in MA. Thanks :)

  • jctsai8b

    Go to new home construction dumpsters, you can find unused SOD, you need to dig the dirt out, it is time consuming, but the dirt is rich.

  • wonderboy19

    To find free dirt or clean fill, check out this free to use website dirttrade.com. 'Clean dirt' or 'clean fill' means that the material does not contain industrial waste at a level that results in a health risk exposure. The website explains more on its front page and has individualized summaries of environmental regulations for every US state, in terms of explaining how the regulations apply relative to moving dirt from one location to another. As people are saying in the blog, free fill or soil, or dirt as it may be called can have contaminants but so can dirt that you pay for. The country is running out of places to mine virgin soil and re-using dirt that is clean, benefits the environment. To gain assurance as to the cleanliness of the soil, have it tested (I do not do any testing - this is not an ad). Also, ask about the history of the dirt, where it came from. If you have questions about what to test for and you write in here, maybe I can help.

    Here is a link that might be useful: dirttrade

  • toxcrusadr

    I don't know if the previous post is an ad for dirttrade but the poster is talking sense. A few thoughts:

    1. Fill Dirt usually means subsoil, NOT topsoil. You can add compost and after a few years of amending you may have good topsoil. Fill dirt is more likely to be free. Topsoil usually comes at a price.

    2. Clean Fill can mean various things to various people. To me there are two issues: free of chemical contaminants (I'll get to that in a minute) and free of degradable material like wood debris and tree roots that can decompose and allow the ground surface to sink later. Clean Fill can have rocks, bricks, concrete etc. in it and still be considered suitable fill for construction, i.e. compactable to certain specifications.

    3. As far as chemicals, there are health-based criteria in almost every state. However, most construction people do not test soil before moving it around. Historic fill from urban areas or from industrial sites, gas stations etc. can have chemicals in it. Also note that some chemicals, such as metals, occur naturally in soils. If you were to test your yard for lead you would find a small 'natural background' level.

    If soil smells funny or looks funny, or you know the source is suspect, think twice before accepting it. Contact your state environment department to find out more about what your state requirements are.

  • wonderboy19

    I wholeheartedly agree with the previous post by toxcrusadr except that in his/her third point, he assumes the state agencies have this all figured out and under control. There is a significant regulatory gap concerning dirt that is contaminated but not to the extent of being deemed a hazardous waste. If you carefully read some of the state-specific regulatory summaries in Dirttrade.com you will see that for each state there are multiple regulations applicable to moving soil but there is lack of clarity for soil that is contaminated at levels below those considered to be hazardous waste. Some states such as Massachusetts with its new Similar Soils policy are attempting to address this regulatory gap in a way that does encourage the trading of dirt so it doesn't fill up valuable space in landfills and to enable its reuse. Smelling dirt is not sufficient and not all regulations are health-based. For example, in Massachusetts if the source of lead in soil is from lead paint, then it is not considered a hazardous waste. Yet, children commonly eat soil and the lead paint is often found on residential properties. You cannot smell the lead. Vegetables take up the lead which you and your kids then eat if it is put in your garden. At this time, most deep pocketed businesses landfill most of the dirt coming from their properties under development for fear of liability; at least they do in Massachusetts. The current situation is not sustainable. We cannot afford to fill up remaining landfills with clean to nearly clean dirt, and we cannot afford to mix all the toxins with clean dirt so that there is eventually no more clean dirt such as for agriculture. Are you aware of recent health warnings that arsenic is most rice at unhealthful levels? It was publicly stated that rice is contaminated from past industrial use of the land where it is grown, but one reason is probably the use of arsenic-contaminated fertilizer. For example, green sand is a natural fertilizer and it contains arsenic. Arsenic has also been used as a pesticide such as in orchards.

  • nubbin222

    NEED FREE TOPSOIL AND FILL DIRT IN OHIO. I need topsoil before planting bushes in front of my house AND clean fill dirt to replace what has been washed away by a stream in the backyard. Must be close to Parma/Cleveland, Ohio. Retired and on a fixed income. 440-884-3733

  • Angel Catala

    You can come pick up all the soil you want for free. Valrico Florida

  • Angel Catala

    I have some soil for free. Valrico fl..8133895836

  • levon campbell

    we are looking for free dirt for are back yard and it need to be a lot as well to. So can some one please let me where to get it at. sooner the better to. And thank you Levon Campbell and you can e-mail me at levon4@live.com and I hope that it is here in longview WA as well to.

  • duleekandbellewstownunited

    I have soil for taken away for free if you want it

  • Mark Windsor

    Depends if you want soil for growing plants OR "landfill" which would be mostly clay and some rock. I just waterproofed my exterior basement and have a good amount of extra "fill" its 98% clean clay. And I need to get rid of it. Kijiji is full of ads of folks wanting landfill taken away for free. You will always find free landfill. Moving it is the costly part.

  • pete_powell Columbus, O-H!

    Best way is if there is new construction (home or businesses) that involves the digging of basements nearby (they also might refer you to someone else if they cant help you- these guys have contacts, they are in the business and look out for each other). Just ask and you will havr more fill dirt than you need. You can also put ads on craigslist but start looking 2-3 months before you need it. Might also call pool install companies. I just got about 30 dump truck loads delivered. 10 hours and $800 later ($80/hr bobcat rental with them operating it) and the footprint of mt future house is 1.5 feet higher.

  • jnavarro31

    We had a patio put in last year. Part of the cost included having the landscaper haul off the 9" or so of soil they had to dig out. Obviously that soil went somewhere, and aside from some rocks and perhaps some random bits of whatever that backyards might contain, it was clean. I suggest anyone looking for fill soil contact some area landscapers who do patios and ask them if they can take some off their hands.

  • Kay Watson

    Try a pool digging service. They will deliver it free if you live close by their dig

  • Griffen Hodges

    Have you tried DirtSeek.com? They have postings everywhere. My wife and I use it all the time to find fill dirt, we just make a post and since we are signed up we get notified of postings in our area. She's always designing stuff for the house so we use quite often. I highly recommend you check it out.

  • poolh8r

    The easiest way is to go to a site like www.DirtMatch.com and search listings. Check their video here. You can also call trucking and excavating companies to ask if they can bring you some.

  • andykaanoreo
    free dirt
  • hoa-ky mai
    Have you tried the "Free" section of Craigslist?
  • toxcrusadr

    >>free dirt

    Brilliant post! LOL

  • afarsid34

    Looking for up to 80 yards of clean fill. I’m located in chelmsford,MA . Email me at afarsid@gmail.com!

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