“We’re trying to decide the best approach for labor, transport for removal, and where to put it”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville,

This spring we’re considering replacing our entire backyard (presently a grave parking spotl and a small patio) with new vehicular rated patio pavers. To save money, we’re thinking of doing the work ourselves, but that means removing approx. a foot deep of dirt and gravel for the entire yard so we can lay the appropriate foundation — that means digging out a 13′ x 45′ area, so nearly 600sf.

Does anyone have any solid recommendations on removing the dirt/gravel? The DC dump claim they won’t take it, and if we used a dumpster we’d wind up covering 1/3 of the yard we’re trying to clear out. We’ve also looked at Bagster, but that seems like it will get expensive given the number of bags and pickups we’d require.

Does anyone have any experience doing something similar, preferably in a creative way that won’t break the bank? We’re trying to be cost conscious on how we approach this so we can re-invest that money into materials and the landscaping once it’s finished. We’re trying to decide the best approach for labor, transport for removal, and where to put it leading up to removal, depending on how we approach the project.

For anyone that’s used third party services, I’d be curious about costs as well.”

20 Comment

  • I know this will should a little shady, but you could keep the waste in a pile and slowly work it down by adding it to your garbage over several weeks/months. We had to remove a considerable amount of dirt and lawn waste from our yard and used this strategy.

  • Ah, so this is the origin of all those Craigslist posts. Now I understand

  • Maybe list it on craigslist as free with pickup? Probably not the most reliable option but I am sure there are a few people out there who could use some free dirt or gravel. Worth a shot!

  • If you’re back yard is close to a street, i’d look into renting a dumpster for a week ($500-700, including disposal) plus permit to store it on the street (another couple $100). Then make trips with wheelbarrows.

  • This work will require a permit from DCRA and a DOEE approved Erosion and Sediment Control Plan as the disturbed area is over 50 SF.

  • I don’t think you realize just how much dirt you’re dealing with. You’re talking about removing roughly 6.5 cubic yards of earth weighing between 3 and 6 tons. It will take approximately 28 work hours for one person to remove it manually (with a shovel).

    Disposal of the soil will be a big issue because you’re talking about quite a large volume.

    Ultimately I would hire someone to at least dispose of the soil if not do the entire project.

    • More like 20+ cubic yards. 13′ x 45′ = 585sf @ 1′ depth = 585 cubic feet.

      That is a FULL dumpster’s worth of dirt. Definitely a lot of work.

      If I were you, I would see if you can find a dumpster company that deals with smaller dumpsters (10-15 yard), and get two, one after the other, placed on alternate sides of the yard).

  • Are you trying to provide parking for 2 cars? Why not reduce the size of the area for parking and create some planting area or raised beds with the soil you remove?

    Also, make sure you have permits. A nosy neighbor could blow the whistle to DCRA since it is frowned upon to have more than a certain percentage of your lot paved over. Perhaps pavers that allow rainwater to permeate are okay.

    I did a similar (but smaller) parking pad years ago. It was really back breaking work. You may also want to consider hiring some day labor to help out.

    Good luck with the project.

    • Presumably you know that pavers will be worse for drainage and grading will be important. That’s not very conducive to trying this Asa do it yourself job.

  • Renting a dumpster really is probably your best bet. Just get as many folks as you can to help out. If you have to place it on the street, you will need some wheel barrels.

  • “I think we are going to need a bigger shovel.”

  • I’ve done a few projects where I had several cubic yards of excess dirt at the end of the project. I’ve always been able to get rid of it via Craigslist. It didn’t happen overnight but it was free. First time it took only 2 weekends to have people come and get it. Second time was much slower – took 4-6 weeks. I didn’t mind as the pile wasn’t bothering me and, just as importantly, it bothered my cantankerous neighbor. 🙂

    I once also did the little-at-a-time-via-the-trash route. Took me MONTHS to get rid of a small pile (~1 cu.yd.). But, I wasn’t very diligent (I forget a few weeks). Sort of made me feel like Hogan from Hogan’s Heroes.

    If you’re not willing to go the Craigslist route, I’d recommend the dumpster and wheelbarrow route.

  • Rent a U-Haul, a large one. Lay down a tarp in the truck. Fill 5 gallon buckets and load the truck, big pile over the axles. Haul the dirt/gravel to a construction and debris (c&d) landfill in MD. Repeat until finished. approx $400ish max in U-Haul and dump fees.

    • I saw this being done with a flip on my street… except with no tarp, and with loose rubble and dirt, not buckets.
      .
      Makes me wonder what else the flipper did in a questionable manner.

  • Apply for a landscaping rebate thru the DC dept. of energy and environment:
    “Replacement of Impervious Surface with Pervious Pavers: impervious surface is removed and replaced with permeable bricks, often a patio or parking area, designed to capture and filter stormwater on property.”
    “Rebates are issued as a direct reimbursement to homeowners at a rate of $1.25 per square foot treated. Regardless of project type, the minimum square footage that must be treated is 400 square feet, which would provide a $500 rebate. The maximum rebate is $1,200. Funds are limited and rebates will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.” ddoe – dot – dc – dot – gov – slash – landscapingrebates

  • I haven’t used it but you could try freedirt.com

  • Ft. Totten Transfer Station will accept that of waste. You can rent a moving truck and bring it yourself. It’s quite an easy process. They are one of the friendliest, most helpful government agencies in DC tbh.

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