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Thread: Winter dirt work

  1. #1

    Default Winter dirt work

    I need to move a frozen pile of dirt blocking a driveway, which is about 5' wide and 4' tall so I can get a connex delivered. Any suggestions on this fun winter activity?

    I'm trying to do this without spending a ton of money. I don't mind renting some equipment but don't know what will work best for the frozen dirt mound. Some friends recommended just thawing the pile of dirt with a heater and a parachute. I don't know if I have that kind of patience. I'm thinking dozer or excavator but don't know how large I need. Any suggestions?

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    Member cod's Avatar
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    I would think it would take a pretty BIG dozer to move it. Dozers with the steel tracks can't get good traction to move solidly frozen ground. You could probably pick it apart with a medium sized excavator but it would take a while and it's heck on the equipment. What's between the pile and the ground can make a diff too.
    Might have to tent and heat it for a few days. No easy answer. I'll be curious to see if anyone comes up w a good idea.
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    rent a steam rig

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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGyver View Post
    rent a steam rig
    Ditto. Back in the day ( that saying doesn't make any sense but sure seems handy), when I did real work and had this happen a time or two, rented a steam rig, tented the whole pile with enough slop to work under, and started lancing away. In short order, a very sloppy, wet, miserable, but movable pile of dirt/mud. Varies a lot depending on the composition of the "dirt".

    Be sure to rent an honest to goodness steam rig and not a hot water generator.

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    Excavator will do it. Especially if you haven't been driving over the pile. We haven't had much cold weather this winter. Gravel can freeze pretty deep when traveled on. Undisturbed dirt usually isn't too bad. An excavator with teeth on the bucket would be better than one with a straight edge. Narrow bucket would also be good.
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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    If I had to choose just one piece of equipment, I'd go with a medium excavator. Difficulty will depend on the composition and density of the "dirt" and how much moisture it has in it.
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    Buy some reinforce plastic sheeting. Couple 2x4 and Diesel burning space heater. Build a tent heat it for 24 hours and move the dirt. Back in day that's how we did residential foundations works good.
    Pretty easy.


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    There is no doubt an excavator would work, but that can get spendy if you break something pounding on the ground.

    SmokeRoss has a point, the ground shouldn't be very frozen if there has been no traffic on it. Walking included. One stet of boot tracks wouldn't be an issue. If it is a regular pathway, then the frost will be deeper.

    Along akmike's thoughts is what we used to do to get a short trench in hard ground. Call that coal guy in the valley and have him drop some for you. Spread a layer over your hill. The amount will depend on how frozen you think it is. As the coal burns the ash traps the heat and the next day it is usually soft enough to hand shovel. It will have moisture in it, so don't let it refreeze overnight.
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  10. #10

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    Thanks for the replies. I'm interior Alaska but still it's been pretty mild. The pile hasn't had any traffic on it. I tried chipping at it yesterday and it feels like concrete.


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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyLow View Post
    Thanks for the replies. I'm interior Alaska but still it's been pretty mild. The pile hasn't had any traffic on it. I tried chipping at it yesterday and it feels like concrete.
    IMHO, it's a function of time vs. money vs. how strong is your back(?). You can take the time to thaw the pile incrementally, and move it by hand, or rent a piece of equipment to move it. If the latter, and presuming you only want to rent one piece of equipment to do so, an excavator is your best bet. I've moved 50 yards of gravel by hand with a shovel and wheelbarrow in the past 12 months. At this point I'd choose the excavator! (YMMV).
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    Rent a 12-15 ton excavator with frost teeth on it. You'll have to scratch at it a bit but it will tear up.


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    Quote Originally Posted by fishtraphuntalaska1984 View Post
    Rent a 12-15 ton excavator with frost teeth on it. You'll have to scratch at it a bit but it will tear up.


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    And at end of day if you damage the equipment it will cost more than doing it the correct and most efficient way. Hey but what do I know I've only been running equipment for 22 years!


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    Akmike30, you are correct in saying it will cost more if you damage the equipment. I never said anything about pounding the equipment on the ground. I suggested he scratch at it with frost teeth, that's what they're made for. You do have more years of equipment experience than I do, but I've also dug in many a frozen pile with loaders and excavators and have yet to break one on a frozen dig.


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    HMMMMMM, am I the only guy that likes to blow stuff up?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    HMMMMMM, am I the only guy that likes to blow stuff up?
    My suggestion was just to drive faster.... I sort of like your idea too though.

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    Not that big of a dirt pile and don't we all like large bonfires? Can you find a metric chit ton of dry brush and set it on top and around the dirt pile and set on fire covering the pile and keep the wood burning all day? Surely it would thaw it out.

  18. #18

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    We dig trenches in the winter with frost teeth with the scratch method in spots our trencher won't get into, the one mini excavator has 5000+ hours of mostly trench work and id say 2000 of thats in the winter, never had an issue with breaking stuff. Now we have had renters wreck excavators digging sand like they were trying to pound the sand into glass or something.. Just scratch on it and with a pile that small it won't take long even with a mini.

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