April 25, 2024
Learn how to calculate yards of concrete by understanding the basic formula and the essential tools, including their advantages and disadvantages. Find out what mistakes to avoid and whether DIY or professional services better suit your project needs.

Calculating Yards of Concrete: A Comprehensive Guide

Calculating yards of concrete is a crucial step in any construction project. It not only determines the amount of materials needed but also helps to avoid costly mistakes. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional contractor, understanding the basics of calculating yards of concrete is essential. In this article, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide, tool-based guide, common mistakes to avoid, calculating the cost, and DIY versus professional services.

Step-by-Step Guide

The formula for calculating yards of concrete is simple. You need to measure the length, width, and thickness of the area you wish to cover, and then multiply the three dimensions together. Here is a detailed guide:

  1. Measure the length and width of the area to be covered, using a tape measure or laser measure.
  2. Record the dimensions and ensure you take note of any odd corners, cut-outs or irregularities that may affect the total area.
  3. Measure the thickness required. Normal thickness for residential work is 4 inches (10 cm) while commercial work may require 6 inches (15 cm) or more.
  4. Multiply the length, width, and thickness measurements together to get the total number of cubic inches.
  5. Convert cubic inches to cubic yards by dividing the total cubic measurement by 46,656 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic yard).

For greater accuracy, you can round up the number of cubic yards needed to ensure you have enough material to cover the entire area. It’s also wise to include an additional 10% to 15% to allow for wastage, especially when doing intricate or irregular designs.

Tool-Based Guide

Several tools can help you measure the area before calculating the amount of concrete you need. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Tape measure or laser measure
  • String and measurements- this is the cheapest way to calculate area, however, many people find it hard and it is not accurate
  • Boxed frames or rulers – they are costly in most cases and cannot work effectively in small areas

A tape measure is a common tool for measuring length, width, and height. Laser measures can be more convenient and can quickly calculate complex shapes and linear distance up to 330ft (100 meters).

However, if you’re not confident in your measuring ability, there’s software available that can help to calculate the amount of concrete required. For example, the Concrete Calculator app can help you measure the cubic yards of concrete needed for slabs, foundations, and walls. Other software includes the Ready-Mix Calculator and Concrete Beam Calculator.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Some common mistakes people make while calculating yards of concrete include:

  • Not measuring the area correctly
  • Forgetting to adjust the dimensions for odd shapes, curves, and indentations
  • Calculating the wrong thickness
  • Not taking wastage into consideration
  • Choosing the wrong mix design

Ensure you accurately measure the area, including the odd shapes or indentations that may affect the total area. Check the thickness of the area that needs to be covered and always add 10% to 15% for waste allowance. It’s essential to choose the right concrete mix design based on your project requirements.

Calculating the Cost

The cost of a concrete project will depend on several factors primarily:

  1. The type of concrete – different types of concrete vary in cost
  2. The location – the cost of concrete varies by region.
  3. The size of the project

The formula for calculating the material cost will be:

  • Cost of cement (per bag)*
  • Number of bags
  • Cost of sand (per ton)
  • Tons of sand required
  • Cost of gravel*
  • Tons of gravel required
  • Cost of reinforcements*
  • Total cost of labor, including equipment rental costs. (Varies by location)

Here’s an example:

  • If the mixture requires 60 80lb bags of cement, and the bag is on average $6, then the cost of cement would be $360
  • If a cubic yard of sand is needed, and one cubic yard of sand typically costs about $40-50, then the cost of sand would be around $40-50.
  • A typical mixture requires 3 tons of gravel, and it costs about $60-$75 per ton, the price resulting in $180-225.
  • Other factors like cost of reinforcing rod, equipment rental, and labor, could vary by location but typically will average roughly $75-$100

DIY vs. Professional Services

When it comes to pouring concrete, both DIY and professional services have advantages and disadvantages.

DIY projects can be cost-effective if you feel comfortable working with concrete. It can also be a fun way to learn new skills and create something that you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come. However, DIY requires a lot of time and effort to get the job done. You will also need to purchase or rent the necessary tools and equipment if you don’t have them already.

Professional services are usually more expensive than DIY but tend to be faster, more efficient, and deliver a higher quality finish than DIY. They already have the tools and materials needed and can quickly manage any issues that may come up during the project. Hiring professionals can also be more financially viable in the long run as they can reduce the risks associated with redoing a job due to poor execution. However, you will need to check the credentials of the contractor you’re considering hiring and ensure they have a good reputation and experienced in the specific work required.


Calculating yards of concrete is a crucial step in any construction project, whether you are a DIY enthusiast or a professional contractor. Accurate measuring ensures that you don’t under or over-order required materials, which can save time and money. The key to a successful project is to take the time to measure the area correctly, avoid common mistakes, and choose the right mix design. With the right tools, such as laser measures or apps, and knowledge acquired from reading this article, calculating the yards of concrete needed is a breeze.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *