How Much Dirt Does a Wheelbarrow Hold?

When it comes to moving dirt around the yard, having an idea of how much soil your wheelbarrow will hold can end up making a difference in the number of trips you have to take from source to destination for any given project.

Common Wheelbarrow Sizes

The most common sizes for home-use wheelbarrows are 2 or 3 cubic feet. For large-scale jobs, wheelbarrows can reach to 6 or 8 cubic feet. The difference in size is the depth of the basin.

A shallow basin is better for carting small tools, pots, plants, or small amounts of dirt. Larger capacity wheelbarrows with deep basins will be more useful for hauling a lot of dirt, larger tools, or other materials around the site.

The weight capacity of a wheelbarrow will vary by its size, the material loaded into it, and the steadiness of the wheelbarrow itself. Be sure not to overload wheelbarrows, so they aren’t too heavy for you to move or in any danger of tipping over when you move it.

Calculating Wheelbarrow Volume

Calculating Wheelbarrow Volume

Knowing the amount of dirt your wheelbarrow holds will help you understand how many trips back and forth you should have to make. To figure out how much dirt your wheelbarrow will hold, you can use a wheelbarrow volume calculator online, but there is a simple formula that will get you started on planning your project.

If you’re not sure of the size of your wheelbarrow, you can take a measuring tape to find the cubic feet capacity of it by multiplying the length and width of the wheelbarrow’s basin and then multiplying that result by the depth of the basin. The final number is your wheelbarrow’s volume.

Measuring Soil Volume

Once you have the volume of your wheelbarrow, remember that the measurement unit ‘yard’ is frequently, but not always, used in landscaping. Bags of soil will be sold by the cubic foot, but pallets of bags or dump truck deliveries may be measured in cubic yards (1 cubic yard is equal to 27 cubic feet).

For example, if a 30-pound bag of soil is about 1 cubic foot’s worth, and you have a 3 cubic feet wheelbarrow, you can fill it up once with three of those bags of soil. If you order a 10 cubic yard delivery of soil (about 270 cubic feet), it will take about 90 wheelbarrow loads in your 3 cubic feet basin to move the soil from point A to point B. 

Planning Your Dirt Moving Project

Knowing the wheelbarrow’s capacity is only one measurement among several that will help you plan your project. Getting together your numbers up front can save lots of time and help you coordinate your ongoing yard care needs.

If you’re covering a whole yard, it may require multiple days to move the soil around, but reseeding one area of your yard will still need a few hours of your day set aside.

Consider these other factors to know much soil you need for your project:

  • Area being covered – Measuring the area that you’re covering with new topsoil or the amount that you’re digging out will be one contributing factor to the amount of dirt that you’ll be moving.
  • Soil depth – if you’re spreading soil, knowing how thick to lay it on over the area will be another factor in how much you can spread in feet per wheelbarrow load and how many loads it will take to transport it. A 2 cubic feet amount of soil will cover about 24 square feet if applied at 1-inch thickness, but only 6 square feet applied at 4 inches.
  • Distance to move – When your soil is delivered in a large quantity, it will take many trips back and forth to get the mound spread out across the yard. If you can, have dirt delivered as close to its intended destination as possible.

Using The Wheelbarrow Around The Yard

Using The Wheelbarrow Around The Yard

When you have the amount of soil you need figured out, you can plan your project to go off more smoothly. Similar calculations can be used for other materials that you might want to move around your yard, like gravel, mulch, compost, or fertilizer.

When you fill the wheelbarrow, whether it’s soil or otherwise, try not to spill too much on the grass since small piles of dirt or mulch can damage grass by blocking air and sunlight. Lay down a tarp or plywood over the loading and unloading site if it’s on existing grass.