Many products are sold as topsoil but not all contain the structure and nutrients necessary for lawns, gardens or landscaping plants to thrive. Hardware stores and garden centers mostly sell topsoil in bags. For large applications, it is more cost effective to purchase bulk topsoil from a landscape product supplier or other local source.
Average Cost Per Yard of Topsoil
Some retailers sell topsoil in 40-pound bags, ranging from $2 to $6 per bag, depending on ingredients, and you can pay twice that for premium topsoils. A 40-pound 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 costs a minimum of $54 per cubic yard of topsoil. At this rate, purchasing topsoil in bags is only suitable for very small areas. For example, to cover 1,000 square feet to a depth of 4 inches for a new garden or lawn, you will need 12 cubic yards of topsoil.
Prices for bulk topsoil vary across the country, ranging from about $10 to $60 per cubic yard, not including delivery. Double that price to include the average delivery charge, which means delivered bulk topsoil is typically $20 to $120 per cubic yard. The price per cubic yard may decrease with larger quantities. To calculate the amount of topsoil you need, factor in the planting area and depth of soil you need. When ordering, verify whether the delivery charge is included. Homeowners typically spend $710 to 1,038 for a topsoil delivery. Your topsoil will probably be dumped in the driveway, so expect to have to cart it by wheelbarrow to the parts of the yard where it's needed.
A cubic yard weighs about a ton, so for large areas, you may want to inquire about additional charges for spreading the material.
The term "topsoil" refers to the top several inches of soil, however the term can be loosely used. If you see what looks like a bargain price for topsoil, be sure it is not just fill dirt. There are usually reviews on products from big box garden stores. 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 be devoid of organic matter.
Topsoil that is more finely screened is more expensive than regular topsoil. You may also be able to find topsoil that is amended with compost or composted manure, especially if you are close to a rural area.
Lisa Jensen grows organic food and lives in an adobe house that she built. She teaches aikido, is an experienced back-country skier and backpacker and is active in her community. A graduate of the University of Calgary, Jensen writes about gardening, home projects, social sciences and sports and recreation.