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Measuring for Mulch

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by firelwn, Apr 11, 2006.

  1. firelwn

    firelwn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 99

    What is the formula to get the yardage amounts for mulch installs?
  2. Big M LawnnSnow

    Big M LawnnSnow LawnSite Member
    Posts: 217

  3. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,923

    length X width X depth = volume (mulch, topsoil, coal overburden, breadboxes, ... matters not what material is in question). The same formula has been in use for a few years now, has always worked, is working today, and undoubtedly will work for many years in the future.
  4. firelwn

    firelwn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 99

    Thanks guys. How thick is it usually. 1,2 inches? Mlawn that site helps alot thanks. If it has a shape to it do you just measure ends and subtract the center?
  5. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,587

    new beds are 3 inches deep, search on google and there are mulch caluclators that will do the math for you...
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    It all depends how you spread it, and how long you've been doing it.

    Let me explain:
    Anytime I've ever had someone help that's never or rarely ever done mulch before (which is most people), no matter how thin I told them to spread it, they always spread it at least twice as thick as what I wanted. As for me, I like to spread it thin so as to make it go further: the thinner the better, while thinnest is best it does take practice as there is a limit to how thin you can go before you see bare spots.

    If you spread by hand, you get the most yield (it goes the furthest) but it is time-consuming and in my case hurts my back because you're hunched over. But, hand-spreading is the thinnest you can do. The next best option is with a rake (the kind with the solid tines, not a leaf rake), dump a barrow and spread it out thusly: I can usually get 1-2 inches but I swear it feels like less than 1 inch but it isn't, but it takes that much effort (not to say it is hard, with a rake it's easy but you have to think about it or it's too thick).

    You want the mulch to go far, it has been my experience people don't want to spend a fortune, and it makes sense: A 4-inch cover costs twice as much as a 2-inch cover (twice the mulch and twice the labor or close to it) and a 2-inch cover costs again twice as much as a 1-inch cover, so if I can spread at 1-inch thickness, then I can cover the same area for 1/4 the cost of someone who spreads at 4 inches thick can do... Actually, thick is easy, the thicker you spread, the faster it goes so the trick is to spread thin and do it fast, that's where things get tricky so as to still make a profit, you want to spread it ultra-thin and be as fast as the guy that's just dumping load after load (without any planning, things go faster as a rule, but practice makes perfect and I can spread some mulch real thin with right good speed and that's what you want).

    It doesn't take long to get down to those thin spreads, I was able to do it within few cubic yards, but it took years to perfect it, still it's easy to begin with so perfection is purely optional (and mostly accidental) so long you have thin in mind.

    It does take concentration, you need to think about it while doing it, that's one reason why after 100 cubic yards or so I can't deal with mulch anymore... But that's just me, evidently some guys out there can do it without so much concentration, then again I watch how thick some of them put it down and am amazed the customer would fork over that much money (rest assured, I am sure it doesn't take long for them to figure it out), but a lot of those guys are here now, gone tomorrow. There are a few thou ...

    So, spread as thin as possible, always.
    Hope it helps, but if it doesn't then I am sorry.
  7. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,587

    the purpose, to keep weeds down and moisture in..... if you dont do the right thinckness, all you have is mulch for the apearance of it, non of the functionality...

    that is why mulch is layed 3 inces thick ,...... try the search button and you will see....
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Those charts are great but do you guys have a laptop with Internet access when you go to the site, and how might it look if the customer sees what you're doing? If I saw the screen on your laptop or in any way realized that you're tabulating, I would know right away that you don't know what you're doing (no offense) and I'd call the deal off right then but that's just me.

    As for me, I park cars in the areas to be mulched in my mind (not literally, but figuratively). Now you have to think before you do this, you really need to know how big an area a car covers (it's close to 6x15 or so), then in your mind you park these imaginary cars in the area to spread mulch.

    As a rule:
    2-4 inches thick is one cubic yard per car.
    1-2 inches thick covers two cars per cubic yard.

    Technically you might think you can go one cubic yard for three or four cars but do not do this: I guarantee you will find it challenging enough (I do) to spread one cubic yard over the area that two cars would cover (that's what I do) and it feels like you're spreading it pretty thin at that point.

    So that's how I do it, I am mentally parking cars in my mind in those areas, then count the cars (don't think out loud lol) and it makes me look so smart when I don't have to sit there with pen and paper and calculators and what have you, I stand there with nothing except me and I can figure it out - that makes an impression on the customer.

    And it's so simple, it's almost stupid but don't let the simplicity fool you - It's easy enough to remember and easy enough to do, little room for mistakes means you'll be right most of the time, and that's as good as it gets. From time to time you'll mess up and you'll end up eating a cubic yard or two (not to mention having to run back out for it) but it happens maybe once / year (I think I've had to run back for more twice in 4 years due to a mistake of mine).

    Also remember: If you find you didn't get enough mulch because you underestimated, spreading by hand (I mean, grab the stuff with your hands and fan it out) will make your mulch go further - It takes more time to do it this way, but is still faster (and cheaper) than having to go back out to get more mulch.

    Eventually you won't need to count cars because you'll know how far a cubic yard goes but I still do it from time to time.

    Best of luck.
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Yeah but mulch is wood, and wood decomposes into dirt or soil. Mulch is wood that has been processed to such extent it only takes a few weeks before the bottom layer is all dirt, and guess what grows in the dirt? Yup, weeds !

    Weeds are just as likely to grow in layers a foot thick (yes I said foot to make a point) as with a 1 inch cover, so no matter how thick you spread it, weeds will grow (you don't have to believe me, spread it thick and watch, your choice). Weeds grow most anywhere, anyhow: They grow through that stupid plastic, they grow through cracks in the concrete, they most certainly will grow not only through mulch but also right out of the dirt that the layers of mulch immediately below the surface decompose into. Meanwhile, a 3-inch cover is guaranteed to cost the customer about twice what my 1-2 inch cover costs, and guess who is more likely to get the job? It looks the same cosmetically, sir or madam, you want the 400-dollar guy who says weeds won't grow, or you want the 200-dollar deal where you might have to spray a little round-up from time to time? They'll only make the 400-dollar mistake one time, when they see weeds later and realize who was right, guess who they call the next time? You have to think about the future, a 3-inch cover is easy for you because anybody can spread thick, that's why most Lco's do it thick, got nothing to do with weeds it's got to do with the fact that a 1-inch cover is tough to do (you literally feel as if you're spreading it 1/4 inch thick, thou only a 10-tine spreader can do that and yes I have one and know the method but it's a royal pita - now one yard can cover the area of 6-8 cars but what a pain. Also it is so thin that a light gust of air brings out the dirt, no you do need a cover at least thick enough where a sneeze doesn't expose bare patches, that much I agree with.

    As for the weeds, first spray any weeds in the area to be covered with round-up, sometimes I pull a few by hand and other times I weed-eat them: For a regular customer (one where you visit their house later every so often for whatever), check the mulch beds and spray a little round-up wherever there is weeds. For anyone else, tell them to watch it and do the same.
  10. HOOLIE

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    I find generally 150 square feet of beds equals one cubic yard of mulch. That's what I base my quotes on.

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