Applying topsoil to your lawn can help improve soil quality, promote better drainage, and provide key nutrients to feed your grass. Topsoil can also be used to help level your lawn and remove lumps. But before you can start spreading topsoil on your lawn, there is certain information that you’ll want to know – especially if you are getting the topsoil in your vehicle instead of scheduling a bulk delivery. For one thing, how much does a yard of topsoil weigh?
How much a cubic yard of topsoil weighs may vary depending on the level of moisture in it.
The average weight of a cubic yard of dry topsoil is about 1,500 pounds.
- It may weigh less if dry, in some cases the weight may drop to 1,000 pounds.
- Wet topsoil, on the other hand, may weigh as much as 2,500 pounds per cubic yard.
It’s important for you to know the weight of your topsoil, as it impacts how you can move and spread the soil without injury (and without damaging your vehicle during transportation, or driveway during delivery).
How To Determine The Weight Of Your Topsoil?
Topsoil is often sold in cubic feet or cubic yards. This allows you to get a very accurate estimate of how much it will weigh.
A lot of distributors will sell topsoil that is kept dry, but finding topsoil from a cheaper source doesn’t guarantee volume or moisture levels.
Yes, distributors will give you a rough estimate of topsoil’s weight according to the volume measurements. However, the weight can vary as the front loader bucket that scoops the topsoil won’t always collect an exact amount.
If you get a trailer load of soil, you can use the dimensions of your full trailer to get a good estimate of how much soil you have.
The general rule for finding the volume and weight of your topsoil is to apply the equation of:
Length x Depth x Width = Volume
To find cubic yards, divide this volume by 27, and from here you can work out the average weight of topsoil by applying the average weight of 1,500 pounds per cubic yard.
So, if you have 4 cubic yards of topsoil that has a low moisture level:
4 cubic yards of topsoil x 1,500 pounds = 6,000 pounds
Understanding the variables that can affect this weight is very important to help you avoid injury as you transport and use topsoil.
To give you a better understanding of how much a yard of topsoil weighs, here is a comparison table to show you just how much moisture can affect the weight.
|Topsoil Moisture Level
|Topsoil Weight (for 1 cubic yard)
How Does The Soil Moisture Affect The Weight?
Moisture is a huge factor when it comes to the weight of soil you purchase to top-dress your lawn.
As water is a heavy substance, the weight of topsoil can vary greatly. Knowing how to work out your soil moisture can help you understand how much work it’s going to take to grade your lawn.
But how can you find out the moisture content of your topsoil? Well, you just need to use a soil moisture meter, which should give you an accurate estimate.
Another way to do this is to put some of the topsoil in a white plastic bag. Seal it up tight for a while, and then open it and look in.
The amount of condensation in the bag will give you an idea of how much moisture is in the topsoil.
The simplest way to get a sense of how much moisture is in topsoil is just by holding some in your hand and squeezing it. If it clumps a lot, there is probably a lot of moisture in the soil.
What the Cooking Blogs Never Told You
A trickier way of trying to figure out your topsoil’s moisture content involves putting a sample in an oven.
Take a sample of the topsoil and weigh it. Then, put it in an oven, and heat it for about an hour until all moisture has left the soil.
Once it has dried out in the oven, weigh it again. Once you’ve done that, you can use the following formula to establish how much of the soil weight was water.
Soil moisture % = (weight of moist soil – weight of dry soil) / weight of dry soil
For example, if you had 2.5 pounds of moist soil and then 2 pounds of dry soil after drying, your equation would be as follows:
(2.5 – 2) / 2 = 0.25 or 25% soil moisture
Over time your soil will naturally dry out as it is spread over your lawn, so calculating the moisture of the soil is a great way to establish how much work you’re going to have to put into spreading the soil out over your lawn.
How To Safely Spread Topsoil?
It’s essential to use the right tools and technique when moving topsoil to your lawn. As long as your lawn is a moderate size, I prefer to do it the old fashioned way – with a wheelbarrow, shovel, and rake.
I think applying topsoil with a wheelbarrow can be the best way for a few reasons, but primarily it’s because you will minimize compaction and damage to your lawn (the kind that renting a bobcat or other piece of heavy machinery is almost sure to leave you with).
However you approach the project, you should park the trailer or truck load of topsoil as close as possible to the area you wish to treat to save time and effort. If you’re getting a bulk delivery, plan ahead and see if you can get it delivered as close to its final destination as you can.
How to Avoid Injury
Another tip I’ve learned (the hard way) is that more trips with a lighter load is advisable. Don’t be a hero and load up your wheelbarrow to capacity. All you’re doing is making compaction lines on your lawn, and putting unnecessary strain on your back.
Use your leg muscles for lifting, and keep your arms locked with your back straight as you push the wheelbarrow.
Some people will recommend that you buy a special lawn leveling rake. I don’t think it’s worth the money unless you’re a perfectionist. A good old fashioned steel garden rake will do the job well — just flip it over and use the flatter side.
A Few Tricks I’ve Learned Over the Years
A trick I’ve learned is to work in batches and sections. Dump loads of topsoil with your wheelbarrow about 5 feet apart, and when you’re tired of using the wheelbarrow, take a turn spreading the topsoil out evenly with your rake. This way you alternate activities and can keep working longer.
