How Much Is a Cubic Yard?
What Is a Cubic Yard?
A cubic yard is the volume of a cube with the length, width and height of one yard (3 feet or 36 inches). One cubic yard is equal to 27 cubic feet. To help you picture this, the volume of two washing machines is just over a cubic yard.
Because of their shape, dumpster volume is calculated in cubic yards. Knowing how to calculate cubic yards and estimate the amount of debris you have will help you choose the right container size for your project.
What Is the Difference Between a Yard and a Cubic Yard?
A yard measures a two-dimensional area, and a cubic yard measures three-dimensional volume, or how much a space can hold.
What Does a Cubic Yard Look Like?
To measure in cubic yards, you will first need to measure the area in inches or feet and then calculate its volume. Use these steps to determine your volume in terms of yards:
- Measure the length, width and height (or depth) of your debris or the area it is taking up.
- Convert measurements to yards by either dividing measurements in feet by 3 or dividing measurements in inches by 36.
- Once you have your volume in yards, 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, if you dig up a flower bed that is 9 feet long, 3 feet wide and 12 inches deep, you will have one cubic yard of dirt. This is how it breaks down:
- 3 feet equals 1 yard, so 9 feet equals 3 total yards in length.
- The width of 3 feet equals 1 yard.
- The height/depth is 12 inches (1 foot), which equals 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 example, 3 yards x 1 yard x 1/3 yard = 1 cubic yard of dirt.
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 simply 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 (the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard) to get a measurement in cubic yards.
If you already have measurements in cubic feet, divide them by 27 to convert to cubic yards.
After you’ve calculated the volume of your debris in cubic yards, it still may be difficult to picture how the dumpster size you’re choosing compares to other disposal methods, such as garbage bags, pick-up truck beds or wheelbarrows. In addition, for some types of project debris that don’t line up as easily as a flower bed, it can be difficult to measure how many cubic yards you’re going to have.
As a point of reference, we’ve broken down how much debris our most common dumpster sizes can hold compared to these other disposal methods:
- 20 cubic yard dumpster: Equivalent to about 80-100 33-gallon trash bags, 6 pickup truck loads or 180-270 wheelbarrow loads.
- 30 cubic yard dumpster: Equivalent to about 135-155 33-gallon trash bags, 9 pickup truck loads or 270-405 wheelbarrow loads.
- 40 cubic yard dumpster: Equivalent to about 180-200 33-gallon trash bags, 12 pickup truck loads or 360-540 wheelbarrow loads.
In addition to volume, the weight of your debris is an important factor to consider prior to disposal. You should also use your measurements to estimate the weight of your debris before your dumpster rental.
The weight of a cubic yard depends entirely on the materials you are disposing of. For reference, the following lists the approximate weight of one cubic yard of common materials:
- 1 cubic yard of mulch weighs about 1,000 pounds, depending on dryness.
- 1 cubic yard of soil weighs roughly 2,200 pounds.
- 1 cubic yard of sand, gravel or stone can weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
- 1 cubic yard of roof shingles can weigh between 4,200 - 7,000 pounds.
- 1 cubic yard of concrete or asphalt weighs about 4,000 pounds.
- 1 cubic yard of drywall weighs about 500 pounds.
- 1 cubic yard of carpet can weigh between 2,300 - 3,200 pounds.
Once you know how to measure the size and weight of your debris in cubic yards, you can confidently select the correct dumpster size for your project. If you’re getting rid of furniture, household junk or another item not listed here, our dumpster size chart is a helpful resource to learn what container size is best for the volume and weight of your materials.
Throwing Away Something Else?
Use our dumpster weight calculator to estimate how much your debris weighs.
Please Note: Volume is not equal to weight in regards to the size of the dumpster. In addition to knowing the total volume of what you’re throwing away, knowing the approximate weight of these items will help you receive the right size dumpster for your project and stay within its weight limits.
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