What Is the Average Cost for 1 Yard of Topsoil?

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If you're thinking that your landscaping or flower bed project could use some topsoil, you may wonder, "How much is a yard of topsoil"? With an average cost between $12 and $55, the amount of variation in the answer may surprise you. The cost of the soil and having it delivered varies considerably based on your location, gas prices, minimum order totals, and the quality of the topsoil.


No matter what you're using topsoil for, it's important to understand exactly how much you need to budget (and where you need to direct the delivery truck) before you begin.

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How Much Is a Yard of Topsoil?

The most cost-effective way to buy topsoil (or mulch for that matter) is to have a local company deliver a truckload in a dump truck. Prices for bulk topsoil vary across the country, ranging from about $12 to $55 per cubic yard. You will likely have to pay delivery charges on top of that, which can range from $15 to $150 per load. With delivery costs included, homeowners spend an average of $766 for a topsoil delivery.


How Much Are Bags of Topsoil?

Some retailers sell topsoil in 40-pound bags, and prices range from $2 to $6 per bag, although this cost may be higher in some locations. Each bag contains up to 1 cubic foot of topsoil depending on its moisture content and the type of organic material. There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard, so bagged topsoil covers a range of costs between $54 and $162 per cubic yard, with an average cost of $108.

At this rate, purchasing topsoil in bags is only suitable for very small areas. Larger garden soil projects quickly make buying this amount of topsoil in bags cost-prohibitive.

Why Does Topsoil Cost So Much?

You may be having some sticker shock at this point. Fifty dollars a cubic yard may seem like a lot to pay for dirt. But although it may look like plain old dirt, topsoil has the highest concentration of microorganisms, organic matter, and inorganic mineral particles. Good, rich topsoil full of organic matter and naturally occurring minerals can't be produced in a dirt factory. It must be made by Mother Nature, and it takes more than 500 years and sometimes twice that long for her to make 1 inch of high-quality topsoil.


It's also of note that topsoil isn't found everywhere. It is often removed from a yard during construction. It can also be absent in mountainous or rocky areas. Even in areas where you find topsoil, you may not have the amount you need for plant growth.

This means topsoil has to be sourced, collected, and transported, and all of these activities add to the cost. Topsoil is often run through a screen as well to eliminate rocks and chunks of debris. Screened topsoil costs more, as does topsoil that is amended with compost or composted manure.


Formula to Figure Cubic Yards of Topsoil

Many websites offer online topsoil calculators to help you determine how much topsoil you need, but really it's only a simple equation. To figure out how many cubic yards of topsoil you need without using a calculator, apply this formula: square feet x soil depth = cubic feet. Dividing the cubic feet by 27 gives you cubic yards. Here are your three easy steps:



  1. Figure out the square footage of the area where you want topsoil by multiplying the length times the width. For example, if you intend to use the topsoil in a vegetable garden that measures 9 x 30 feet, you need the topsoil to cover a space of 270 square feet.
  2. Multiply the square footage by the desired depth of the topsoil to come up with cubic feet. Generally, garden topsoil for a vegetable garden should be about 12 inches (1 foot) deep. (As a comparison, lawns need 6 inches of topsoil.) For vegetable gardens, this means you multiply the square foot calculation by 1. Here, 270 square feet times 1 foot is 270 cubic feet.
  3. Divide the total cubic feet by 27 since there are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. Here, 270 cubic feet divided by 27 gives you 10 cubic yards. You will need 10 cubic yards of topsoil to put a 12-inch layer on a 9 x 30-foot garden bed.


Looking at Topsoil Logistics

When you're considering purchasing topsoil for a landscaping project, remember to consider the logistics. A cubic yard of topsoil weighs about a ton, a little more or less depending on its moisture content, so think about where in your yard or driveway you can realistically have it delivered. Consider not just the weight of the load but the ease with which the delivery truck can get to your site. Low-hanging branches and wires, narrow streets, and other obstacles may make delivery difficult and therefore more expensive.


For large areas, you may want to inquire about any additional charges for delivering and spreading the topsoil. One cubic yard of topsoil works out to between 9 and 14 wheelbarrow loads. If you're applying your topsoil to a lawn or another large area and need several cubic yards, it may be worth paying extra money to have some help with the labor.

Quality Concerns

The term "topsoil" refers to the top several inches of soil, generally 4 to 8 inches; however, the term is sometimes used loosely. If you see what looks like a bargain price for topsoil, be sure it isn't just fill dirt. When leveling a site for construction, building contractors scrape off the top layers of soil, which may be suitable to use as topsoil but may also contain unwanted debris and minimal organic matter.



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