Owning a home can be a big job, especially when you want to add features like retaining walls, raised garden beds, or decorative gravel around trees and shrubs. Depending on the quantity you need and the type of vehicle you own, it may be better to hire a company to deliver landscaping materials for you. Most landscaping material suppliers have a minimum charge, making small loads costly. If you need to make more than one trip with your own vehicle, then it may make sense to let someone else haul for you, so that you are getting your material at the best price and saving time in the process.
Dirt, sand, and gravel are typically sold by the cubic yard. This is 3’ x 3’ x 3’, or 27 cubic feet in volume. A cubic yard of material will cover approximately a 10’ x 10’ area to a depth of 2”. Using this information, you can calculate how much material you need for your project. Measure the area in feet, and convert the depth in inches you need to feet. For instance, a depth of 4” will be .33 feet. Multiply the width x length x depth and this gives you the amount of material you need in cubic feet. Divide this by 27 to get the volume you need in cubic yards.
For example, a 20’ x 15’ area that you would like to fill to the depth of 3” works out to 2.77 cubic yards.
Now that you know how much material you will need, you can figure out how many loads of material it will take for different vehicles. A cubic yard can weigh around one ton for dirt and up to one and a half tons for sand and gravel. Our example, 2.77 cubic yards weights between 2.5 and 4 tons. That is a lot of weight! A light duty pick-up truck has a hauling capacity between a quarter ton and a half ton, depending on the model. It would take several trips to move that much material, with gravel yard minimums charged for each load. Single axle dump trucks have a load capacity of approximately 9 tons, easily carrying between 6 and 7 yards of material. Tandem axle trucks can carry double the load of a single axle truck, or around 12-15 cubic yards. So, unless you need a half cubic yard or less, it is probably far more economical to hire a company like Mr. Dirt to deliver dirt, sand, or gravel to your site.
Besides being built for hauling and delivering loose material, dump trucks have other advantages. Gravel used for grading a driveway can be spread over a large area by controlling the rate stone is allowed to exit the truck’s hopper doors while driving at a steady speed along the path being graded. A skilled operator can distribute stone evenly and make multiple passes with the same load. You will still need a skid steer or loader with a grading blade to smooth out and evenly distribute your gravel, but the process is greatly speeded up by distributing stone this way. It may be worth noting that this trick does not work with fill dirt or topsoil. It still takes special equipment to fill and level an area with dirt.
If you are curious about the different types of material available, be sure to check our material reference chart.