How Many Square Feet Will a Cubic Yard of Concrete Really Cover?

When planning a concrete project, one of the most important calculations is determining how much area a given volume of concrete will cover. This allows you to accurately estimate how many cubic yards you need to pour based on the size of the surface. But concrete coverage varies depending on thickness – so how much does a cubic yard of concrete cover at typical depths?

We’ll also discuss key factors impacting these figures and considerations for getting the most out of each batch. With this reference information, you can precisely determine yardage needs for driveway, patio, foundation, or other concrete pours.

What Is a Cubic Yard of Concrete?

Let’s start by defining what a cubic yard represents when it comes to concrete. A cubic yard is a standard unit of measurement equal to a cube with sides of one yard or three feet. This equates to:

  • Length: 3 feet
  • Width: 3 feet
  • Height: 3 feet

When estimating and ordering concrete, contractors and DIYers typically use cubic yards as the quantity measurement. In its freshly mixed, plastic state a cubic yard of concrete weighs about 4,000 pounds, or around two tons.

Typical Uses

Some common projects where concrete is measured and poured by the cubic yard include:

how much does 1 yard of concrete cover
  • Foundations for homes, garages, sheds, and commercial buildings
  • Slabs for basements, garages, patios, and walkways
  • Driveways to access homes, parking areas, and garages
  • Sidewalks next to streets and winding through neighborhoods
  • Curbs along parking lots, pathways, and street edges

Cost Factors

Concrete is priced by the cubic yard, with costs varying based on these key factors:

  • Base material costs
  • Labor for pouring and finishing
  • Mobilization fees for delivery
  • Site preparation work
  • Concrete accessories like color or fiber reinforcing

For DIY projects, concrete expenses mainly include the mix and delivery charges.

Concrete Thickness Matters for Coverage

One important thing to understand about poured concrete is that the depth or thickness significantly impacts the area that a cubic yard covers. Thinner concrete spreads over a wider surface, while thicker concrete covers less ground but provides greater durability.

Thinner Concrete

On residential sites, 4 inches is a common minimum thickness for concrete used in these applications:

  • Driveways
  • Sidewalks
  • Patios
  • Curbs and gutters

This depth works well when you don’t need extremely heavy-duty concrete but still want decent strength.

Intermediate Thickness

A medium thickness of 5 or 6 inches is typical for home and light commercial projects like:

  • Garage floors
  • Parking pads
  • Warehouses
  • Office building exteriors

This depth handles heavier vehicle loading while still optimizing concrete usage.

Thick Concrete

Thicker slabs of 7 inches or more are found in structures needing heavy-duty concrete to withstand significant weight and pressure, like:

  • Home foundations
  • Retaining walls
  • Workshops or detached garages
  • Commercial building foundations

Added depth prevents cracking and damage from shifting.

Coverage Area by Thickness

Now let’s dive into the specific coverage that a cubic yard of concrete provides at varying slab depths. Understanding these key figures lets you calculate how many yards you need to order.

4-Inch Concrete

At a typical residential thickness of 4 inches, one cubic yard of concrete will cover:

  • 81 square feet

To visualize this, that’s enough to pour a slab approximately 9 feet by 9 feet. Common 4-inch thick projects of this size include:

  • Small patio slab
  • Single car home driveway
  • Portion of a sidewalk
  • Shed or outbuilding foundation

5-Inch Concrete Area

When working with concrete 5 inches thick, one cubic yard will cover about:

  • 65 square feet

So for a 5-inch thick slab, you can expect one yard to cover an 8 by 8 footprint. At this depth, that might account for:

  • Section of a home driveway
  • Standard two-car garage slab
  • Roomier patio area

6-Inch Concrete Coverage

Going up to a thickness of 6 inches, the coverage area for a cubic yard of concrete declines to approximately:

  • 54 square feet

With a 6-inch depth you can pour a square section 7 by 7, suitable for:

  • Driveway extension
  • Shop or multi-vehicle garage
  • Patio with integrated fire pit
  • Curving front walkway

Thicker Concrete Coverage

As expected, when you go beyond 6 inches in depth the coverage area for a cubic yard continues dropping. Here’s the approximate square footage covered by a yard of concrete at thicker depths:

  • 7 inches – 46 square feet
  • 8 inches – 41 square feet
  • 12 inches – 27 square feet

These expanded figures work well for heavy-duty industrial buildings, retaining walls up to 5 feet high, thickened garage slabs, larger patio layouts with defined spaces, and reinforced workshop foundations built to handle heavy equipment.

Getting the Most Out of a Cubic Yard

While the coverage figures above help with planning, there are also ways to optimize each cubic yard of concrete ordered to stretch your budget.

Calculate Needs Accurately

Take detailed measurements of the entire area getting concrete rather than estimating or rounding off. Every inch matters when you account for common cuts, curves, and irregular shapes. Build in an extra 10 percent allowance to ensure you don’t come up short.

Workability Considerations

Factor in finish work when estimating needs. More porous concrete spreads easier but cures slower. Find the optimal middle ground between sufficiently wet mix for a smooth finish and low enough slump to maintain shape.

Cost Optimization

Design aesthetics aside, balance slab thickness to needs whenever possible. For example, use thicker concrete only where vehicles drive while keeping walking paths and landscaping features thinner to conserve concrete requirements.

Common Questions About Cubic Yards

Despite the straightforward cubic yard coverage details provided so far, many grey areas remain around concrete yields, quality, and more. Here we’ll answer some of the key questions routinely surrounding cubic yard estimates.

Typical Puzzlers

Three common cubic yard concrete questions include:

  • How do I account for finishing losses and waste? Add 10% for waste and 5% for finishing contingency.
  • Does sand or gravel in the soil reduce the thickness needed? Yes, well-draining soil needs less depth.
  • How long does concrete take to cure for standard use? A full 28 days, longer in cold climates.

Saved FAQs

For quick answers about concrete yields, mixes, accessories, and processes visit our comprehensive FAQ page covering the most popular cubic yard topics.

When planning a patio, driveway, foundation, or other flatwork project needing concrete, accurately calculating how much you need is key. As we’ve covered here, a cubic yard of concrete covers 81 square feet when poured 4 inches deep but just 27 square feet at 12 inches thick. Use this reference data to precisely estimate your cubic yard requirements based on the size and depth of your planned slab. With the right yardage dialed in, you can obtain an ideal concrete pour efficiently covering the footprint as desired without costly overages or project delays from running short. For any other questions, explore our in-depth FAQ page.

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