General Discussion:

Help! Need to Relace Soil

Messages posted to thread:

Aisling22-May-02 10:55 AM EST 5b   
osborne22-May-02 12:51 PM EST   
Aisling22-May-02 01:04 PM EST   
Greg22-May-02 01:11 PM EST 6a   
Osborne22-May-02 01:43 PM EST   
Aisling24-May-02 09:27 AM EST 6a   
Dawn24-May-02 11:38 AM EST 3   
osborne24-May-02 12:15 PM EST   
Aisling28-May-02 11:37 PM EST   

Subject: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Aisling
Zone: 5b
Date: 22-May-02 10:55 AM EST

We moved into a house 1 1/2 years ago. Last summer when we tried to roto till the soil we discovered the renovator who sold the house, had buried rubble (everything from stove parts to broken glass & tile) in the back yard. I was able to dig out the largest section of the yard (had to go down 3') and had a very successful Flower/Veggie/Herb garden. The garden had been an organic vegetable garden for years before the renovation, so the soil wasn't too damaged; I'm still repairing it.

The big problem is there is one section that has so much small and large debris that it is impossible to dig out by hand and I don't trust that it is not contaminated. We have to get a backhoe in, I think, and replace the soil to 3'.

We have no idea how to go about hiring someone to do this. Any tips on what type of company? How we can ensure the soil is good quality, sterile and organic?? Do they have minimum amounts??. The really bad small section is 22’6”x 7’.The large section is 24’7” x10’4”; should we do them both?

Next year we want to remove a brick outdoor oven and the cement patio, as well as drop the grade back down to it's original height. We also want to put in a wood fence. Is there any prep we should do to make this easier??

Any thoughts on this will be of great help. Thanks so much

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: osborne
Date: 22-May-02 12:51 PM EST

Aisling, It sounds as if you want to lower the grade rather than raise it, but have you considered adding raised beds? I haven't any myself, so I'm only repeating what I've heard, but they do sound as if they have a lot of advantages. . . the soil warms up earlier in the spring, they have better drainage, if they are not too wide you can cultivate them without stepping into them (and compacting the soil), you don't have to kneel and bend as much to work in them. The retaining walls can be quite attractive, incorporating seating or a rockery, planted with hanging and alpine plants. They can be used to define 'garden rooms'.

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Aisling
Date: 22-May-02 01:04 PM EST

Hello Osburn; I am concerned that the soil is contaminated, so I do not think adding soil on top of contaminated soil is going to ease my mind. To give you an idea of how much rubble I am talking about, last spring I spent six 12 hour days digging. Some of the concrete chunks were so large I could not lift them - i had to make a ramp and roll them out ( I was waist deep at the time). The removal of the rubble filled an oversized flatbed pickup - he estimated about 400+ lbs.

I don't trust the soil in the smaller portion - there is a dank area that will not dry out and there is an impossible amount of small bits of rubble to remove by hand. We also would like to lower the grade to bring it back in line with one set of neighbours and because the concrete patio was poorly done and is channeling water to the basement. The two sections i have refered to comprise most of the backyard (we live in downtown Toronto).

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Greg
Zone: 6a
Date: 22-May-02 01:11 PM EST

A few years ago, I completely re-built my back yard, taking all of the grass out and putting in brick patio, path and, of course, lots of gardens. Because of the amount of paving, we raised the level of garden by 6-8" For soil, I used triple mix (equal parts topsoil, peat & compost) from the local garden centre which had a good reputation. It worked well and we had an excellent garden.

For the backhoe job, there should be landscape contractors in the phone book which can do the job. Get 3 estimates and ensure that they include the cost of disposal of the old soil in the estimate. It should be taken to a land fill. For the soil, it may be better to find a garden centre with good soil and have them deliver it. That way you can ask lots of questions about the origins of the soil and get what you want.

As far as specific companies, someone who lives in your area would have to make a recommendation.

Good luck!

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Osborne
Date: 22-May-02 01:43 PM EST

Aisling, And I thought that having to contend with heavy clay soils was a problem! You have my sympathy. It sounds like you will have to take Gregs's advice and just bite the bullet to have the soil removed.

I agree with Greg in advising you to make sure that your contractor includes the costs of disposal - ALL costs - in the estimate.

I may be making a mountain out of a mole-hill (my experience is in large-scale construction in the Toronto area, so I'm not sure if this would apply to a small load) however, I will pass it on in case it does . . .

When large quantities of excavated material are being disposed of, it can't go into a city landfill unless it has been tested for contamination (e.g. for residual chemicals and oil) and found to be 'clean'. It must meet Ministry of Environment open water lakefill, or landfill disposal criteria. They will accept a small percentage of bricks and other in-organics in the soil. Contaminated soil costs more to dispose of, sometimes a lot more!

If you were able to test your suspicious soil in-situ, before you got the estimate to remove it, you might find that it is not as contaminated as you thought, thus saving yourself the cost of it's removal. A geo-techinical or soil testing company can do this for you.

Good luck, Osborne

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Aisling
Zone: 6a
Date: 24-May-02 09:27 AM EST

Thanks guys, I do appreciate the feedback. It never occured to me Greg, to use 2 companies...sometimes the obvious is hard to see - thanks. Osborne, do you really think we need to test? The contamination I was talking about what shards of glass, tile, expansion metal & cement. However the quantity is such that there is one area that cannot drain - the dank area I reffered to. Having chatted with the neighbours, the house flipper did have bins, it seems when he reached his 1000lb free household limit he out the rest of the solids in the backyard. There is no sign of chemical/solvent/liquid contamination & we have a fine array of weeds growing there for me to pull up every few weeks. BUT if you think we should test, then I shall do so.

Thanks again!


Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Dawn
Zone: 3
Date: 24-May-02 11:38 AM EST

I would recommend that you talk with the lawyer that handle your purchase. You bought the property under good faith that the yard was as it appeared. If contaminated the previous owner may be legally responsible for cleanup. Good luck.

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: osborne
Date: 24-May-02 12:15 PM EST

Aisling, I was concerned about your description of "dank" soil, thinking that there had been an oil leak or something. I'm not qualified to answer your question about allowable, non-toxic, contaminants, I only know enough to be cautious and to call in the experts. A soils testing company or maybe the people at the City who handle waste disposal may be able to give you a short answer over the phone. The city website is:

Subject: RE: Help! Need to Relace Soil
From: Aisling
Date: 28-May-02 11:37 PM EST

Thanks all, for the advice. I shall call the city. We did talk to our lawyer, Dawn, and it seems far more trouble than it is worth. Yes he should be responsible for the cost incurred, but we would have to sue to recoup the cost. Unfortunately this is a very common trick and since it has happened to us we have heard of many other similar cases. We have decided to bite the bullet and not let it ruin what we have.

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