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Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

Posted by shpigford 5 (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 14, 09 at 16:35

So I'm putting in a paver patio that is ~500 sq/ft. I'm planning on doing 4 inches of roadbase and so 4 inches of roadbase for ~500 sq/ft adds up to ~9 tons of needed roadbase.

The way my yard is situated, there's really no way for the truck to bring all of that dirt and dump it right beside the patio. The best I could do is have it dumped 40-50 feet away.

So, am I completely out of my mind (and body) to think that I might could move and lay 9 tons of dirt with just a wheelbarrow and shovel? I honestly am having a hard time imagining how much dirt that really is so I'm wondering if it's an impossible feat.

Obviously the other option is to rent a skid steer for a few days but I risk seriously tearing up my yard (though that might be worth it for the saved energy/muscle/time).

Thoughts? What would you do?


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 14, 09 at 22:30

It sounds scarier than it is. One wheelbarrow at a time. Unless you are not in good shape and unaccostomed to hard labor, it is not that tough and won't take you all that long. I used to do it all of the time and I'm not a big guy.


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

Just do the math and see if it's feasible for you.

A ton of dirt is about 1.5 cubic yards, so 9 tons is about 6 cubic yards or do the math with respect to the volume of rock needed. An average wheel barrow is about 3-5 cubic feet, so to move a cubic yard (27 cubic feet), it will take 6-9 full wheelbarrow loads. 6 cubic yards will then take about 36 to 54 wheel barrow loads. Your pile will go down slowly one load at a time. If a round trip (load, go the distance, and place load) takes 15 minutes then it will take 6-12 hours to move the material.

If you start out slow and wear gloves, it will get easier to move manually. Don't go full bore moving the material, if your not used to such labor. It's great aerobic exercise!


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

  • Posted by rhodium New England Z6 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 15, 09 at 10:02

Wasn't there a Tennesse Ernie Williams song about moving 16 tons of coal and being deeper in debt?

So it would appear that a pro can move 16 tons in a day... as mentioned by all before, stay within your limits.

This is doable especially if you have friends and a case of beer...


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

You can move it all in a couple of weekends. One if you are in good shape. But let me put in my two cents worth on the gravel. Make sure you buy gravel dust to set those paver's in. Gravel dust will save a lot of work when you are trying to line things up. Oh and stay away from teh beer when you are working in the hot sun.


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

@guardenman: What's the difference with using gravel dust and adding 1-1.5 inches of sand?


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

Yep, been there done that with gravel. Just keep at it and don't look at the pile for awhile. Before you know it it will be shrinking.
Had a huge dump truck dump crushed gravel about 40 feet from my carport. I had to sluup it all the way. Backbreaking, but do-able..
I am female and near 60,, lol


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 18, 09 at 11:47

A friend of mine is terracing a slope, and amending and mulching as he goes. It's a huge project and he bought some kind of motorized wheelbarrow that is compact but carries a heavy load. It may be more than you need for this project, but I thought I'd mention it.

Similar to product in link (I have no connection to this product whatsoever):

Here is a link that might be useful: motorized cart


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

moving it with the wheelbarrow is the easy part. the back breakign part is loading the WB, then unloading and spreading it. use a GOOD long handle shovel so you don't have to bend over too much.

when we moved from the house we used to rent i had a truck load of dirt delivered to fix the yard where i always parked. they brought 16 YARDS worth of dirt, and i needed maybe 2 yards to fix it! teh rest we loaded up a truck load at a time and took to family. after the 3rd truck load i quit helping and told folks you want the free dirt, you load it yourself!


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RE: Moving 9 tons of dirt...by shovel?

It can be done. Isabella did a great job turning the unknown pie into a known quantity.

My wife and I moved 34 yards (just under 50 tons) of stonedust by wheelbarrow over the course of two days. Two 20-ton deliveries the same day, then a 10-ton delivery the next day.

About 2/3rds of it went to two patios (a two-tiered set-up) that were right next to where the piles were dumped. The farthest we had to move it was to the far side of the patio about 60' away. Not too bad.

The next day we moved the other third a little over 200', there was some up and down elevation to that move. That was exhausting.

We had two 6cuft wheelbarrows. She just shoveled, I shoveled, transported and dumped.

Like the others have written, just get going and lose your mind for a bit. Before you know it you'll be there.

Make sure the pressure in your tire is good. A flat tire offers more resistance.


My wife digging into the first pile.


Partial progress


Compacting complete



My helpers.


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