Clean Fill Wanted

Clean Fill Wanted

The signs are very common in the country, often seen tied to old fences and gates or nailed to stakes. The basic idea is that the owner of the property needs some soil and is willing to let people dump it on his land for free. I always thought it was a bit of a waste of time. After all, when did you ever see a dump truck cruising the countryside looking for a place to offload 20 tonnes of soil?

– Oh, ho, Billy! Slow down, this fella wants clean fill.
– Clean fill you say, Bob?
– Yeah, don’t we have 20 tonnes in the back of our truck?
– Well bugger me Bob, but you’re right.
– Okey dokey Billy, let’s dump it here then find a Timmy H for a cheeky coffee and donut. After such a stroke of luck, I’m buying!

Perhaps that happens hundreds of times every day, but certainly I have never observed it. The cheap landowners should just pony up and buy what they need was my general thinking. Just how expensive could a few truckloads of dirt be?

Now perhaps those of you who have built a house in the country are chuckling to yourselves at my naivety. I had little idea when I started this project that a truckload of clean fill runs around $200. Oh, and that we’d need something stupid like 200 – 500 loads. At least. Anyone still counting on their fingers, that’s between $40,000 to $100,000. All because we wanted a walk-out basement and a gravity-fed septic field. It’s complicated by the fact we’re building on glacial tilth which is apparently great for load bearing capacity, but essentially non-porous. We can’t sink the house lower without sinking the septic field and doing that would create an underground swimming pool filled with sewage (yuk), not to mention risk flooding the basement (risking future cider / mead production). All in all, an unsatisfactory day 2.

We had a warning from our GC, Dave The Man, while getting the grading plan for this build but the engineers got really shirty when we challenged them on the height of the house above grade so in the interest of getting on with it and submitting the plans, neither I, Emma or Dave The Man pushed the concern. Oh dear. That, in retrospect, was a mistake because it’s coming back to bite us. And not a playful nibble on the earlobe from an amorous lover, more like a teething toddler taking a unhealthy interest in your toes kind of bite.

Either we take out a second mortgage to buy the fill, find a handy mountain that needs relocating, run into Bob and Billy at Tims, or….not sure. It’s a problem that isn’t likely to have an easy solution. Dave The Man managed to get the grading engineers to concede an extra 0.5m of depth without altering plans and we can trim 6″ off the height of the basement which should help reduce the amount of fill we need. The idea of a pond has been growing on Emma and I for a while, but we might need to upgrade that to a small boating lake unless we can find another source of free clean fill. Alternatively, we can try to blag it and claim that we were going for the Motte-and-Bailey approach to contemporary house design all along. Perhaps we’ll start a new architectural wave for ridiculously tall residential buildings.

But, failing that, I think I’ll start with a sign for “Clean Fill Wanted.”

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