Don’t dump multiple loads in the same spot.
By keeping a limited amount of topsoil in each area you intend to spread, you are going to decrease the total amount of force you will need to push and level the soil.
It’s very important to minimize the stress of leveling your soil as it is a very exhausting process and can lead to injury if done incorrectly or without the right equipment.
Tips for Tackling a Larger Project
If you have a larger lawn, being smart about leveling the soil is even more important, as the strain from a full day of leveling will be much greater.
Take breaks, consider spreading the project out over a few days, etc. to make it less of a chore.
Using a back and forward motion, you should be able to fill in the topsoil to areas that need it most.
If possible, I really recommend using gardening gloves as this will allow for better grip, reduce wrist strain, and prevent blisters.
How To Get An Even Grade Of Topsoil On Your Lawn?
Getting an even grade can be a challenge, even if you’re experienced with leveling lawns. Leveling your soil accurately is a matter of preparation and patience, but a bit of practice helps also.
There are some differences between how to approach leveling a new lawn and how to level an established lawn. I’m going to cover both.
Grading A New Lawn
Let’s talk about grading a brand new lawn by hand. You’re going to need some wooden stakes, a string line, and a laser level.
First, you are going to need to mark out your lawn with wooden stakes. Set two stakes along the edge of the lawn where you are going to level, with about 10 ft of string tied between them.
From here, you will need to hang a string and adjust the stakes to get the line level. Using this as a guide, apply your soil and level it out until you get the desired grade.
Grading An Established Lawn
Established lawns can be a bit trickier to get level, as you will need to tidy things up to get a better visual of the level of the grade.
Once you’ve done this, you should be able to see where there are dips in your lawn and where you will need to add more soil.
After doing this, start applying your topsoil into the center of these dips with a wheelbarrow, and then use your leveling tool to spread the soil.
While there is a less technical approach to leveling an established lawn, it can be more difficult if you have trouble seeing the lawn surface.
Once you’re confident that you’ve leveled the topsoil, you can begin the process of fertilizing the area and encouraging new growth to establish.
How To Kickstart Your Lawn After Applying Topsoil
Feeding your lawn with fertilizer is just as important as using topsoil. If you haven’t fertilized before putting down topsoil, you should do so after, tailoring your application to the time of year.
The Lawn Chick editorial team regularly interviews industry experts to bring our readers the latest science and expert recommendations to complement our own hands-on lawn care experience.
We Asked: How do Turfgrass lawns’ nutritional needs change during the year, and why is it important for homeowners to provide different nutrients in different combinations at key points in the growing season?
Maggie Answered: “We get the best results when we fertilize our lawns during periods when it’s actively growing, because the growing grass can take up the nutrients we apply. The Sunday program provides custom application dates for every single lawn, based on the climate, grass species, and lawn size.”
Senior Scientist at Sunday
Maggie currently leads projects at the intersection of turfgrass science, data science, and software at Sunday. Previously she worked in Turfgrass Science at the University of California and the University of Minnesota. She’s a turfgrass researcher who has published papers on turfgrass water conservation and weed management.
Remember, different lawns need different fertilizer ingredients. It all depends on the current state of your soil and the nutrients it needs.
That’s why you should do a soil test. If you didn’t do this before putting down your topsoil, you can still do so afterward.
Use the results of your soil test to choose the right fertilizer formulation. Before you use it, read the instructions carefully.
Make sure that you evenly distribute the fertilizer all over your lawn. Follow the instructions when it comes to watering it in properly, too.
Taking additional measures, such as aerating your soil, can be very helpful if you are using granular fertilizers, as this gets the nutrients deeper and closer to the root zone.
Where to Get a Soil Test
While there are several companies that allow you to mail in soil samples and get a customized fertilizer package (many of the best lawn care subscription services offer this), you can also do the test yourself.
You can find lawn soil testing kits available at a lot of gardening stores, and online. They’re relatively inexpensive.
Best Overall Lawn Soil Test Kit
The Soil Test Kit I Use & Recommend
There are many options for testing your lawn’s soil, but I prefer a lab-based soil test that provides a detailed analysis of your soil’s nutrients and what’s needed for your lawn to thrive.
I use this one from MySoil every year.
And if you’re interested in taking the guesswork out of what to do next after you get your soil test results, consider Sunday’s subscription lawn-care plan. They test your soil for you and use local weather data to send you exactly what your lawn needs, when it needs it. It’s pretty fool-proof – you can Click Here for Your Instant Lawn Analysis and take 15% off your order with promo code LAWNCHICK2024.
Getting your lawn established after top-dressing your soil can be a bit of a challenge, so as long as you are patient and plan thoroughly, you should have minimal issues with getting your lawn nicely graded.
Final Thoughts: How Much Does a Yard of Topsoil Weigh?
Whether you are growing a new lawn or leveling an established one, understanding how much topsoil weighs can be a good way to judge how much work is going to go into your project.
One final bit of advice is to level your lawn slowly. Unless you’re planning to re-seed your lawn, you’ll want to spread 1/4″ to 1/2″ of topsoil at a time so your existing grass doesn’t get smothered. This means for low areas where water may be pooling, you’ll probably want to top-up that area, and then come back a month later and add some more soil.
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