How To Fill In A Basement With Dirt

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If you are having issues with your basement and it is rendered permanently unusable, you might be thinking of just filling it thoroughly to prevent any further damage to your home. However, this project raises questions such as: How would you fill in the basement? Are the steps complicated? We did the research to help you answer these questions.

To fill in your basement, you should:

  • Consult with professionals to properly plan the basement filling.
  • Remove all items inside your basement.
  • Fill the basement with the selected material.
  • Install flood vents on the remaining above ground portion of the basement.

The steps listed above will help you fill in your basement correctly. However, more questions may have arisen. How much would all of this cost? Should I use dirt or concrete? Continue reading to learn all there is to know about how to fill in your basement with dirt.

Crawl space under typical American house. light beam coming in through window, dirt pile. How To Fill In A Basement With Dirt

Can I Fill My Basement With Dirt?

Yes, you can fill your basement with dirt. Contractors use a specific type of dirt called fill dirt for filling basements and constructing structural foundations.

When filling your basement, make sure that your fill dirt does not have any organic materials such as pieces of wood, logs, and other decaying matter. Once organic matter decays completely, it will leave voids and depressions that could cause the dirt to collapse.

The Process Of Filling In Your Basement

Filling your basement in is a costly investment. If you are sure that you want to proceed with the project, it would be best to follow these steps:

1. Consult with professionals to properly plan the basement filling

First and foremost, you have to consult with professionals before you proceed to fill in your basement. It would help to consult an engineer before contacting anyone else.

Your home’s foundation could be structurally compromised if you immediately add in heavy dirt and concrete. An engineer could help you evaluate your existing foundation, plan your next steps, and weigh all your options before acting.

You should then contact your local government to get the necessary permits. The laws are different in various states and countries, so you will have to consult with the board to proceed with your project legally.

2. Remove all items inside your basement

Once the area is ready, you should remove all of the items in your basement. This process is easier for an unfinished basement due to the small number of items in place.

You should remove all installed cabinets, boxes, tables, and lights. If you installed flooring and insulation, it would be best to remove those as well so that you can reuse them.

You might also need to contact plumbers and contractors to help you reroute any plumbing and gas lines, as they could get damaged by the weight of the filling.

3. Fill the basement in with the selected material

Now that the basement is ready, you can proceed to fill it. If you are filling your basement in order to significantly increase flood protection elevation and reduce the damage caused by flooding, then you will need to do additional steps.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency published a guide with the necessary steps to follow. According to FEMA, you should elevate your home on masonry piers.

First, your contractor would make holes at intervals on your foundation walls. The workers would then install two sets of I-beams to support the weight of your home as it is being raised.

Afterward, they would install jacks to raise your home. Once they lift your home high enough, they will install new masonry piers on the existing foundations.

Only after that can you have your basement filled and graded with fill dirt. If your home has a basement slab, your contractors will break it before filling to avoid any buoyancy effect caused by floods.

4. Install flood vents on the remaining above ground portion of the basement

This step is not necessary if you raised your home on masonry piers. However, if you did not elevate your home on your masonry piers, you will need to install flood vents.

Often, it would be difficult to fill in your basement with dirt completely. If you attempt to do so, then you will have little to no space for grading and compacting the soil.

As such, there are times where you will be left with a crawlspace behind your walls. In this case, you will need to install flood vents on your foundation walls. 

Flood vents allow water to freely pass through the crawlspace, mitigating any hydrostatic pressure and force exerted on your walls. When left unchecked, floodwaters can exude too much pressure on your walls and compromise your home’s structural integrity.

Why Would You Fill In A Basement?

You would want to fill in a basement for many reasons; however, since the process itself can reach thousands of dollars, it is only done when absolutely necessary.

The most important reason for completely filling in your basement is to raise your home’s elevation. There are multiple ways of raising your home’s elevation, and all of them include filling in your basement with dirt or concrete.

How Much Does It Cost To Fill In A Basement?

Filling in a basement is quite an expensive project. The price of the backfill depends on how big your basement is and the material you choose to fill it with.

According to an interview with DNA Info, Senior Estimator Harry Philips guesses that filling a basement with a mixture of gravel and concrete can cost up to $50,000. The price he gave is for a 1,500 square feet basement with a height of 8 feet.

For a cheaper option, you can choose to fill your basement with fill dirt. Home Guide estimates that fill dirt costs anywhere from $5 to $25 per cubic yard. With that price, you can expect to pay up to $11,000 to get enough fill dirt to cover a 1,500 square foot, 8-foot tall basement, excluding the labor costs.

If you want to know more about the standard heights of basements and basement ceilings, you can check out our post: What Is The Minimum Height For A Basement Ceiling?

Can I Fill My Basement With Concrete?

Yes, you can fill your basement with concrete. However, it is more expensive than just using fill dirt. 

FEMA’s guidelines recommend using fill dirt for filling in basements. Nevertheless, concrete can be used to create a new slab foundation along with the fill dirt.

Can You Fill In A Basement That Floods?

Yes, you can fill in a basement that floods. You can reduce the risks of getting flood damage by filling in a basement with dirt, sand, or other materials, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.

By filling in a flooding basement, you are essentially raising your home’s floor elevation, which keeps water from pooling in. Combined with the installation of flood vents, filling in your basement will help keep your home and property safe from water damage.

Water and vapor are major enemies of a useful and safe basement. If you want to know how to place vapor barriers in your ceiling, read through our post: Does A Basement Ceiling Need A Vapor Barrier? 

Crawl space under typical american house. How To Fill In A Basement With Dirt

In Closing

Filling in your basement with dirt is an arduous and expensive task. Firstly, you would need to consult with professionals and local governments to make sure that you and your home are properly prepared and well-documented. You would then need to empty out your basement and reroute every pipe.

If necessary, you may need to install additional support beams and raise your home’s foundations. Only then can you fill up your basement with the material of your choice. Once the materials are in place, and the flood vents are installed, all that is left to do is to rest in your new, safer, more secure home.

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