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Landscaping - How to Order Topsoil


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Topsoil comes by the yard in 10 wheel dump trucks. There is no large company that hauls topsoil. Nearly all carriers are local to the geographic area and will charge for the dirt based on how far away they must carry the load. For this reason, it's best to get dirt that is mined close to your home or business.


First, calculate the cubic square footage of topsoil you need (length * width * depth). Don't forget to convert the depth into a decimal or fraction. For example, if the depth were two inches you would take 2 and divide by 12 to get .16 or 2/12. The topsoil comes in yards. One cubic foot is equal to 27 square feet ( 3 * 3 * 3). Therefore, divide your previous answer by 27 to get yards. The formula will look like this:

(Length * Width * Depth) / 27 to get the cubic yards needed.

But I Ordered Twelve Yards!!

Most trucks have the capacity to carry twelve yards of dirt. However, the fact is that you will never get the 12 yards you ordered. For one thing, dirt is very heavy and puts the truck over the legal weight limit. The other thing is that if the truck were packed really full it could fall out and create liability problems for the trucking company. In addition, it's not practical to compact the dirt tightly. Some dirt is actually fluffier than other dirt.

How much dirt will you actually get? Usually it will be around 8 yards. Since everybody calls an 8 yard load 12 yards everyone is forced to “lie" about how much they are delivering. Many truckers don't even know they aren't bringing a full 12 yard load. Don't be surprised when you see a little pile of dirt from a huge truck. Dirt is just really heavy to carry.

Quality Counts - Ask Questions

All topsoil is not created equal. Companies have different definitions of what topsoil is. To some companies, it's just dirt without rocks; any kind of dirt. To others, it's a good organic soil with or without clumps. Some companies consider topsoil to be a screened product with soil amendments. It pays to see what is being delivered before it comes.

Black Soil

Good topsoil is black and has been screened. It will be light and fluffy; which is perfect for grading. The ideal topsoil will have compost, mulch, or organic matter mixed with it. Usually, this is a premium topsoil. It will only cost a little bit more money. If you have a landscaper, let him/her know you are willing to pay the extra for the best topsoil.

How to Find a Good Company

Your local nursery will know who carries good topsoil. Most nurseries charge extra for the topsoil. Your best bet is to order it directly from the dirt mine. Nurseries are a good alternative if you are looking for a very small amount of dirt.

Another way to find good topsoil is to go to a new subdivision and see what is being delivered. Usually by talking to people you can find out who delivered what soil. If in doubt, you might ask a landscaper in the area.

How Deep Does The Topsoil Need to Be?

Generally, two inches is enough topsoil. There are factors to increase the need for more depth. Rocky fill dirt or raised flower beds will require more dirt to be ordered.


$250.00 is an average price for a load of topsoil. Fill dirt is about half the price of topsoil. If you need a lot of extra dirt, you can use fill dirt on the bottom and topsoil on the top to save money.

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