Which Should You Use? Fill Dirt or Topsoil?

Fill Dirt Vs. Topsoil

Fill dirt vs. topsoil, in a contest we’d ask, “Who wins?” But the choice between the two does not equal picking the winner of a contest. The question to ask is: “Which should I use for my particular project?” There are reasons for using one over the other, and this will be explained in this article.

Types of Dirt

Dirt is simply dirt, right? Wrong. Fill dirt and topsoil have different uses depending on your project. Topsoil is not used in fill projects or construction and fill dirt is not used in your garden or your orchard.

Fill Dirt

Let’s start with definitions. What is fill dirt? It consists of amalgamation of broken rocks, clay, sand, crushed concrete, and plain ol’ earth. It usually does not contain nutrients that one would use for growing plants or trees. Fill dirt is meant for construction projects including homebuilding. It provides a base on which one can build a sturdy foundation.

When looking for fill dirt, select a company that offers “clean” fill dirt. This means that there are no large rocks, debris, or other material that would need to be further broken down or discarded before using. It also means that it is clean of chemicals and toxins.

Fill dirt is used in construction projects to lay a foundation before the cement foundation. You want your building to stand up on ground that will not crack, sink, or give way. Highways and roads also use fill dirt before the task of tarring and stripping begins.


Topsoil, of course, is not to be confused with fill dirt. It has a totally different function. Topsoil is organic matter that has nutrients good for growing plants, vegetables, trees or potting soil. There are different types of topsoil–having different blends of nutrients–depending on the type of plant you are planning to grow. Topsoil is darker, finder, and as stated earlier, contains vital nutrients. Nurseries are a good place to purchase topsoil. Check with your local nursery to see which type you need for your growing needs.

You can take a sample of your property’s soil to your local nursery or supplier, so that they can advise you on which topsoil will be best for your property. Does your property contain hardpan, or is it sandy? This will change the calculus of which type of topsoil you may need.

If you have an uneven lawn due to depressions or potholes, topsoil is your go-to for evening out the bare or sunken spots in your yard. It will provide not only a level plane but will have the necessary nutrients in which your grass, plants, and trees can take root.

Similar to landscaped golf courses, you may want your yard to have gentle slopes, steps, or terraces among other aesthetic features that will beautify your home’s landscape. Customize your yard with topsoil and landscaping rocks in order to shape and direct the look and features of your yard. You can have a beautiful landscaped yard in the mold of Augusta National Golf Club, if you so desire.

Note: Landscaping can increase your home’s resale value by up to 14%. Keep this in mind if you are thinking of putting your home on the market.

Of course, if you have a garden, you will need a generous helping of topsoil. Your plants, fruit trees, and vegetables need nutrient rich soil in which to thrive. Topsoil can also play an important part in drainage. Topsoil should “drink” the appropriate amount of water and with the right grading, it will let excess moisture drain off. Therefore, your garden will be neither too dry nor too wet–the perfect habitat for your garden or orchard.

So, in the contest between fill dirt vs topsoil, it’s not the winner that matters necessarily, but which type of dirt is best for you and your project/home. Fill dirt vs topsoil? The score may be fill dirt 1, topsoil 0. Fill dirt 0, topsoil 1. Or, possibly (you may need both), in the contest of fill dirt vs topsoil, it may be a draw!




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