Fill Dirt or Fill Sand: How to Pick the Right Material

At first glance, fill dirt and fill sand can seem quite a bit alike. Both are naturally occurring materials that are free of organic matter and are comprised of very small particles. Both can also be used in landscaping and construction applications as a means of filling in empty spaces and cavities.

Despite these similarities, though, the materials are absolutely not interchangeable. Each has its own set of advantages and limitations, and understanding these can make or break your project.

Because it’s so important to understand the key differences between using fill dirt or fill sand for your upcoming work, we’ve dedicated an entire post to comparing the materials and determining which is right for specific job types.

Fill Dirt and Fill Sand At-A-Glance

Before we proceed any further, let’s take a closer look at the materials in question:

Fill Dirt

Fill dirt consists of the layer of earth situated beneath the 6” of nutrient-rich soil that sits on the surface. This type of dirt does not contain any organic matter. While this is bad news for trying to grow plants, it’s great news for those wanting to create a firm foundation.

The absence of organic matter means that there won’t be any settling or shifting over time. This means that the fill dirt will hold its place and continue to serve its purpose for decades. Fill dirt can either be screened and “clean” or unscreened, and may be certified as clean to guarantee that the material is free of contaminants and chemicals.

Fill Sand

Fill sand is comprised of the finest particles of rock that have been broken down and eroded throughout the centuries. It is known for being attractive and affordable and for promoting healthy drainage around wet areas.

Although sand often receives a very high compaction rating, the material is prone to shifting and displacement. This is why you’ll notice your footprints being left in the sand – it’s not being pressed down, it’s being displaced. There are several different types of sand, all of which can be used for differing functions. For our purposes, we will primarily be discussing septic fill and pond fill.

Fill Dirt Benefits and Considerations

Fill dirt is extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of projects. Best of all, it’s one of the cheapest landscaping and construction materials available for use. Think about it: dirt is everywhere! While the nutrient rich, upper layer of earth only extends so deep, fill dirt goes on even further and is extremely abundant. This means that it’s easy to find and obtain fill dirt whenever you need it, and in the quantity that you need it – all while sticking to a reasonable budget!

As mentioned previously, fill dirt doesn’t contain organic matter, meaning that it won’t shift due to the breakdown of this matter. It is firm and reliable and will create a firm foundation for construction projects and a solid space for filling in voids or building up landscapes. In many projects, fill dirt needs to be free of contaminants, toxins and large clumps of dirt, rock or debris.

If this is the case for you, it’s important that you buy from a supplier that offers certified clean fill. This will guarantee that you’re getting the highest quality materials that are actually suited to your project needs.

Buying dirt from a vendor along the side of the road may seem like a good way to save a few buck initially, but you could be doing yourself a great deal of harm in the long run if the material isn’t really clean. You should also keep in mind that fill dirt can absorb and retain moisture which means that it’s not always ideally suited for backfill projects around water sources.

Fill Sand Benefits and Considerations

Fill sand is characterized by its extremely fine particle sizes. The minute pieces of sand fit together nicely and create a firm surface. As discussed earlier, fill sand generally rates quite high for compaction, allowing for a firm and stable base. Sand can be displaced by outside forces, so it needs to be used in applications where it won’t be readily disturbed.

Fill sand is known for its ability to promote healthy drainage and percolation. It won’t retain moisture which makes it great for use in areas that will regularly become wet. Whether you’re dealing with fill dirt or fill sand, you still need to make sure that the materials have been properly cleaned and screened to remove large debris, toxins, etc.

Projects Best Suited for Fill Dirt

Any project involving a low spot that needs to be filled in or a landscape that needs to be built up is generally a great candidate for fill dirt. Fill dirt can be used to create rolling hills, small raised plant beds, to eliminate dips in a front yard or even to fill in the areas around underground pipes and utilities.

Fill dirt can also be used in construction projects where a firm, unmoving material is required in constructing a solid foundation for buildings, roads, parking lots, etc.

Projects Best Suited for Fill Sand

There are two types of fill sand that are usually chosen for backfill work, and they are generally suited for specific projects. Septic sand is designed and manufactured to fill in the areas around septic tanks. It doesn’t shift, which keeps the tank in place, and it helps with drainage. Pond fill is used in holding ponds in areas where the water needs to be able to drain out.

Fill Dirt or Sand: Which is Right for You?

So which should you choose: fill dirt or fill sand? While both are excellent backfilling materials and have their own merits, it’s in understanding the limitations of each that you can narrow down your options and make the right choice.

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend fill sand in projects that will involve regular exposure to water and moisture with fill dirt being the best option for other project types. If you have any doubts or questions, we suggest that you speak with a trusted professional to discuss your specific project needs.

Buying Fill Dirt or Fill Sand in NJ

When you need fill dirt or fill sand in NJ, Braen Stone should be the first name that comes to mind. After more than 112 years in the industry, we’ve perfected the art of producing and certifying the very best backfill materials.

Contractors, homeowners and landscapers throughout the Tri-State area know that they can trust us to provide the highest quality materials at the lowest and most competitive rates around. We offer wholesale pricing every day so that you can take care of your project needs without breaking the bank. Our team of professionals is more than happy to work with you to discuss your backfill needs and to determine if fill dirt or fill sand is right for you.

We’ll also help you to calculate how much to buy and provide you with valuable advice and input so that your job is completed without a hitch. Our fill dirt and sand can be picked up or bulk delivered to areas throughout parts of NJ, NY, NYC and PA.

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By | 2020-04-01T14:53:01-04:00 August 17th, 2016|Fill Dirt, Blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dirk is a Project Manager at Braen Stone. He's an expert on a variety of construction materials and prides himself on helping the company meet the needs of companies large and small.