Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Buying and Hauling Materials by the Cubic Yard FAQ

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Dump truck dumping gravel in a yard
When you go to the home improvement center, it’s usually pretty easy to eyeball the bags of mulch, dirt, stone, and concrete to figure out how many you need for your project. But if you’re working on a larger scale, these materials are sold in cubic yards, which can be more challenging to figure out, not to mention haul home.

Whether you’re filling your pickup truck or having a load delivered on a dump truck, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about working with cubic yards.

What is a cubic yard?

A cubic yard is a cube of material that is one yard (3′) wide, long, and high. There are 27 cubic feet in one cubic yard. Now, before you get the yardstick to measure the size, keep in mind that loose materials will fluff up significantly if dry and compress down when wet.

How much does a cubic yard weigh?

The weight of a cubic yard depends entirely on the type of material.

    Wheelbarrow full of dirt

  • Mulch: Weighs in at roughly up to 1,000 pounds per cubic yard, depending on the type and whether it’s wet or dry.
  • Soil: Weighs about 2,200 pounds per cubic yard, depending on the moisture content.
  • Sand, Gravel, Stone: Can tip the scales at upwards of 3,000 pounds per cubic yard.

Check with your supply yard for weights of specific materials.

How many wheelbarrow loads are in a cubic yard?

Wheelbarrows come in different sizes, but a medium sized, 3-cubic-foot wheelbarrow, will take about nine loads full to equal one cubic yard of material.

How many cubic yards do I need?

The best way to estimate the quantity you’ll need is by plugging the height, width, and length need into our Cubic Yard Calculator. As a general guideline, if you’re spreading the material 3” thick, one cubic yard will cover about 100 square feet, or a 10′ x 10′ area.

Can I haul a cubic yard in my pickup truck or trailer?

Sure, assuming it doesn’t weigh more than the truck or trailer is rated to handle. Supply yards are usually good at sizing up your vehicle, and loading a safe amount of material.

Mulch sold by the cubic yardStill, if you’re driving the load yourself, it’s important to understand your vehicle’s hauling capacity, as well as how your vehicle behaves when fully loaded. Trailers can be especially difficult, due to the risk of fishtailing.

If you’re pushing the weight limit, stay off major highways and Interstates, and keep your speed under 45 mph.

To plan a safe project, you really need to determine the weight of the specific material you’re ordering. However, here are some general guidelines to give you an idea of how many trips it might take for a big project:

  • Full-size Pickup Trucks: Can usually handle 2 cubic yards of soil, 2-3 cubic yards of mulch, and 1 cubic yard of stone or gravel.
  • Small Pickups and Trailers: Can usually handle 1 cubic yard of soil to maybe 1½ of mulch.
  • Dump Trucks: If you’re having the material delivered, a small dump truck usually carries about 5 cubic yards, and a larger one carries about 10 cubic yards or more.

How do I buy materials by the cubic yard?

If you’re new to working with this quantity of material, it’s really easy to get started. During peak seasons, supply can’t always keep up with demand, so start by calling your local supply yards to get prices and availability of the desired material.

    Pile of material sold by the cubic yard

  • Landscape supply companies usually carry topsoil, mulch, sand, gravel, and patio stone.
  • Mulch and compost, made from ground-up yard waste, may also be available at your local landfill for a low price.
  • Concrete needs to be ordered from a concrete delivery company and comes premixed in trucks.

If you want the material delivered, you can place your order right then over the phone. If you’re picking it up yourself, you simply need to drive into the supply yard, park at the office or booth, and go inside to place your order and pay. The staff person will then direct you to the loading area, where a front-end loader will come and scoop the material into your truck or trailer. And off you go!

What should I do with my materials?

Ideally, you should dump the material at the final location – your back will thank you! With my small truck, I just back it right up to the flower bed or driveway, then shovel the material out. If that’s not possible, dump it in a flat spot where you aren’t worried about killing the grass underneath. If you’ve got a really big project, enlist some help and 2-3 wheelbarrows, to keep the job moving along.

Further Information



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3 Comments on “Buying and Hauling Materials by the Cubic Yard FAQ”

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  1. Azeez David Says:
    July 12th, 2013 at 6:12 am

    Pls, how many wheelbarrow of earth sand, cement and gravel can fill up 9” by 9” by 14ft piller?

  2. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Azeez,
    It depends on how much the wheelbarrow holds. It would take 7 7/8 cubic feet to fill a 9″ x 9″ x 14′ pillar (0.75′ x 0.75′ x 14′ = 7.875 cubic feet). Large wheelbarrows hold about 6 cubic feet, so it would require a little over 1 large wheelbarrow full.

  3. Michele Says:
    July 18th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Hi, I’m in Danny’s area (Mobile, AL) and have a question about materials and pricing. I am looking for an inexpensive ground cover for a firepit area. It can’t be poured concrete due to the large tree roots in the area, so I’m thinking some kind of gravel. I like the gray gravel in the photo attached to this article — what is the gray gravel called, and is it cheaper than the orange-ish brown pea gravel? Which would be easiest to walk in — the tiny pea gravel or the slightly larger gray gravel? Thanks.

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