Most home construction projects require a certain amount of dirt to get the job done, so providing yourself with an accurate estimation is essential for staying within your budget and time frame.
Other materials for your project such as lumber, tiling, nails, insulation are fairly simple to calculate beforehand, but dirt is initially somewhat harder to figure out. You cannot simply measure it out like you do with a piece of wood.
Fortunately, there is an easy formula you can follow to estimate how much dirt you will need for your project—beginning by ensuring that you are getting the right dirt.
What Type of Dirt Should I Use?
When it comes to construction, there are two main classifications of dirt available, each with vastly different characteristics and uses. Choosing the wrong dirt type could result in some major issues for your project both short term and down the road.
Fill dirt is dirt that is located below the topsoil layer. It consists primarily of hard, rocky material, and lacks organic compounds and nutrients. This makes fill dirt the ideal choice for uses such as the leveling off of a surface for building prior to construction, filling holes and divots in your landscaping, and creating sloping to grade your soil around your property.
The reason for this is due to the chemical and physical profile of fill dirt. Since it lacks an abundance of organic material, it will not break down or form air pockets throughout the soil. Fill dirt is stable, resisting any kind of shifting.
Topsoil is the outermost level of soil, and is typically used for planting and sustaining vegetation. This soil is full of organic compounds that are constantly breaking down and providing rich nutrients to the dirt, which then provide nourishment to plants and other vegetation.
Topsoil is prone to shifting as gasses form and escape within the dirt. While this would significantly affect large structures placed on top of the soil, anything planted using topsoil will be just fine. Topsoil is often used on top of fill dirt for planting, once the fill dirt has been utilized as a sort of foundation for the topsoil.
How to Estimate
Dirt is measured differently from other construction materials. The most common unit of measurement you will encounter is cubic yards.
Here is how cubic footage works: 1 cubic foot equals 12 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches, while 1 cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet.
Imagine an empty cube that has sides of 1 yard each. Fill that empty cube up with dirt, and you have a perfectly-packaged cubic yard of dirt.
Measuring out the dirt amount beforehand can be done in two different ways:
This is how you would determine how much topsoil you would need for a flower bed that’s 6” deep and 12’ long by 12’ wide:
- Convert the dimension in inches to feet (6” ÷ 12” = 0.5’)
- Multiply the three dimensions together to find the number of cubic feet (0.5’ x 12’ x 12 = 72 cubic feet)
- Divide the cubic feet by the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard (27) to find the number of cubic yards (72 ÷ 27 = 2.67 cu. yd.).
Therefore, you would need 2.67 cubic yards of dirt to fill the flower bed.
Here’s a different calculation for the same amount. This involves converting all three dimensions to yards:
- Convert the dimension in inches to yards (6” ÷ 36” = 0.167 yards)
- Convert the dimensions in feet to yards (12’ ÷ 3 = 4 yards)
- Multiply the three dimensions together to find the number of cubic yards (0.167 x 4 x 4 = 2.67 cu. yd.)
If you aren’t comfortable doing the calculations yourself, there are several online dirt calculators you can find with a quick Google search.
Save Time and Money by Planning Ahead
The secret to a successful home project is to plan every detail ahead of time. Accurate estimates of all materials beforehand is essential. Dirt may be a little more difficult to estimate before a project, but as long as you have proper measurements, and the proper dirt type, you can initiate your home project with full assurance. Erring on the side of too much dirt is recommended. You’ll avoid costly and bothersome delays, and if you have leftover dirt after a project, we can pick it up from you for free! Contact Dirt Connections for more information.