How Much Concrete Do I Need?

posted by Bob Monday, August 15, 2011 at 9:16 AM

The number one question that we get on our hotline (1-866-Sakrete) is, “how much concrete do I need”? But let’s face it, unless you have a practical real world application for those boring math problems, you just don’t care enough to retain it. Well, now you do have a real world application so let’s go through the exercise so you will know how to do it without calling the next time. You can even impress your friends at dinner parties (if the subject about concrete should happen to come up). I would only recommend this topic for those ”friends” where you don’t mind if you were never invited back to again.

For those who are more direct, and want the short cut answer please scroll to links at the end of this blog.

The first thing you need to do is relax. It really ain’t that hard. Don’t let terms like “cubic feet” and “yield” and “density” bother you. There are basically two steps. The first step is figuring the volume of the space you want to fill. It doesn’t make any difference if you want to fill it with concrete or vanilla ice cream. Volume is volume. Because of the amount of concrete needed for most jobs it is usually easiest to figure the volume in cubic feet. If your project is large enough to calculate the volume in cubic yards instead of feet, call a ready mix concrete truck. When you hear “cubic” think ice cube. An ice cube usually has three sides (at least the ones you make in the trays in your freezer at home do). The way to find the volume of a cube is to multiple all three sides. If your cube were a perfect cube and it was 2 feet wide and 2 feet long and 2 feet deep, the volume would be 8 cubic feet. Concrete slabs are usually not perfect cubes so the math is a little different. If you were going to pour a slab that was 2 feet wide and 2 feet long it would not likely be 2 feet deep. It might be 4” deep which is a normal depth for a concrete slab. So now the equation looks like this: 2’ x 2’x 4”. The problem is you have to get everything into the same units; you can’t multiple feet by inches. This is where folks get hung up but it’s actually quite easy. Just multiple 2 x 2 x 4 ÷ 12. The answer is 1.3 cubic feet.

If you are filling a round hole in the ground to set a post or mail box, the calculation for volume is different than a cube or rectangle. The formula for the volume of a round hole is pi r2 x depth. Or 3.14 x radius x radius x depth. The radius is half the width of the hole. Unless you are doing a monster hole it might be easiest to do this all in inches. If your hole is 36” deep and 10” wide, the calculation is 3.14 x 5 x 5 x 36 ÷ 1728. This gives you 1.6 cubic feet. If you forget the 1728 it is simply 12” x 12” x 12” or the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot.

So now that we know the volume the second step is to calculate how many bags of concrete it will take to fill the hole. On the bag it will tell you how many cubic feet the bag will fill. This is the “yield”. The yield on an 80 lb bag is about 6/10 (.6) cubic feet. If you take the example above of 1.6 cubic feet, the calculation would be :

1.6 ÷ .6. = 2.7 bags


If you happen to be enthralled with math calculations I provide the following information on how to calculate the yield that I said was .6 cubic feet for an 80 lb bag. The first thing you need to know is the “density” of the concrete. If I give you a box filled with concrete that measures 12” x 12” x 12” (or 1 cubic foot), how much do you think it will weight? Go ahead and take a guess- almost everyone gets it wrong. The answer is 145 lbs. (If it was filled with beer it would weigh 64 lbs.) This means the “density” of concrete is about 145 lbs per cubic foot. Now that we have that information we can calculate the yield. Add up both the dry material in the bag (80 lbs) and the water it takes to mix it up (1 gallon which weighs 8.3 lbs) for a total weight of 88.3 lbs. Then divide the total weight by the density of the concrete.

88 ÷ 145 = .60 cubic feet.

There is one method for calculating the number of bags required which is even easier. We have already done the math for you on concrete as well as a number of other products. Visit www.Sakrete.com and select the calculator button or follow this link http://www.sakrete.com/products/calculators.cfm. Or for those interested in doing calculations on a mobile device please go to http://www.sakrete.com/mobile/calculators.cfm where our mobile site can help you determine how much you need wherever you are from the store aisle to the jobsite.

Bob Schmidt
Product Manager
Sakrete of North America

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129 USER COMMENTS

Ashwynn, thank you for considering Sakrete for your project, as I’m sure you already know this is no easy task. Planning, preparation, and execution for this project will be challenging. The use of rebar and wire mesh will have to be carefully formed to ensure a smooth riding surface. Sakrete High Strength Concrete Mix can be used at a minimum depth of 2” and each 80lb bag will yield .6 cubic ft. I would assume you would start in the middle the work your way out. As I am certainly no expert in ramp building I suggest researching this endeavor more to see what others are doing. I wish you and your friend the very best of luck!
- Chris Technical Services
Monday, June 22, 2015 at 4:39 PM

me and my friend want to build a 3 foot high, 12 foot long, 8 foot wide halfpipe for skateboarding. I was wondering how much concrete i would need, and what kind?
- Ashwynn
Friday, June 19, 2015 at 7:15 PM

Chris, Sakrete Fast Setting Concrete Mix comes in 50lb bags, each bag will yield .38 cubic ft.
- Chris Technical Services
Friday, June 12, 2015 at 9:49 AM

How much fast setting sakrete do I need for a 1 cubic foot hole to secure a 6x6x6 post?
- Chris
Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 9:20 PM

Scott, yes, temperature and humidity will play a role in the setup time. To extend the setup time use ice cold water and a mechanical mixing barrel. This should allow you to mix at least 1 bag every 5 min.
- Chris Technical Services
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 4:55 PM

Rodrigo, we suggest when installing a flag pole to first make sure you will not be digging into any pipes or wires. Refer to the manufactures installation instructions on correct diameter and depth or your hole. For example the post diameter 5”, hole diameter 30” hole depth 36”. You will need 32 60lb bags of concrete to fill the hole.
- Chris Technical Services
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 4:49 PM

If im filling in a cut slab in my bathroom and im going to use 14 bags of sakrete maximize can I just mix each bag individually and pour them in the cut out parts? How much time will have to get it all mixed?
- scott
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 11:11 PM

how much 60lb bags of concrete do I need for a 30ft 5inch .125 flag pole?
- Rodrigo ceja
Monday, May 4, 2015 at 12:44 AM

Steve, we suggest using Sakrete Sand Mix and Sakrete Bonder and Fortifier for this type of application. Sand Mix can be used to set the stones and also grout in between. The Bonder and Fortifier should be lightly brushed on to the properly prepped surface and will act as a primer. In addition you can also mix the Bonder and Fortifier with water 1:1 as an admixture for the Sand Mix. The flagstone should be set directly into the Sand Mix. This will save you a lot of time and hassle.
- Chris Technical Services
Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 2:34 PM

Hi Bob, I'm laying flagstone on an already established slab. A mason friend of mine told me to use Type M with a 3:1 ration of sand to Cement mix. The area is 5'x5'x1" to lay the stones into. According to the formulas you provided, I came up with needing 3 bags of cement and thus 9 bags of sand. That seems like too much, did I calculate correctly? Thanks.
- Steve
Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 11:38 AM

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