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Can You Dig It? How to Find Free Dirt Near You

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It seems silly to pay for dirt, right? It’s all around us, and usually it’s something we’re trying to avoid rather than hoard. But if you’re doing yard work or your own construction project, you might be interested in finding free dirt near you. And depending on your project, there are plenty of places to find it.

There are two types of dirt: fill dirt and topsoil. Topsoil is the good stuff. It’s what you want to grow your garden in and can help you turn a brown patch lush with green grass. It’s got organic materials in it, and usually you’re going to be hard-pressed to find it for free.

Fill dirt is different. There’s no real nutrient value, so it’s usually something you’re using to put underneath your topsoil or your construction project. You can also use fill dirt to patch up a dirt driveway.

Fill dirt is abundant, and you can find it for free in any number of places in your local community. Here’s how to start your search and some important questions you should ask before you do.

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Questions to Ask Before Accepting Free Dirt Near You

person looking at dirt in their hands

Before you accept any type of fill dirt, even the free stuff, you need to ask some questions:

  • Where did this dirt come from? It might not be hyper local, or it could have originated from another site with dangerous contaminants.

  • Has the dirt been screened for large rocks, roots, or trash?

  • Has the dirt been tested, and is there paperwork proving it?

If you’re using the fill dirt under a home or other building, you’ll want to hire your own soil engineer to test it before you use it. It’s an expense, but it’s one that could save you money if the dirt’s not safe to use.

The last thing you want to do is put your family’s health or safety at risk because you didn’t want to shell out money for something. Free is great, but only if it’s safe.

How to Find Free Dirt Near You

a person on a mini excavator on a construction site digging up dirt

Don’t stress, though. There are places to find free fill dirt near you that are healthy and safe. As long as you’re communicating with the person giving away the dirt and they’re willing to answer your questions about the dirt’s quality, you should be able to find fill dirt for free no matter where you live, with very few exceptions.

Visit local construction sites.

A lot of times when someone builds something, they’re going to have a lot of fill dirt leftover when they’re done. They have to get rid of it, and oftentimes they’re charged dump fees.

So a rando asking them to give it to them for free isn’t as awkward as you may think. Be that rando. They’ll probably be thrilled to get rid of it for less.

This is especially effective if you can find a construction site close to home. For example, if there’s a new home being built in your neighborhood, the construction team might only need to haul the dirt a couple blocks. Odds are, they’ll deliver it to you for free, too.

Call local swimming pool builders.

Same deal with local swimming pool builders. They’re always digging holes in the ground, and asking to take some fill dirt off their hands may help save them money. They may even have a little topsoil for you, though that’s less likely to be free.

Ask someone at town hall.

You may not know where your town dump is. But if you were to ever visit, you’d likely find a dedicated section for fill dirt.

That’s because a lot of local governments run fill dirt exchange programs. As a resident, you may be able to participate for free. The person you need to talk to is probably based out of town or city hall, so visiting or calling there is a good first move if you’re looking for more information.

Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist

Then of course, there’s Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist — the two major meccas for all things free.

While you’ll probably have zero problem finding free dirt near you using these platforms, proceed with caution. You’ll want to take extra measures to ensure you know the fill dirt is clean, and you may even want to run your own environmental testing on it before putting it in your yard.

This is always true, but it’s especially true when you’re buying off some person you don’t know and might not be able to hold accountable should things go south.

Related: Make Money by Flipping Free Stuff

Check with local farmers.

If you’re looking for topsoil, local farmers could be a good resource. They may have excess topsoil that they’re willing to give away or sell at a reasonable price. Additionally, they may be able to provide guidance on how to use the topsoil effectively.

Consider compost.

If you’re looking to improve the quality of your soil, consider using compost instead of fill dirt. Compost is typically rich in nutrients and can help improve soil quality, which can lead to healthier plants and a more attractive lawn.

Be Specific About the Type of Dirt You Need

When looking for free fill dirt, it’s important to be specific about the type of dirt necessary to complete your project. For example, if you need clean fill dirt, which is free from contaminants, be sure to specify that in your search.

Be prepared to transport the dirt: when you find free fill dirt, you’ll need to transport it to your property. This can be a challenge if you don’t have the right equipment. You may need to rent a truck or hire a hauling service if necessary.

Always be mindful of your neighbors. Large piles of dirt can be unsightly, and the dust and noise from delivery trucks can be disruptive. Consider the impact on your neighbors and try to minimize any inconvenience.

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