Armchair Builder

New Home Budget: Fill Material

Driveway Fill Material

Driveway Fill Material

One item that can quickly blow your new home budget as an owner builder is fill material.  Whether you run into bad soil in some locations under your footings or you have low spots on the property, fill material can cause major cost over-runs if you’re not careful.  Let’s discuss some things to look out for to keep to your budget on your new home.

The picture above was taken from the street in front of a new home being built.  The forms you see are for the garage foundation.  This home is in the midwest and requires 36 inches of ground cover for the footings to prevent damage from frost heave.  So what does this picture have to do with fill material and your new home budget?  We are glad you asked.

What is Fill Material?

Whenever you need to bring more dirt or stone onto your project, you are in need of fill material.  The biggest problem with needing fill material is the cost to get it and spread it.  This requires heavy equipment and people to operate them.  Dump trucks, loaders and bull dozers are all expensive pieces of equipment to operate but are required whenever you need to fill around your new home.

Not only is it costly to move and spread, but finding fill dirt is sometimes difficult.  You may be able to talk to other builders or developers in the area to remove excess dirt they don’t need nearby.  But if the supply isn’t close, your costs will go up dramatically with increased hauling time.  Remember, a dump truck can cost $75 to $100 an hour, so every additional mile they must travel will add significant costs to your new home budget.

New Home Budget:  Typical Costs for Fill

As always, costs are very dependent on your geographic location, site conditions, project type…etc.  However, here are some general costs associated with fill material work.

  • Dump ‘Trucks: $75/hour (includes driver)
  • Bull Dozer to Spread Material:  $70-80/hour (includes operator)
  • Loader (to fill trucks) $80-90/per hour (includes operator)
On the low end, these costs can run up to $1800 per day.  It’s best to work out a lump sum price with your excavation contractor if you need fill material for your new home.  This will keep you from having to sit and watch the work being done (to keep the contractor honest).  It can also help prevent a huge, unexpected invoice at the end of the job that could blow your new home budget out of the water.

This Picture is Ugly

Let’s get back to the picture above.  In order to allow the yard around this new home to drain properly, the engineer needed to elevate the house.  Most codes require you to have a minimum drop in elevation of six inches for the first ten feet away from the home.  This helps get the rain water away from the home to prevent basement moisture problems.  So, the foundation forms you see need to be buried to within six inches of the top.  This will require three feet of fill material in the driveway at the garage which tapers down to no fill required at the street.  We will also need 36 inches of fill under the garage floor to support the slab.

Because there is no fill material on site, stone will be used in the garage under the floor.  Because of the size of the garage and the depth required, the cost will be approximately $1500-$2000.  It will also be necessary to use fill material under the driveway to prevent the concrete slab from settling.  This will be difficult to calculate as the driveway tapers down to the street but based on the length and depth of fill required, we can use an estimate of $1000-$1500.

If you didn’t figure in fill material into your new home budget, you would be off as much as $3500!

Buying a Lot to Build On

Now that you have seen how the costs for fill material can add up, hopefully you will keep this in mind when looking at properties for your new home.  Before you purchase a lot, it is a good idea to consult with your civil engineer to estimate what fill would be required for your new home plan and lot combination.  If you have a plan in mind, he/she will be able to review the lot and plan to estimate how much fill material you will need to include in your new home budget.  To find out more about how evaluate potential properties, check out our video, Choosing a Lot or Land.





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