How Much Is a Cubic Yard?
Understanding Dumpster Dimensions and Volume
Dumpster volume is calculated in cubic yards. Knowing how to calculate and estimate the amount of debris you have in cubic yards will help you choose the right container size for your project. To understand how to measure cubic yards, let’s start by breaking down exactly what a cubic yard is and what it looks like.
What Does a Cubic Yard Look Like?
A cubic yard is the volume of a cube with the length, width and height of one yard (3 feet or 36 inches). A cubic yard is also equal to 27 cubic feet. To picture this, two washing machines are just over a cubic yard in volume.
What Is the Difference Between a Yard and a Cubic Yard?
A yard measures a two-dimensional area and a cubic yard measures the three-dimensional volume of a space, or how much a space can hold.
How Do You Measure Cubic Yards?
To measure in cubic yards, you will first need to measure the area and then calculate the volume. Use the steps below:
- Measure length, width and height or depth of your debris or the area it is taking up.
- Convert measurements to yards by dividing measurements in feet by 3 and dividing measurements in inches by 36.
- Use the equation below to calculate cubic yards.
You can easily calculate cubic yardage by converting all three dimensions of your material into yards and multiplying them. For example, say you dig up a flower bed. The flower bed is 9 feet long, 3 feet wide and 12 inches deep. You dug up one cubic yard of dirt.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Given that 3 feet is equal to 1 yard, 9 feet equals 3 total yards in length.
- The width is 3 feet which equals 1 yard.
- The height/depth is 12 inches (1 foot) which is equal to one-third of a yard.
Multiplying the three dimensions, length, width and height/depth, will give you the total cubic yardage of your debris. In this case, 3 yards x 1 yard x 1/3 yard equals a single cubic yard of dirt.
|Dimension||Measurement in Feet||Measurement in Yards|
|Length||9 feet||3 yards|
|Width||3 feet||1 yard|
|Height/Depth||1 foot||1/3 yards|
|L x W x H = Volume||27 cubic feet||1 cubic yard|
How Do You Convert Square Feet or Cubic Feet to Cubic Yards?
You can convert area to volume with the right information.
If you know the square footage of your material, you should already know the length and width of it. To convert square feet to cubic yards, you just need to know the height or depth. Once you have that measurement, multiply the square footage by the height/depth in feet. Divide this number by 27 to get a measurement in cubic yards.
If you already have measurements in cubic feet, simply divide them by 27 to convert to cubic yards.
The typical full-size truck bed can hold between 2 to 3 cubic yards of material. That means a 10 cubic yard dumpster can hold at least three pickup truck loads (depending on the weight of your debris).
Here’s what common dumpster sizes can hold in terms of truck loads:
- 20 cubic yard dumpster: Equivalent to about six pickup truck loads.
- 30 cubic yard dumpster: Roughly equivalent to nine pickup trucks' worth of debris.
- 40 cubic yard dumpster: Can hold about 12 pickup trucks of materials.
It may also help to think of a cubic yard in terms of wheelbarrow loads, as it’s a great tool for loading debris into your container. Typically, nine to 12 wheelbarrow trips are equivalent to one cubic yard of material. Keeping this in mind will help you estimate how many cubic yards you've filled.
Now that you know how to measure debris in cubic yards, you can select the correct dumpster size for your project. You will also want to use your measurements to estimate the weight of your debris before your rental.
The weight of a cubic yard is entirely dependent on the material you are disposing of. For reference:
- Mulch weighs about 1,000 pounds per cubic yard, depending on dryness.
- Soil weighs roughly 2,200 pounds per cubic yard.
- Sand, gravel or stone can weigh more than 3,000 pounds per cubic yard.
Throwing Away Something Else?
Use our dumpster weight calculator to estimate how much your debris weighs.
A few additional guidelines for your dumpster rental:
- A dumpster’s volume is measured in cubic yards, which are determined by the interior dimensions of the container.
- Keep your materials below the edges of the container. Nothing should be sticking up over the top or hanging over the sides.
- Maximize the full space of your rental by walking in larger or heavier debris first and filling smaller debris in after.
- Avoid overage fees by knowing and staying under the weight limit of your container.
Note: Volume is not equal to weight limit in regards to the size of a dumpster. In addition to knowing the total volume of what you’re throwing away, knowing the approximate weight of these items will help you avoid overage fees and receive the right size dumpster for your project.
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