Clean Fill: What Is It and Why Does Everyone Want It?

December 1, 2016 , In: Exterior Improvements, Outdoors , With: No Comments

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven through the hills of Pennsylvania on my way home, and out the corner of my distracted gaze, a sign for “Clean Fill” pops up. Whether it’s someone seeking clean fill or trying to give it away, what’s the deal with it? And what makes the opposite ~dirty~? Here’s the down low on clean fill, and how you can use it at your home.

clean fill soil dirt

What Is Fill?

Fill is dirt. Or anything that can be broken down in the ground, such as soil, clay gravel, rubble, brick or concrete. It typically comes from a construction or demolition site where buildings are either being built or torn down.

To be classified as clean fill, the dirt must not contain contaminants that could be corrosive, combustible, or radioactive. In technical terms, it must be uncontaminated, non-water soluble, and non-decomposable inert solid material. You know, nothing that would cause you to grow an extra head in a year or two.

What Can You Use Clean Fill For?

The main reason that people want to get clean fill is because they want to raise their home. This might be because their home is in a floodplain or their yard has poor drainage, which can cause pooling water or basement flooding. In both cases, you need quite a lot of dirt to change the landscape of your yard. And if you can get it for free, it’s much cheaper than buying it from a professional landscaping company.

If you’re thinking about an involved home improvement project, here are a few that might require acquiring some clean fill:

  • Installing a walkway – whether you’re using pavers or laying a cement walkway, you want it to lay evenly.
  • Building a retaining wall – A retaining wall around your home or in your yard can be used as a planting area for a garden.
  • Adding a gazebo – To avoid shifting and eventual problems, a gazebo should be built on firm ground.
  • Putting in a fence – If you want an even fence, you may want to consider evening out the edge of your yard with extra dirt.
  • Constructing a deck – To support hundreds of pounds of stress over the years, the supporting structure should be on level ground.

All of these projects require an even surface to retain their structure throughout the years. So, it’s important if your yard is uneven that you build them on a solid foundation. If your fill isn’t clean, it could (in the best situation) cause a shift in the foundation of whatever you build. In a less-than-ideal situation, it could negatively impact groundwater or corrode what you build.

Where Can You Get It?

Your best chance at securing clean fill is in the Spring or Fall when most construction sites are either starting or finishing for the season. If you swing by one of the sites at the right time, you may even be able to leave with some clean fill or get a time where you can pick it up from the site.

Getting clean fill usually isn’t terribly difficult, especially depending on where you’re located. Clean fill is almost always free because you typically have to pay to dispose of it elsewhere. A few other common areas where you might find it in your area are:

Any of these places can be a great source of clean fill if you need it for your home. Just make sure you properly vet the place or person who is giving you the fill. Check out any fill before you either pick it up or have it delivered to your home. If there are any contaminants in the dirt, it then becomes your problem, and expensive to remove.

If you’re looking to add new structures to your back yard or do some serious hardscaping, adding clean fill could be right for you. Just make sure to let me know when the gazebo with the hot tub goes in, okay?

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Editor at Your Wild Home
Hey! I'm Megan. I am a dog-lover and enjoy exploring the outdoors. Your Wild Home covers a lot of topics, including (but not limited to) home improvement, home decor, construction, real estate, and sustainability. I enjoy writing in third-person and I am addicted to chocolate, coffee, and terrible puns. Learn more on my About Me page!
Clean Fill: What Is It and Why Does Everyone Want It?
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Clean Fill: What Is It and Why Does Everyone Want It?
What is clean fill and why does everyone want to use it in their yard? Here's a quick explanation of what clean fill is and when you should use it.
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Your Wild Home
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