Dirt is one of the most abundant materials on our planet. All you have to do to access dirt is dig several feet in your backyard and voila—paydirt! But while a handful of dirt might not seem so heavy, how much does a cubic yard of dirt weigh?
The weight of a yard of dirt depends on how much moisture is in it and whether or not it is compacted. Dry dirt typically has a weight range of 1 to 1.3 tons per yard, whereas wet, compacted dirt can weigh as much as 1.7 tons per yard.
If you have plans for any upcoming construction projects, this guide will assist you in calculating how much dirt you need to get by weight and volume.
What Is Dirt?
Dirt is comprised of decomposed organic matter that is used in construction and gardening projects. The technical difference between dirt and soil is that dirt is devoid of nutrients while also being mixed with silt and clay, whereas soil is a nutrient-rich substance that may still have living organisms inside it.
Although the two are oftentimes used interchangeably, it’s important to make the distinction between the two. Dirt is not an appropriate material for building garden beds since it does not contain any life-sustaining nutrients.
Instead, it is used almost exclusively for construction applications, such as leveling the ground prior to erecting buildings or pouring concrete.
How Much Dirt Is There in a Yard?
Because dirt is comprised of dead soil, rocks, sand, and silt, the weight of soil per cubic yard (shortened as just yard) or per ton varies between supplies. In addition, you have to know how much moisture the dirt retains since moisture adds to its volume and weight.
On average, dry dirt will weigh between 1 and 1.3 tons per yard, while moistened dirt weighs around 1.7 tons per yard. So, depending on the condition of the soil, you might receive more dirt than you bargained for.
How Much Dirt Do I Need?
To figure out how much dirt you need is a simple matter of multiplying the width, length, and depth of the spot you wish to fill.
For instance, let’s say that you want to redo your 10 × 20-foot driveway. Before pouring concrete, you will first need to level the land with dirt. Assuming you need to fill the land with 6 inches of dirt, we can calculate your dirt volume and weight needs by doing the following:
- Volume = 10 feet × 20 feet × 6 inches
- Volume = 10 feet × 20 feet × 0.5 feet
- Volume = 100 cubic feet
To convert cubic feet to cubic yards, you have to divide the cubic-foot figure by 27 (3 × 3 × 3 feet).
- Volume = 100 cubic feet = 3.704 cubic yards
Now, using the average ton-per-cubic-yard ratio from earlier, we can determine how many tons of dirt you need to order.
- Volume = 3.704 cubic yards
- 1 cubic yard of soil = [1 to 1.3] to [1.7] tons
- Weight = [3.704 to 4.815] to [6.297] tons
Finally, how much will the dirt cost you? It depends on the prices set by a local supplier. For instance, the guys at Maryland Landscape Supply sell two tons of soil at $59.99, while the cost of a yard of dirt can cost around $25 per yard in Minnesota. But as you can see,
So, using these sellers’ prices, we can estimate how much money we’ll spend on 3.704 cubic yards of dirt.
- Cost per yard = $25
- Volume = 3.704 cubic yards
- Total Cost = $25 × 3.704 = $92.60*
- Cost per 2 tons = $59.99
- Weight = [3.704 to 4.815] top [6.297] tons
- Cost = [$222.21 to $288.85] to [$377.76]*
*The estimated price figures above do not reflect fuel surcharges for transporting non-fully-loaded trucks
Do I Need to Compact Dirt?
Yes, you do. The volume lost when compacting dirt should be 60%, with a leftover volume at 40%. However, heavy-duty construction sites require a compacted rate of up to 95% (leftover at just 5%). So, when a truckload of dirt arrives at your driveway, you will need to use a steamroller, tamping rammer, forward plate compacter, or one of the dozens of compacting tools to ensure that the dirt is compacted at the correct rate.
Also, you will have to increase how much dirt you order in order to make up for the volume loss after compaction.
The calculations will describe how much soil you should order when compacting at 60% and 95% for your 10 × 20 × 0.5-foot driveway.
- Original Volume = 3.704 cubic yards
- Original Weight = [3.704 to 4.815] to [6.297] tons
- Total Volume Requirement at 60% Compaction = 6.173 cubic yards
- Total Weight Requirement at 60% Compaction = [22.866 to 29.725] to [38.873] tons
- Total Volume at 95% Compaction = 74.08 cubic yards
- Total Weight at 95% Compaction = [274.392 to 356.695] to [466.482] tons
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