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Question: How much topsoil, mulch or stone do I need for my project?
Answer: (Length in feet X Width in feet X Depth in inches) / 324 = Cubic Yards
In order to determine the amount of bulk material you will need, you first need to know the square feet of the area you are going to cover:
Length times Width = Square Feet
For example: 10 ft. X 15 ft. = 150 sq. ft.
Next, determine your depth in inches. Multiply your total square feet by this depth, then divide this number by 324 to convert to cubic yards.
For example: 150 sq. ft. X 4 in. = 600; (600)/(324) = 1.85 cubic yards
Question: Ok, but what if my area is not a simple square or rectangle?
Answer: Using the same formula as above, break the area into smaller sections to create squared areas.
Section 1 - Use the formula for the area of a circle (3.14 X Radius X Radius). Since our example is only half of a circle, this answer would be divided by 2. Section 1 has a diameter of 8 feet, and since the radius of a circle is the diameter divided by 2 (where 8 ft. / 2 = 4 ft.), the calculation would be:
3.14 X 4 ft. X 4 ft. = 50.24 sq. ft. for a full circle
divided by 2 = 25.12 sq. ft. for a half circle
Section 2 - Since it is a simple square, all we need to do is multiply the length times the width:
10 ft. X 4 ft. = 40 sq. ft.
Section 3 - Although this is not exactly a square area, it is better to have too much supplies than not enough. Therefore, the same equation is used as in section 2:
25 ft. X 15 ft. = 375 sq. ft.
Finally, add these three sections together, multiply by how many inches thick you want it, and divide this answer by 324.
25.12 + 40 + 375 = 440.12; 440.12 X 4 in. = 1760.48;
1760.48 / 324 = 5.43 cubic yards
Note: It is always better to have 1/2 to 3/4 yards too much than to be short on supplies.
Question: I have figured out the square feet of my flower beds, but how deep should the bark mulch be placed?
Answer: It depends on whether they are new beds or if there is existing mulch. For new beds, 4 inches is acceptable. If you are top dressing additional mulch, 2 inches would be a considerate amount.
Question: What does it mean when someone tells me I need 3 tons of stone?
Answer: Other than the fact that you are getting 6,000 lbs of stone, not much. Weight is not a measurement that can be used to figure volume. All stone does not weigh the same, but volume is the same for all products. The industry standard for most river stone, sand and gravel is between 1.35 and 1.50 tons per cubic yard. To convert tons to yard, find out how much the stone weighs per yard, and divide that by 2000. This will give you your factor. Divide the amount of tons you are getting by this factor, and that will roughly be the amount of yards of stone you will receive.
For example: (1 yard weighing 2700 lbs) / (2000) = 1.35 factor
3 tons / 1.35 = 2.22 cubic yards of stone
Question: I can't decide between stone or bark mulch for my landscape beds... which one is better?
Answer: To be fair, neither. It all depends on the application. If your landscaping beds have a lot of flowering shrubs and annuals, then bark mulch is probably your best bet. If you have evergreens and woody ornamentals, you may get away with using stone. Bark mulch is going to hold more moisture for your plants and keep the soil temperatures more consistent, where as stone will tend to get hotter and reflect that heat onto your plants.
Question: I am looking to build a retaining wall. What should I look for when deciding what block to use?
Answer: Building a retaining wall is a project that should not be rushed into. Not because it is difficult, but because a retaining wall is more than just a part of your landscaping - It has a purpose and needs to be built to last for many years.
The three most important parts to building a retaining wall are the base, block and backfill. No matter what block you use, if all three are not done correctly, the wall may fail. The type of block you use will be determined by more than just one thing, but the height of the wall is most important. The one thing that should always be considered is the quality of manufacturing in a block. It's not hard for a manufacturer to build a block for 25 to 30 cents less, but in order to do this, most of them will cut corners - less cement, less coloring, wet splitting face instead of a dry broken face and not keeping the molds clean are some of their ways of keeping the costs down. These sort of things could better the chance of your wall to crack or fail.
Do your homework, and consider all aspects from start to finish. Building a retaining wall can be a very enjoyable and rewarding project if you use the right material and have the support to help you through the entire process.