Removing Dirt Between Houses

Over the weekend, Greg removed a huge pile of dirt from in between our house and the neighbors. He’s getting rid of the excess dirt so we can sort out a drainage problem. Our neighbors roof empties rainwater out between our two houses (our house in on the left). Overtime it has caused the side our house to rot and floods our basement during heavy downpours. We need to come up with a solution for the water to run away from the house.

The dirt project has taken longer then a weekend. Greg has spent the last few months digging up giant roots and rocks little by little. He piled all the excess fill into a pile in the center. We called a landscaper last week to get the dirt remove. The estimate came back at $950. I guess he wanted to use a tractor?

So this brings me us to the topic of disposal. How do you rid of stuff you don’t need? You can’t bring everything to the dump. Ours won’t take dirt or rocks. We had this same problem last year when we dug out our garden and had a pile of excess dirt. We tried free fill signs, ads on Craigslist and nothing worked. A friend’s brother eventually helped us out with the project for $200 and 6-pack of beer.

For now about five yards of dirt sits in the middle of the driveway. Do you think your neighbors are laughing wondering if I’m going to put out another free sign? We still haven’t come up with a real plan for step two: actual disposal. We’ve called a few drop off dumpster services but nobody has returned our calls—maybe they don’t take dirt? We thought about renting a trailer and bringing it to a disposal center. But where can we rent a simple garden trailer? Having our own pick-up truck would come in handy right about now…


Related Post:
House Renovation: Free Dirt!


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28 Comments

  1. If you are still looking for dirt removal, the name of the company in Cambridge, MA is Jaws Plowing 617-547-4306. They provide 50 gallon plastic barrels (as many as you need) and pick them up by appointment. The last time we used the service, it was $30/barrel.

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  2. The U-Haul locations in Boston have pick-up truck rentals now. Very reasonable rates too.

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  3. I’m happy to find your blog. I’m renovating an 1842 Greek Revival in Cambridge so I’m looking forward to getting caught up on your project. I used a company called U-Call, We Haul when I first bought my house to rip out a handicapped ramp, jackhammer an old patio and sidewalk out of the yard and then haul everything away. I’m not sure if they will pick up dirt but it might be worth a call. I think they’re on the North Shore.

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  4. Hi Katy,

    I just discovered your blog, I love it, especially since I love all things Marblehead. I grew up there and know someday I’ll end up back there. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

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  5. Go to your local council and ask them there may be some builders who need it they would know the building projects going on in the town

    Any use?

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  6. That fence along the background in your photograph looks like a nice place for a no dig garden- could be less than a metre wide and by making it no dig you´d use that pile up pretty quick i´d be churning it with compost and lining the fence with veggies or annuals…. unless of course its concreted to the fence? Then my idea is rubbish.

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  7. Your Blog is totally one of my favorite ones….!!!! Yesterday, I drove by your house and saw your dilemma…. Must be someone who really needs that pile! I will keep my ears open. Looking forward to seeing you working in your garden some time when I walk my Doodle puppy by!
    You have amazing patience taking on such a HUGE renovation job!!! We love how you are contributing in improving Old Town….. Christie

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  8. Hi Katie!
    I’m based in Colorado and my husband and I have renovated an older house top to bottom, (we’re in our 4th year)so I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.

    Two suggestions. In terms of waste, join the Massachusetts chapter of freecycle.org. I signed up when we first bought our house and have never required a dumpster. It is amazing what followers on this site will take if it is free! Secondly, home depot rents flat bed trucks and U-haul rents trailers. I hope this helps!

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  9. Hi!
    We had a similar problem in Seattle, and we found that the local dirt/ rock supply place will take dirt/sod for free, and recycle it into some type of fill dirt. Only issue is that you have to get it there, they will not pick it up. We rented a dumptruck and it turned out to be much cheaper than any other option we looked into, including dumpsters. Good luck!

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  10. Hi Katy. Home Depot and Lowe’s now have this “collapsible” dumpster that you can rent and they take it away. It looks like a kiddie pool that you unfold and fill with water. Your neighbor is directly responsible for causing thousands of dollars in damage to your house and what he’s doing is definitely illegal and negligent. I know nobody wants to fight with their neighbor but you’re not wealthy to humor him. I say get his homeowner’s insurance to pay for as much of the rotted back as possible.

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  11. i’d also have to cast my vote for trying area garden centers, farms and even construction sites. a few years ago, my grandfather in CT would have loved to help you solve your problem! they purchased a lot next to their house and spent over a year raising and evening it out. he had been a contractor and worked in paving for years, so he would drive around to construction sites and have them dump their excess soil on his lot. i don’t think they ever charged him for it. it’s not the best use of time by far, but there may be some homeowners/contractors in the area doing work that may need it.

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  12. Katy, I’d revisit the dumpster rental — they should take dirt. I recently called a company in Fairfield Cty CT, where I live, and they quoted me $395 to bring a smallish dumpster to my driveway, leave it a week, take it away.

