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.
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.
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:
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.
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?