How Much Is a Cubic Yard?

bricks in a dumpster

Updated January 10, 2024

Dumpster rentals come in a variety of sizes, and each size is measured in cubic yards.

Knowing how to estimate your junk or debris in cubic yards will make it easy for you to choose the right dumpster size for your project.

A cubic yard measures 1 yard L x 1 yard W x 1 yard H.

1 yard is 3 feet, so 1 cubic yard is 27 cubic feet.

To get a better idea of exactly how much junk or debris fits into a cubic yard and the most popular dumpster sizes, we’ll take a closer look at typical dumpster dimensions and loading capacities so that you can make the best choice for your project.

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How to Measure the Volume of Waste

Measure the Area

Getting a rough estimate of the volume of garbage or debris you have to get rid of is actually a fairly straight-forward task. 

Start by measuring the length, width, and height of your waste pile in feet. Convert inches into feet by diving the number of inches by 12.

If your pile is too large to comfortable use a tape measure, consider using a measuring wheel instead.

Estimate Volume

Once you have these dimensions, multiple them all together (LxWxH).

Because 1 cubic yard equals 27 feet, you'll then take your total (LxWxH) and divide it by 27. 

  • Convert inches to feet: 12 inches ÷ 12 = 1 foot
  • Multiply LxWxH: 9 x 3 x 1 = 27
  • Divid answer y 27: 27 ÷ 27 = 1 cubic yard

Cubic yardage can also easily be calculated by converting all three of your measured dimensions (of your pile of waste) into yards and multiplying them together. 

There is 3 feet in 1 yard, so take each measurement (length, width, and height) and divide it by 3 to convert your measurements to yards.

We'll take the sample measurements used above to explain:

  • If your length is 9 ft: 9 ÷ 3 = 3 yards
  • If your width is 3 ft: 3 ÷ 3 = 3 yards
  • If your height is 1 ft: 1 ÷ 3 = 1/3 yard
  • Take all 3 covered measurements and multiply them for your cubic yardage: 3 x 3 x 1/3 = 1 cubic yard

Dumpster Loading Capacities

Now that you have an estimate of your waste's cubic yardage, choose a dumpster size that best suites your disposal needs.

PRO TIP: If you're ever on the fence, rent a dumpster sightly larger than the size you estimate you'll need to avoid underestimating your load and incurring overage fees. This is especially true for significantly heavy waste, which we'll discuss more in detail in the next section.


Dumpster Size Average Dimensions (LxWxH) Pick-Up Truck Loads Wheelbarrow Loads 33-Gallon Trash Bags Average Weight Limit
10 Yard Dumpster 12x8x4 ft 3-4 90-135 55-65 2-3 tons
15 Yard Dumpster 15x8x4 ft 4-5 135-202 82-98 2-4 tons
20 Yard Dumpster 22x8x4 ft 6-8 180-270 110-130 3-5 tons
30 Yard Dumpster 22x8x6 ft 8-10 270-405 170-190 4-6 tons
40 Yard Dumpster 22x8x8 ft 12-16 360-540 230-250 6-8 tons
dumpster sizes, dimensions, and loading capacities infographic

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Average Weight of Different Waste

As we mentioned earlier, the weight of your debris will play a factor in the size of the dumpster you'll need.

Every dumpster has a weight limit to keep the rental company's employees, equipment, and customers safe.

For example, 10 cubic yards of concrete could not be safely placed in a 10 yard dumpster the way that 10 cubic yards of general household trash could. Because concrete weighs significantly more than other types of trash, you would need multiple 10 yard dumpsters to safely haul away that amount of heavy waste, like concrete.

View the table below to get an idea of how much these common dumpster items weigh with a volume of just 1 cubic yard.


1 Cubic Yard of Material Average Weight
Asphalt and Concrete 4,000 lbs
Bricks 3,400 lbs
Carpet 2,300-3,200 lbs
Drywall 500 lbs
Gravel or Rock 3,000 lbs
Household Debris 150-300 lbs
Leaves and Brush 400-500 lbs
Mulch 600-1,000 lbs
Sand 2,700 lbs
Scrap Metal 1,000 lbs
Scrap Wood 300 lbs
Shingles (Asphalt) 2,500 lbs
Shingles (Slate) 9,500 lbs
Soil 2,000 lbs

The good news is, if this all sounds confusing to you, a reputable dumpster provider will be able to help guide you in the right direction.

Speaking with multiple companies and getting several dumpster rental quotes is easily the best way to get an idea of exactly which size dumpster you'll need and what a fair price is for dumpster rentals in your area.

Hometown makes it fast and simple to get free quotes from locally-owned dumpster rental companies in your area. Our single quote request form makes it easy to fill out a few short answers about your project and location and have local service providers reach back out with their pricing and availability.

Never be afraid to ask the dumpster companies questions if you're unsure of any part of the process, and be sure to thoroughly go over the rental terms and agreement to ensure you aren't stuck with any added fees on your final bill.

PRO TIP: Make sure that your open-top dumpster rental is covered with a tarp or overhang if it'll be sitting in any type of precipitation. Wet debris weighs significantly more than dry debris and the added weight can push you over your dumpster's weight limit, resulting in hefty penalty fees.

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