How To Successfully Use Fill Dirt in Landscaping

Fill dirt is most commonly used to fill holes or cavities in your yard where rainwater pools and creates muddy, unstable spots. Having an evenly graded yard also helps pets and children play safer by lowering the risk of sprained ankles and falls. If you’re looking to purposefully add unevenly or “rolling” grades to your yard, fill dirt is a great option.


Types of Fill Dirt: Dirt vs. Sand


Fill Dirt

Fill dirt is not the same as subsoil or topsoil. Fill dirt sits below these two layers to create a firm foundation for construction. If you try filling major holes and crevices with topsoil, your problems will rear their ugly heads again.

Fill dirt should be purchased from a landscaping supply company that clearly marks their products for fill uses. Fill dirt will have little to no organic matter that is prone to settling and shifting in changing weather. Screened or “clean” fill dirt will be checked for the presence of chemicals and contaminants.

Fill dirt is plentiful, cheap and versatile and can be used for most grading and construction projects where it may be slightly disturbed.


Fill Sand

Fill sand has extremely small particles that fit together to create a firm surface. Because sand can be displaced by outside forces, it’s best in places that aren’t regularly disturbed by traffic for construction.

It’s ability to promote drainage and percolation, makes it great for places that get wet often. Fill sand is best suited for backfilling retention walls, pod fills, and septic sites. When purchasing fill sand, you may find that these are clearly labeled for these uses. If not, don’t hesitate to ask an expert.


General Tips for Using Fill Dirt

Whether you choose fill dirt or fill sand, here are a few general rules for a successful landscaping project.


Cut and scoop away grass

If you are planning to reuse and replace the existing grass over the fill, gently cut and scoop the grass in large square sections. You always have the option to establish a new lawn with seeds if you prefer.


Establish a slope line

Whether you’re creating a raised bed or just evening out a grade, use stakes to create a slope line. Starting with the highest point in your yard, place wooden stakes in rows 4 feet apart from one another with a stake every 10 feet.

Make sure each stake is driven into the ground the same amount. Run a string from the desirable lawn height to the end of your property and fill up to that line. For a more detailed breakdown of how to create a slope line, SFGate has a helpful guide.


Fill during active growth

In Indiana, lawn grass is actively growing from late April to early August. Complete your fill projects during that time to increase the chances of the existing grass to grow through the fill. If your fill is more than 2 inches, you may need to sod those particular spots to see growth.


The Bottom Line

Getting an evenly graded yard is important for safety and aesthetics but can prove difficult for the average homeowner. If you’d rather leave this one to the pros, they’ll ensure you get the even (and safe) lawn of your dreams.