Home Owner Help

To do a project involving rock products like Sand, Gravel, Concrete or Asphalt there are many things to consider, even on small projects!

Here is a little information to help you plan your project and save some money too!

Small projects like gardens, French drains and planters are easy and don’t take much time to figure out, but even these projects benefit from planning, if nothing else than to save you from buying too much or not enough material. How many trips to the gravel pit do you want to make?

Larger projects at home usually involve permits and larger costs so planning helps save time and money in a big way! Sometimes, even if you are going to hire the work done, it helps to know about how much is involved when you start, so you can evaluate the project’s price before you involve the contractor and get final pricing. For example, you may look at your project budget and decide to make the project larger or smaller due to the numbers that you calculated!

Small project mistakes usually involve small costs, but larger project mistakes usually involve LARGER COSTS! If you are unsure about what you trying to do… ask for help! Or get a professional to do it!
Call the local scale house at the gravel pit. They have years of experience and can be a big help. They often have control of a few delivery trucks to get you the product delivered at a good price.

Plans are helpful!
Sometimes you can draw up your own plans on graph paper, like you can get from a stationary store. They make paper with grid lines that you can use to draw up your plans. Use one square to represent one unit like a square foot or square inch etc. I prefer 10×10 grid paper, having ten lines up and down and ten lines across, per inch. This makes it easy to do the math at the end…. Just count the squares!

If you go through this process and still hire an engineer or contractor it will be handy for them to see what you’re trying to do and it will tell them that you’ve really thought this out!
Saving a professional person time, saves you time & money too!

Area, Volume, Density, Weight

Area (Two dimensional)
Draw up the plan view as though you are looking down on it from the sky. Once you draw up the plan view of your project you have a tool to calculate “area”. This is like how many square feet of carpet do you have in a room of your house?
Length x width = Area

Example: I want a new driveway; it’s going to be 100’ long and 16’ wide: 100 x 16 = 1600 square feet!

Volume (Three dimensional)
Next we need to convert area into volume. In the above driveway example above you’ll need to figure out the thickness of each layer.
Length x width x depth = Volume

Don’t forget your math skills: Keep the units the same! Inches can be converted to decimal feet by dividing by 12’ like this… 3”/12”=0.25’ or 22”/12”=1.83333’

Back to the example: I want a new driveway; it’s going to be 100’ long and 16’ wide: 100’ x 16’ = 1,600 square feet! (Area) So…
100’x16’x3”=400 cubic feet (volume)

In your calculator you’re going to need to enter it like this: 100 x16 x 0.25=400 because 0.25 is the decimal foot equivalent to 3 inches (see above).

Concrete is commonly sold in cubic yards. To convert cubic feet to cubic yards just divide the cubic feet by 27 because a cubic yard is 3’x3’x3’=27 cubic feet. So in the example above:

400 cubic feet/27=14.81 cubic yards

Now under your concrete you may want to lay down a bed of sand or road base this will provide a good smooth surface to support the concrete, help cut down on cracking and settling problems and it will be easy to even out the sub-grade so you don’t have bumps and holes to fill up with concrete.

All Concrete cracks, so you’ll try to control that in the finishing process. But what we are talking about here is BIG cracks and breaks that go through the whole slab, these are due to poor sub-grade preparation.

You’ve already calculated the area of your project above so you could just use the same number times the depth of the sand you want to get its volume.

Back to the example: I want a new driveway; it’s going to be 100’ long and 16’ wide: 100’ x 16’ = 1,600 square feet! (Area) So…
100’x16’x2”=266.66 cubic feet (volume) of sand

Density & Weight

Asphalt and other rock products like sand are commonly sold by Tons, a unit of weight! So we should now convert our volume to a weight. To do this we need a density factor. Density factors can range from 80 lbs per cubic foot up to 150 lbs per cubic foot it depends on what material you’re using, how wet it is and how compacted it is. This can change a good bit day to day as conditions change.

Moist, loose sand is usually about 90 lbs per cubic foot so let’s use that number for now.

266.66 cubic feet x 90 lbs per cubic foot = 24,000 lbs of sand (weight)

Conversion to Tons is easy now, just divide by 2,000! Because a ton is 2,000 lbs.

24,000 lbs of sand / 2,000 lbs per Tons = 12 Tons of Sand

So now we know our driveway project consists of 14.81 cubic yards of concrete and 12 tons of sand! We are done and we know the main numbers for the project. Now we can get prices and so on…

• It’s better to buy a full load if you can especially if you can use the extra for something else!
• It’s better to get more than you need than to run short!
• Be careful though, if you are doing this by hand! Moving a ton of sand or stone in a wheelbarrow is a “TON” of work.

Other Factors to Consider in Rock Products Projects

Which material you choose greatly affects cost, common rock products at most quarries or gravel pits run from $4/Ton to $16/Ton and These prices are usually generated by how expensive the product is to make or how available it is in that market.

This is far better than going to the local home improvement center and paying $3 per 1/2cubic foot bag!
A ton of sand in 1/2 cubic foot bags is $134 and 44 bags! This is way too much for your car to get in one trip. Your local gravel pit can give you 10 tons delivered for maybe $120 total?

Take a good look at the product and make sure it is a good fit for your job! Ask a contractor for advice?

What is the end use of the product?
Are you going to be walking directly on the gravel?
Pea gravel is easy on the feet while chips are sharp….

Are you going to drive on the materials?
Pea gravel won’t “tighten up” and compact, it stays loose, almost liquid while Road Base will “harden up” making a nice dirt driveway surface.

Are you going to have kids playing in a sand box?
Getting clean fine sand is better than course sand with dust in it….


• Usually there are factors that make you want to bump this number up or down just a little to help control the delivered price. I’d rather have too much material than to find I’ve run out a foot short of the street on the driveway I’m placing…

• Haul cost…. Sometimes a more expensive material close to the job is cheaper than “free” material far away.

• “Short loads” or less than a full truck load can have higher costs

• Hauling back the unused materials is a “return load” and has a cost

o A truck holds about 19 to 20 ton and if they are taking a round trip of an hour it’s about $60 per trip! + Materials etc. Ask if they have a smaller truck maybe?

o 40 tons/20 tons per load x $1 per minute on a 60 minute RT time = $120 delivery

o Better take a good look at the delivery location is there room for 2 loads from an 18 wheeler to be dumped?
Placing the Materials

• How to place the stuff? I once bought a 20 ton truck load of ¾” crushed rock and it took me forever to shovel it into a wheelbarrow and spread it around….
• Get the product dumped as close as you can to the work!

• There might be an easy way to put the material in place.

o Pneumatic blower trucks? Rent a small skid steer?

All the options depend on the end use….Choosing the wrong product can be real expensive to get back out etc.

I hope this helps….