Fill Dirt vs Topsoil: Pick the Right Material for Your Project

Dirt may not be the most glamorous or exciting thing in the world, but it sure keeps us alive! With the right kind of dirt, farmers can grow healthy, nutrient-rich crops for people and livestock to eat or contractors can build solid foundations for buildings and roads. In order for dirt to do its job, though, you’ve got to make sure that you’re working with the type of earth that’s best suited for your specific project. Not sure which kind of dirt you should choose? No problem. This post will break down fill dirt vs topsoil, including the uses, benefits and considerations for each.

Fill Dirt vs Topsoil: Why It Matters

We have customers frequently ask us whether or not the type of dirt they choose really matters. After all, dirt is just dirt, right? The short answer to that questions is NO! Topsoil and fill dirt are sold separately for a reason: they serve completely different needs and functions.

Think about it this way: planting a garden and building a house are very different projects. You wouldn’t use a CAT excavator to plant green beans and you wouldn’t use a hand-held spade to dig a foundation for your home – it just wouldn’t work. In the same way, both projects demand different materials – including dirt.

If these needs aren’t met you could end up with problems that detract from the quality of your completed project and lifestyle objectives. This could ultimately mean that you end up being required to re-do all or part of your project, thus costing you a lot more time and money. It’s best to take the time to learn about fill dirt vs topsoil prior to moving forward with your work so as to ensure the best possible outcome.

Fill Dirt At-A-Glance

So what is fill dirt, exactly? If you dig beneath the top layer of earth, you’ll find the dirt that’s used for fill (AKA: fill dirt). Here, dirt does not contain any type of organic matter. Instead, it’s purely comprised of broken down rocks, clay and sand. But why would you want that?

The main reason is stability. When dirt contains organic matter, it becomes prone to shifting and settling over time. Fill dirt, on the other hand, is without void spaces and won’t shift or move. This makes it a perfect place filler.

Generally, fill dirt must be cleaned to ensure that no chemicals, toxins, or manufactured byproduct are present. It is also usually sized to ensure that large chunks or debris don’t get in the way of the dirt’s primary function. For best results, we suggest that you look for a supplier that offers certified clean fill dirt and that strives to meet local standards and regulations.

Topsoil At-A-Glance

Now for topsoil. When you think of the bagged dirt that you can buy from a landscaping supplier, topsoil is probably what comes to mind. This is the healthy, nutrient-rich layer of earth that sits at the very top and consists of a whole lot of organic matter. As a result, topsoil creates an ideal place for plants to take root, grow and thrive.

You’ll notice that this type of soil is the darkest in color, often being a deep shade of black. The best suppliers know that topsoil must contain enough – but not too much – organic matter. Therefore, your supplier should provide you with information about the soil’s composition to ensure that you make a wise purchase.

It’s also important to note that topsoil can have a sandy, loamy or clay makeup. You’ll need to evaluate your soil and talk to your supplier about the right type of topsoil for your property.

Fill Dirt Uses

Fill dirt plays an important role in projects like:

Filling In Low Points

If your property has any dips or low points, you know what a pain that can be! Mowing over those areas can be quite challenging and low spots are prone to flooding after periods of rain or snow. It’s difficult to grow plants in these areas and they can become eyesores. For many homeowners, the solution is to simply fill in those points with fill dirt. The dirt can be packed into the dips and then new grass can be planted or sod can be laid so that the area blends with the remainder of the landscape.

Building Up Landscapes

Some property owners prefer the look of landscapes with multiple levels of ground or with hilly patches. The only way to add that type of dimension and visual interest to a flat landscape is to use fill dirt to build up these areas. The dirt can be strategically placed to create multi-level terraces or to erect rolling hills. As in the case of filling in holes, many homeowners opt to plant grass or lay sod on top of the fill.


No home or building can be deemed safe for occupancy unless it’s sitting on top of a firm and reliable foundation. Fill dirt can be used to build areas that will not move, shift or settle but instead will hold fast in place so that the structure can last for generations. Fill dirt might also be used to establish a foundation for roads and driveways.

Septic Systems

Many NJ homes rely on septic systems, and no septic system is complete without fill dirt. Fill dirt is used to pack in the areas around the septic tank so that it stays in place and can be counted on for reliability each and every day.

Topsoil Uses

Topsoil is the most popular choice for projects like:


For obvious reasons, topsoil is most frequently selected for any projects that involve the growing of flowers, fruits, vegetables or even very large fields of crops. With the right composition and makeup, topsoil will contain the nutrients and correct pH balance for successfully growing all types of plants.


If there are certain areas of your property that tend to hold water, they might benefit from topsoil. Introducing topsoil to the soil in these spots can help to improve the rate of percolation and drainage, thus making your entire property healthier.

Fill Dirt vs Topsoil: Which Is Right For You?

The question of fill dirt vs topsoil comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish. When properly manufactured and distributed, both are quality materials that have a lot to offer. As a rule of thumb, any project that counts on a stable, unmoving base will demand fill dirt. It’s a good idea to always consult with a professional before making a final decision.

Buying Fill Dirt and Topsoil in NJ

Braen Stone has all of the answers to your questions about fill dirt vs topsoil and beyond. We offer the highest quality fill dirt and topsoil at the lowest and most competitive wholesales throughout NJ. We have all of your needs covered and are happy to help you make decisions about which type of dirt to work with and how much you’ll need to purchase in order to complete your job. All of our materials are certified. Our fill dirt and topsoil can be picked up or bulk delivered to job sites throughout parts of NJ, NY, NYC and PA. 

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By | 2020-04-01T15:00:13-04:00 August 16th, 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.