Concrete is often a significant cost in projects both big and small. Whether you are just starting to plan a new project or you have a job framed up and ready, knowing how much concrete you will need is extremely important. After all, accurately determining the amount of concrete can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches.
Thankfully, today’s technology makes figuring it out a lot less scary. With the right tools and the following tips at your disposal, you can confidently calculate your concrete needs without worrying about running short, over ordering, or wasting man-hours.
1. It’s all about that base.
Before you grab your ruler, you need to make sure you have an evenly graded and well compacted base, or sub grade. This is a key element to estimating concrete needs, but it is often overlooked. Even though a plan may call for a 4”-deep slab of concrete, it is not uncommon—especially in larger slabs—to find some spots where the grade is lower, which can result in a 5”- or even 6”-deep slab. This extra depth quickly adds up, will cost you extra money in concrete, and may affect the quality of the job, so your best bet is to always to fix the sub grade to ensure accurate measurements.
2. Measure twice.
To get an accurate measurement, you will want to measure the length, width, and depth (or thickness) of each section of concrete you wish to pour. Then, measure them again to ensure accuracy.
There are many types of tools you can use to get accurate measurements. For smaller measurements, many contractors prefer to use a folding rule, which is accurate, sturdy, and typically comes in a 6’ length. For medium measurements, a simple 30’ measuring tape will oftentimes get the job done. Finally, for larger measurements, an open or closed reel measuring tape is usually the right tool for the job.
Keep in mind that for smaller jobs, you can typically get accurate measurements on your own, but for larger jobs, we recommend finding a friend to help you out.
3. Calculate how much concrete you need.
Use your measurements to calculate how much concrete you will actually need. Determine the volume of each section by multiplying the length x width x depth. Since concrete is calculated in cubic yards, you’ll need to convert your volume measurement into cubic yards.
Instead of using your fingers and toes, use our concrete calculator and job estimator. With this tool, you can calculate multiple projects all in the same place and get a good picture of your overall concrete job—and you won’t have to mess with mathematical conversions. You can also download our concrete calculator app to help you calculate your concrete needs while on the go.
4. Use the 10% rule.
You may not enjoy paying for extra material that you may or may not use, but running short on your concrete job will end up costing you a whole lot more. This is why it’s important to use the 10% rule. After you have calculated how much concrete you need, add 10% more to that number. This will ensure you have plenty of concrete to successfully complete your job.
5. Request an estimate.
No matter the job, the budget is always important. Once you’ve established how much concrete you’ll need, knowing how much it will cost is the next step. Request a concrete estimate to get an idea on the cost of the concrete as well as delivery. This way, you’ll have all the information you need to successfully move forward on your project.