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Why Purchase Materials by the Ton vs Cubic Yard?

Posted by PRO Agg Pro on

Why Purchase Materials by the Ton vs Cubic Yard?


Aggregate and landscape materials are sold by weight or volume. Purchasing by volume is  buying by cubic yard, or cubic foot, and weight is purchasing by an exact per pound or ton price, with the quantity calculated on a certified scale. Scales are monitored by the  "Weights & Measures" agency.         

Here are some industry tips on how to buy, and hard facts about getting the most for your dollar. Learn also, to carry a safe weight for your vehicle. Accidents can occur when a small pick up truck, or trailer is over loaded with material. Get what you pay for, know the weight of your load.


How Do Rock Yards Purchase Material?

Most materials are sold by weight from the originating quarry, with a few exceptions. Most product is hauled in to rock yards by a truck and transfer and the load weight is generally about 24 tons, the max weight for most truck and transfer loads.

A retail center that sells material by volume, cubic yard, must then calibrate a per yard weight for the material, to determine how many yards of product are in the 24 ton load. 

This weight to volume will change, sometimes drastically, during wet and dry conditions. This means that while the volume of a cubic yard will always be a cubic yard, and the weight of a ton will always be 2,000 pounds, the weight of a cubic yard of bark, and many aggregate materials, will always be variable. For this reason, in an industry where material is purchased by weight and sold by volume, it is a challenge to keep the calibrations current and correct. 

For example, a 24 ton truckload of bark may be 110 yards in July, and 80 yards or less, in January. Here is another example:

Lava rock material is porous, and will absorb and hold water during moist and rainy conditions. In addition, when material is processed and washed at the quarry, this moisture may be retained for a time until the product dries out. The load comes in heavy, and will then dry out while it sits in the yard. If the weight to volume, ton per cubic yard, is calculated when the load comes in this may look like 1 yard = .75 ton/1500 lbs. In July, the material will become very dry and after a time the weight to volume will become 1 yard= .60 ton/1200lbs. 

If you are buying a cubic yard of lava rock in July you will get about 1200 lbs. If you purchase a yard in January, when its rainy, you will get .75 to .80 ton/1500 to 1600 lbs. This same logic of volume to weight applies to bark products, road base, decomposed granite, and any aggregate product that holds moisture.

Purchasing material by weight is the best way to know exactly the amount you are getting, rain or shine.  And buying during the dry season is the smartest way to go. It takes less weight to create the volume of 1 yard, during the dry season, and more weight per volume in the wet season. 

Remember, to get the most material for your dollar, buy while it's dry.

Naturally this same logic applies to rock yards purchasing material. At PRO Aggregate we sell materials by weight, and you will see our pricing change seasonally, on barks and lava rock, as our costs change. We have on-site trucking scales and the ability to weigh each load of bark and every product that is hauled in, by the yard. In the dry season we pass these savings on to our customers, and our prices are lower. In the wet weather, we have to pay more, and our pricing reflects this added cost. When you purchase your products by weight, you will always get what you pay for, but if you try to convert weight to a cubic yard, it will always vary, based on moisture content.

How Do Rock Yards Sell Material?

    Weight versus Volume.

    Materials sold by the cubic yard, volume, will be loaded by a "bucket" that is calibrated to be a 1 yard, 1/2 yard, 3/4 yard and so on.  Ask for the size of the bucket you are being loaded with. If the bucket is full, level, then you are getting the accurate volume. If the bucket loads are not consistently full, then the actual volume may not be measured correctly. When purchasing by volume, the accuracy of a load will always depend on the accuracy of the loader.  

    At PRO Aggregate you get what you pay for, regardless of the bucket load, or the loader. We sell our products by weight! Every sale is weighed on a certified scale, and you are charged by the weight of the load. The chance for error on the part of the loader is eliminated. We have certified weights and scale tags to verify our quantities sold.

      How much can my vehicle hold?

        Safety is always a priority. Avoid being overloaded when purchasing materials at a retail center. Know the max weight of your vehicle or trailer, and ask in advance of being loaded, what is the weight per yard of the material. Accidents can occur, steering and braking is effected, if too much weight is loaded in your vehicle or trailer. Be safe on the road.

        Remember, buy when it's dry.

        General Rules of Thumb

        A half ton pick up  can carry just that, about 1000 lbs, or a half ton.  A 3/4 or 1 ton pick up can carry more. Read the safety regulations in your vehicle manual for maximum weight of cargo load on your vehicle. 

        A yard of material covers about 120 to 150 sf at a 2" depth. Larger product, like 2-3" cobble or medium bark, will get less coverage than smaller material.

        One cubic yard is a cube, 3'L x 3'W x 3'H, and if you spread this cube out  it would cover an area about 10' x 12' or, 120 square ft, at 2" thick. 

        One cubic yard is also 27 cubic feet. And one cubic foot is 7.5 gallons. So 27 x 7.5 gallons is 202.5 gallons. Divide 202.5 gallons, by a single 5 gallon bucket, it equals 40.5 buckets. It takes 40.5, 5 gallon buckets to make 1 cubic yard. This is a good method to visualized how much a cubic yard is, and also to compare bulk and bagged material pricing.

        Check our other blogs for more helpful tips and tricks with landscape projects.



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