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  13. You have to be careful where you place the runoff because stormwater runoff is usually regulated. I mean you can’t just hook it up to the stormwater drains, that requires permits.
    Also directing it off into the street isn’t a good idea. You’ll probably get a call from the town if you do that!

    One option might be a French drain, but that involves lots more digging. :(

    One home I’ve seen had a smooth rounded concrete drain all around it in the ground. This was placed so that all the rainwater fell into it from the roof and it drained someplace, probably the paved driveway or further out into the yard.

    Finding an area for all this water to drain from both your roof & your neighbor’s rain pipe is the most important part. You might even offer to extend your neighbor’s rain pipe down to the ground so that it will drain into whatever drainage system you devise. At least it won’t continue draining into the ground or splashing onto your house during heavy rains.

    One of our previous homes was 100+ yrs old and it had a stone foundation. Every time it rained the walls would be wet, but the previous owners had a concrete floor poured onto the old dirt floor, but left about 2 inches open near the walls so that the water drained right into the ground. Worked really well, even during torrential rains the basement floor didn’t get wet.

    Have you thought of consulting a landscaper that specializes in drainage? A Google search turned up this website
    http://www.curbappealma.com/drainage/drainage.html

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  14. Gosh, all they really need to do is put some extention pipe on that gutter and it would be resolved! what if you did that for them? it would prop cost like, $50 to fix. jeesh, what a mess for you guys!
    the dirt – we had a similar issue in an old house of ours and we used it to fill out some uneven spots in our yard which we then covered w/good soil and grass, worked great. otherwise, maybe bucket by bucket at the yard i guess?
    good luck! i enjoy your updates!

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  15. Keep trying with CL and put an ad on Freecycle.

    I had piles of dirt in my basement after a project. It’s a long story, but the result was piles of dirt — huge piles — like three of the one pictured in your backyard.

    I put ads on CL and Freecycle and got a guy who came and took it all — 5 gallon bucket by 5 gallon bucket, in the middle of the summer, up and down the stairs. For free.

    This dirt had brick shards in it, too. It took a few months of waiting, but eventually, my ad was answered.

    I also had someone (from CL) come and clear out all the junk from my basement in exchange for a couple of old copper pipes that were down there — I’m talking JUNK — wet cardboard boxes, broken tiles, old motor oil — again, no charge.

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  16. just to clarify – it has been going on for “months” (2), but only 3 days in total. My weekends are very valuable katy. Sorry I can’t make it happen faster. I wish I could. It amazes me seeing those pics and it barely looks any “lower”. I still need to grade it. Where did all that dirt come from anyway? I found a few OLD glass bottles UNDER the root balls which had a few inches of dirt on top of them. Is it accumulated dirt/dust over 200 years?

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  17. My neighbor situation is a little complicated. He’s an older man with some type of mental health condition. He lives in the house alone. It’s hard to propose new things to him and or suggest his gutters have totally rot the side of my house.

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  18. that should have read:

    I agree with Alicia…. Dumping water on your neighbor should be illegal and in some jurisdictions I’m sure it is!
    Your best bet obviously is getting your neighbors water off your house. Black corrugated drain pipe should work fine connected directly to the existing downspout as well as perforated landscape pipe underground in-between the two houses. Don’t know how much slope you have in your grade or what kind of elevation drop occurs but as long as you can get that water to drain over to your parking area you should be fine!

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  19. I like Rachel’s suggestion of a pipe underground. Perhaps you could install a rain barrel that has has a underground pipe connected which flows the water to the street or at the back of the garden.

    For the dirt, you could call nearby farms or farmers and see if they would like it for vegetable gardens, or compost. They would have trucks too.

    Good luck.

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  20. We had the same tricky problem of dirt removal in Somerville and found a guy who provided 50 gallon plastic barrels and takes away each barrel for $30–it may save you a good amount of money. Don’t have his number on me, but will send it next week when I return home. Not sure what town he is based in, so there’s a chance he will drive to Marblehead.

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  21. I’m no help in the dirt. I have a stack of construction debris behind my garage. But why in the world do they have a gutter emptying right there in between the two houses? Not to mention that the gutter ends in mid air. Weird. They need to run that gutter to the back or front and extend the downspout away from the house by several feet.

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  22. No suggestions on the dirt but as for drainage…we have a system that seems to work at our house, although we don’t get that much rain in Texas! Next to our house is a concrete sidewalk but every foot or so is a grate. The grate drops down to a small open area. All these open areas are connected from below to a corrugated pipe that leads from the side of our house, down the front yard and into a culvert by our driveway. All of this is underground so you only see the sidewalk and the opening of the pipe. If you would like pics let me know.

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  23. i’ve heard that some landscaping services or topsoil suppliers will take soil (for a fee) to remediate & sell. not exactly a deal, but maybe an option!

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  24. Man, you weren’t kidding when you said you had a lot of dirt.

    You’d think that it would be a common enough problem that there *should* be an easy fix, but I guess not. Too bad you can sell it to crazy Manhattanites who need dirt for roof gardens! I bet they would pay a premium.

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