How Much Does a Yard of Topsoil Weigh? Size, Cost and More

how much is a yard of topsoil

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When your lawn and gardens struggle to thrive it can be due to not enough or poor quality topsoil. All plant roots, including turf grass, take nutrients from this uppermost soil layer and some roots extend deeper then others. Lawns thrive quite well in 3 to 6 inches of topsoil, while vegetable crops need up to 8 inches.

Learning the depth of your topsoil and how much you might need to add saves you time, labor and cost. Here's what to know about how much a yard of topsoil weighs so you can get just the right amount.

What Is Topsoil?

Topsoil is the uppermost layer of earth's crust in which all plant life exists. It's full of minerals from disintegrating rock, wood and other elemental decay, and activity from microorganisms, worms, insects and other invertebrates.

In the context of the garden and yard, top soil is a permeable layer of soil roots can penetrate to absorb water and nutrients. It can extend up to 10 inches deep but can also be shallow depending on surrounding geography and land use.

Topsoil is removed to excavate building sites, including for new home construction. It can also be washed away by flooding or lost through erosion and adverse weather events. When planning a new garden or lawn, you need to know if your topsoil is sufficient to support plant growth.


A soil test gives the pH level of your soil and can help you decide what type of topsoil to add based on what plants you plan to grow. The consistency of existing topsoil is also important. Most plants grow best in well-draining loam.

Find Out the Depth of Your Topsoil

To learn the depth of your topsoil you need a shovel, long stick, marker and measuring tape.

  1. Dig a hole in the area you intend to plant. When the shovel encounters solid rock, hard clay, sand or cement you've reached the bottom of the topsoil layer.
  2. Insert the stick in the hole, mark it at ground level.
  3. Take it out and measure the length from the mark to the bottom of the stick to find out how deep the topsoil goes.

Once you learn the number of inches of topsoil you need for proper planting depth, you'll be able to calculate the total number of cubic yards or feet you need to add.

Formula to Calculate Top Soil

Measure the feet length and width of the area you want to cover. Now convert into feet the number of inches of topsoil you need for depth. Multiply these three figures to find our how many cubic feet you need. A cubic yard is 27 cubic feet so divide by 27 to learn how many cubic yards are needed for your project.

  • (Length x Width x Depth) / 27 = cubic yards of topsoil

Here is an example formula for the number of cubic yards needed to plant a 10-by-20 foot vegetable garden that needs an additional 4 inches of topsoil.

  • Length 20 feet x Width 10 feet x Depth .3 feet = 60 cubic feet
  • 60 cubic feet / 27 = 2.2 cubic yards

How Much Does Topsoil Weigh

Topsoil is sold by the cubic yard and cubic foot. A dry cubic yard can weigh from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. A wet cubic yard can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds.

Bulk topsoil is usually sold by the bucket or truckload. The bucket of the average front loader holds about 1/2 cubic yard. A dump truck holds between 10 and 14 cubic yards of topsoil. A cubic foot of topsoil is most often sold in 40-pound bags.

Topsoil cost is not based on weight; however, factors that affect weight make a difference in the quality of the topsoil you purchase.

Factors Affecting Topsoil Weight

  • Wet topsoil soil can weigh up to twice as much as dry topsoil depending on the amount of moisture it contains. It isn't ideal for plant growth since too much moisture leads to compaction and root rot. Wet topsoil is also difficult to spread evenly.
  • Topsoil with heavy clay content adds to total weight. This soil type is not ideal for plants because it holds water, clumps, and compacts easily. The pH of heavy clay soil also is too alkaline for many types of plants.
  • Too much solid debris can sometimes increase the weight of topsoil, but what's certain is that it will take longer to break down and release nutrients plants can use.


Weight is also a consideration if you plan to transport bulk topsoil or spread it yourself. You'll need a vehicle rated for a minimum 1,000 pounds to move 1 cubic yard.

Cost of a Yard of Topsoil

Topsoil is graded based on content and quality, which affects cost. Other factors that add up include delivery for bulk purchases and labor to have it spread.

Topsoil sold by the bag at big box garden centers is often wet or unscreened. The average cost of topsoil is $2 to $5 per 40-pound bag. This inexpensive type is good for leveling an area of lawn or filling in holes. To get turfgrass or plants to grow, you will need to amend it with fertilizer or compost.

When you're planning a new lawn, flower beds, or a raised garden, consider investing in a better quality topsoil for best results. Purchase in bulk from a quality landscaping company or look for high grade, bagged topsoil at garden centers and nurseries.

Types and Cost of Topsoil
 Type  Contents Use  Cost per cubic yard
 Unscreened soil, rocks, sticks, debris filling holes, leveling  $10-$25
 Screened uniform, smooth soil lawns, flower beds  $20-$40
 Organic Mix soil, compost, manure, peat raised garden beds  $30-$50
 Landscape Mix 50% sand, 50% organic matter trees and shrubs  $25-$40
 Screened or Super Loam sand, silt, clay gardening projects  $17-$50
 Black Dirt high organic matter lawns and gardens  $15-$25
 Organic Compost decomposing organic matter lawns and gardens  $20-$40