How to Backfill a Trench & Settle Dirt

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Use a motorized leveler to settle dirt in larger trenches.

If you have dug a trench to repair a pipe, install outdoor lighting or for some other project, you must eventually refill it with soil. Although most people simply shovel the dirt back into the trench, this often results in low spots where the soil settles. Instead, it is important to settle the dirt as you fill the trench in, which prevents it from sinking and settling later.

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Step 1

Begin moving the soil that you removed from the trench back into it, using a shovel. As you fill in the trench, spread the soil in an even layer until it reaches 6 inches high. If the original soil is no longer available, use a topsoil that is native to your region.

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Step 2

Place the flat end of a hand tamper tool on top of the soil in the trench. Pick up the tamper and hit the surface of the soil with it using firm pressure to pack the soil down. Repeat the process over the length of the trench until all of the soil is compacted.

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Step 3

Shovel more soil into the trench until you have another 6-inch layer and then pack it down using the hand tamper. Continue the process of adding 6 inches of soil and compacting them until the trench is completely filled in.

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