Dirt such as topsoil is used for many different landscaping applications around a property. While knowing what type of dirt to use for your project is crucial, knowing the proper measurements and increments that it comes in is very helpful, as well. Topsoil generally comes in cubic yards, which almost always weighs an approximate amount.
Before going into how much a yard of topsoil weighs, let us first go over what topsoil is and what it is generally used for.
What is Topsoil?
Dirt is most often categorized into two main types: fill dirt and topsoil. Fill dirt is the dirt below topsoil, and usually has a low amount of organic material, consisting of rockier material.
Topsoil is the very top layer of dirt in the earth’s surface. This layer is usually around 4 to 12 inches deep from the surface, and consists of nutrients and organic matter. High quality topsoil often contains lots of carbon, nitrogen, and other helpful nutrients that directly contribute to better plant growth.
Topsoil is the best soil to use for planting and gardening. The increased amount of organic matter and nutrients provides more oxygen to the plants, facilitating healthy roots and added growth. Because of the increased amount of organic matter, topsoil does have a bigger propensity to break down due to the collapse of air pockets, so it is only suitable for the very top layer of landscaping, rather than being used as a supporting layer under solid structures and landscaping.
Additional items such as fertilizers and compost can be added to your topsoil to increase the amount of nutrients and oxygen inside of it. Topsoil can even be be converted into garden soil with enough composting and fertilizer additions, but the process can take months.
Regardless of what you do with it, topsoil should always be placed on top of fill dirt once it has been set, especially if you want your vegetation to flourish.
What Soil Type Do I Need?
Choosing the right soil type for your project is crucial. Using the wrong soil type can result in a multitude of problems in both the short and long term.
If you need to fill gaps, holes, and divots around a property, fill dirt is the way to go. This dirt can also be used to grade your property’s soil levels, create slopes and ditches, and also create a foundation to build upon.
Topsoil is always used on top of fill dirt, or in isolation in a planter or garden box. Uses include flowerbeds around your property, the top of the soil for grass planting, and for gardening as well. Using fill dirt in place of topsoil can result in malnourished plants that will either die, or fail to grow to their full potential.
How to Measure Topsoil
As mentioned earlier, topsoil most often comes in cubic yards, although smaller amounts can be purchased, often in bags measured in cubic feet.
1 cubic foot equals 12 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches, while 1 cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet. For reference, imagine an empty cube that has sides of 1 yard. Fill that empty cube up with soil, and you have a perfectly-packaged cubic yard of dirt.
Measuring out the dirt amount beforehand can be done in two different ways:
Using Method #1
This is how you would determine how much topsoil you would need for a flower bed that is 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.
Using Method #2
Here is 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 are not comfortable doing the calculations yourself, online dirt calculators are easy to find on any search engine.
How Much Does This Weigh?
One cubic yard of topsoil weighs approximately 1,080 pounds. The estimate is based on the cubic yard calculation. One cubic foot of topsoil weighs around 40 pounds. The exact weight will depend on various conditions. Some of the factors that can affect the weight include moisture content and any small debris found in the soil. Topsoil does contain far less sediment than fill dirt, so the weight is more consistent in general.
Due to the excessive weight that a cubic yard presents, you are always better off relying on a company to deliver the dirt to your property.
Planning Your Project for Success
Dirt can be somewhat difficult to plan for, even with all the right measurements. As long as you do your part in measuring and ensuring the right soil type, you can rest assured that the project will be successful. At worst, you will have some extra soil leftover that you can stash away for future projects, turn to compost, or give to a friend or neighbor.
Now that you know what type of dirt to use for your project and the proper measurements and increments soil comes in, you can order the correct amount of truckloads for your project.