Topsoil is the uppermost layer of earth in which all plant life grows. When you break new ground for a gardening project, especially in suburban areas, adding an inch or two increases the health and success of your landscape. Topsoil, fill dirt and sand all are soil products with topsoil most often purchased for lawns and gardens. Available in 40 pound bags from big box stores and garden nurseries, topsoil is also sold in bulk by the cubic yard at companies that specialize in landscape materials. Here's how much a yard of "dirt" is.
What Is a Cubic Yard?
A cubic yard (yd3) is a measurement of volume in the U.S. Customary and Imperial systems of measurement. It is determined by multiplying length x width x height/depth. One cubic yard is equal to 27 cubic feet.
|Cost Comparison by Cubic Yard: Fill dirt, Topsoil, Sand|
|Fill Dirt||$5-$15 per cubic yard|
|Topsoil||$10-$55 per cubic yard|
|Sand||$15-$40 per cubic yard|
Average Cost of Topsoil
It can take hundreds of years for topsoil to form which begins with the breakdown of rock and decaying organic materials. This makes it a valuable natural resource and more costly that other basic soil components like fill dirt and sand. The depth and quality of your topsoil can vary greatly so obtaining a soil analysis before starting a landscaping or gardening project can save time and cost.
Retailers like garden centers and home improvement stores usually sell topsoil in 40 pound bags. One bag will cover an area of 12 square feet to an depth of inch. Topsoil is sold under many different brand names and content can differ. Generally, the more organic material in the product, the higher the cost. Most products fall into a range of $3 to $5 per 40 pound bag.
If you just want to amend an existing bed, bagged topsoil may fill your need, however starting a new lawn or garden bed is most cost effective when material is purchased in bulk. Topsoil sold by the scoop (frontloader bucket) or truckload is measured by the cubic yard and available from companies that sell landscaping materials. Expect to pay between $12 and $55 per cubic yard. Delivery can increase this amount up to around $100 or more depending on soil quality and distance. Some retailers and garden centers also sell bulk quantities, but costs are often higher for both product and delivery.
Calculate How Much Topsoil You Need
A new lawn, garden or flowerbed requires from 3 to 8 inches of topsoil. One cubic yard covers 100 square feet to a depth of 3 inches. Your landscape company can help you calculate how much you need and a number of topsoil calculators can be found on the internet. If you want to tackle the math yourself, follow these steps:
- Measure the length and width of your project.
- Length X width = square footage.
- Convert the depth requirement to a fraction of a foot. Example: 3 inches = 1/4 foot or .25
- Square footage X depth = cubic feet
- Divide by 27 to get cubic yards
Factors Affecting Cost of Topsoil
The factors that can affect the cost of top soil are product quality, delivery, and where you live.
Types of Topsoil
There are different compositions for topsoil with dozens of different brand names and manufacturers. Essentially, you are choosing one of three types: black dirt, loam, or screened loam.
- Black dirt is least expensive and is a basic mix of loam and sand with small amounts of silt and clay.
- Loam is a middle grade topsoil higher in organic materials and just slightly more costly than black dirt. Ingredients may include organic compost or composted manure.
- Screened loam is put through a fine mesh screen to eliminate weed seeds and larger particles like small rocks and wood. This is the most expensive type of topsoil with small, uniform particles well adapted for plants. .
Delivery for bulk topsoil is a convenience and can save wear and tear on your vehicle. If you own a truck or trailer it should be rated to carry the weight of the topsoil you need to transport. Landscape companies may be equipped to deliver themselves or they may contract out for the service. If you are purchasing topsoil by the truckload, ask what type of truck is used. Rates may be based on an hourly fee or the number of miles to your home. This can raise delivery costs for rural homeowners. In more urban locations, access can be an issue, so check with your supplier to make sure the delivery vehicle can get to your property and to the final destination for depositing the load once they arrive.
Costs can increase for delivery in rural areas, but finding a local source may be easier. For suppliers, materials for soil products are easier to access in less populated areas. Shipping costs incurred by suppliers may be reflected in higher cost to the urban consumer.
How do I measure the amount of topsoil in my yard?
Dig down 8 inches and look for soil to become more dense and lighter in color. The darker top layer is measured as topsoil. If color stays fairly uniform, test with your shovel. Once you penetrate the topsoil layer, you will feel more resistance.
How much does a cubic yard of topsoil weigh?
It varies depending on how much moisture it contains. One cubic yard of dry topsoil averages around 1,080 pounds. When wet that number can increase to up to a ton or 2,000 pounds.
How much topsoil is in a scoop?
A scoop of topsoil is usually equivalent to a front loader bucket full or around 1/2 cubic yard.
How many 40 pound bags of topsoil make a cubic yard?
One cubic yard of topsoil is equal to 36 (40) pound bags.
The shocking truth about topsoil. MSU Extension
Determining topsoil depth. Determining aerable land classes