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What Is a Cubic Yard of Soil?

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Soil, especially topsoil, is a valuable commodity. It is bought and sold by volume rather than by weight. The standard units of volume are the cubic yard and the cubic foot. Builders may refer to a cubic yard as a "yard of soil."


One cubic yard is the volume contained within a cube with sides 3 feet long. It is equivalent to 27 cubic feet. One scoop of an excavator bucket contains half a cubic yard, so a cubic yard is also known as "two scoops."


Moisture content, stones and the type of rock from which the soil is made influence the weight of soil. A cubic yard of topsoil weighs an average of 2,700 lbs. -- dry sand weighs the same -- but compact wet sandy soil weighs about 3,200 lbs. per cubic yard, according to data provided by the Department of Ecology in Washington state.


Vegetable gardens require a minimum depth of 10 to 12 inches of topsoil. One cubic yard of topsoil is enough to create a vegetable patch measuring 27 to 33 square feet. It is also enough soil to support a lawn measuring 81 square feet.

Average Weight Of A Cubic Yard Of Soil

Whether you’re borrowing your neighbor’s truck or plan to hook up a trailer behind your car, it’s important to know the average weight of a cubic yard of soil and how much payload your vehicle can handle. Then all you’ll have to think about is how many yards of soil to buy. Moisture in soil holds it together and is a primary factor in determining the average weight of a cubic yard of soil, no matter what components the soil is made of. For instance, 1 cubic yard of dry soil topsoil weighs about 2,000 pounds, while the same soil can weigh around 3,000 pounds when saturated. To determine how many cubic yards of soil you need for your project, measure the space’s width, length and depth in feet and then multiply them together and divide by 27 to convert to cubic yards. For example, your space is 10 feet wide, 20 feet long and 1 foot deep.

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