Having the ability to accurately calculate the amount of gravel to purchase for your project is of the utmost importance.
Crunching the numbers and doing the math, though, can be complicated and time-consuming. The last thing you want is to make an error in your equations and end up with either too much or too little gravel.
Not only can this completely throw your budget off course, but it is also a waste of time and effort. In order to avoid disasters like these, many contractors and homeowners choose to make use of a reliable gravel calculator.
By taking just a few moments to educate yourself on how a gravel calculator works, what it can tell you and how to choose the right one, you will save yourself from a lot of stress and complications in the long run.
What does a gravel calculator do?
One of the first things that people tend to ask when they hear about gravel calculators is, “Why can’t I just figure it out on my own?” Aside from the fact that many of us aren’t math experts (or simply don’t enjoy working with equations), the formula is actually more complex than it initially appears.
Making a mistake is all to easy, and it’s always safer to either initially use a gravel calculator, or at least employ one to double check your work.
By doing so you’ll enjoy benefits such as:
- Simplifying the Math – First and foremost, a gravel calculator will make things a whole lot easier on your brain. Construction and landscaping materials like gravel are nearly always sold by the cubic foot or by the cubic yard, which is not the type of math that the typical contractor or do-it-yourselfer is accustomed to doing. Instead of being required to take your measurements and know how to convert them into the proper fraction of a foot or yard to get the right results, you can simply enter the standard measurements into the calculator and instantly get the answers that you need.
- Providing Straightforward Answers – With a good gravel calculator, what you see is what you get. Once the correct information is inputted, you’ll be given straightforward results that won’t require you to do any more conversions, math or work. Because it will offer results in both cubic feet and cubic yards, you’ll instantly know how much you should expect in terms of your material order size.
- Improving Accuracy in Estimates – One of the first things that anyone wants to know is how much a project is going to cost them, and how long it’s going to take for the work to be completed. Because one of the biggest expenses related to any landscaping or construction project has to do with the amount of materials involved, a gravel calculator is the easiest way to get a better idea of what you should be budgeting for. Knowing how much or how little gravel will be needed can also give you some insight about how much labor will be required, and how long the project might take to be finished.
- Helps with Awarding Bids – Contractors who are hiring subcontractors to handle their gravel work or homeowners who are working with a contractor to complete their project will appreciate being able to take a look at a gravel calculator to determine how much will be required to get the job done. This will help with the process of assessing bids to make sure that contractors are being honest with their estimates for how much materials will cost. This will allow you to weed out the sub-par contractors and feel more confident in the decision making process.
How do I use a gravel calculator?
A good gravel calculator will be very user-friendly and easy to understand.
There should only be three items that you will need to input into a gravel calculator in order to obtain accurate results:
- Length – Carefully measure the length of your coverage area. For especially long areas, like driveways, you’ll want to work with a partner to make sure that a mistake isn’t made. This measurement should be taken in feet if you are living in the US.
- Width – Next, use measuring tape to determine the width of the coverage area. Again, measurements should be taken in feet, and you should always double check so you don’t end up doing duplicate work down the line.
- Depth – This is the most complicated part of your measurements, as depth requirements will vary from project to project. Because of this, it’s very important that you take the time to do your research and determine the appropriate depth for your job. As a general rule of thumb, most gravel projects like paths and walkways will benefit from a depth of approximately 3″-4″. For a gravel driveway or patio, on the other hand, you will need to plan on using gravel and crushed stone of different sizes. A base layer or larger stone will be required (typically 2″-3″) with smaller gravel pieces layered on top (again, typically 2″-3″). In cases where you’re using gravel as an alternative to organic mulch or for drainage purposes, you may want to talk to a stone expert to discuss the ideal depth. Unlike with your length and width measurements, depth should be measured in inches.
What will a gravel calculator tell me?
After imputing the required information, you will receive two different numbers. First, the calculator will tell you how many cubic feet of gravel you’ll need to complete your project, and secondly, you’ll see how many cubic yards are needed. This is important because you may find that based on the supplier, the size or the type of gravel that you’re choosing to work with, the materials may be sold either by the cubic foot or cubic yard.
To make sure that you’re bases are covered, you should jot these numbers down and take them with you when you visit your local stone supplier.
Should any special considerations be made?
It’s important to keep in mind that, while gravel calculators offer very accurate results, these are still only estimates for your specific project. In some cases, other special planning and considerations will need to be made. You should consult with an expert in situations like:
- Rounded Project Areas – Some people prefer the look of a circular or arched gravel driveway or path as opposed to a rectangular one. Unfortunately, most gravel calculators are designed with rectangular projects in mind. With a rounded coverage area, you’ll need to consider circumference instead of standard surface area measurements. Because these can get particularly tricky, it’s in your best interest to have a trusted professional assess the situation and help you with the calculations.
- Irregularly Shaped Project Areas – Irregular project areas can be difficult to calculate out as well, but it’s not impossible. As an example, perhaps you are installing a gravel driveway that will be 50′ long. 30′ of the driveway will have a width of 15′ across, whereas the final 20′ of the driveway will be 20′ wide. The entire length will have a depth of 5″. You’ll simply need to consider each as a separate project area, first calculating 50’x30’x5” and then adding these numbers with the calculations for 20’x20’x5“. If this sounds too confusing, you may want to work with an expert. You’ll also want to consider turning to a professional if your project area is winding, or features both rectangular and rounded shapes.
- Layers of Gravel – As touched on previously, there may be some projects that will require you to work with multiple layers of gravel in varying sizes and types. You might be installing a pea gravel playground, but would like to use a different type of cheaper, plain crushed gravel as a base layer. If this is your plan, you’ll need to calculate your surface area and depth needs for all types of gravel that you intend on using. If there are large variations in size, you might want to discuss how this could impact your estimates with your supplier.
Do you still have questions about using a gravel calculator to plan for your upcoming project?
The knowledgeable professionals here at Braen Stone are ready and able to provide you with the answers you’re looking for. We can provide you with advice on unique project specifications so that regardless of the size, shape or scope of your job, you’ll feel confident that you’ll be able to walk away with the right amount of gravel to get it finished.
Determining How Much Material You Need
Don’t know how much product you need? Run a quick calculation with our materials calculator.
- Simply enter the width, length and depth that you need and hit “calculate.”
- For all landscaping projects we recommend a minimum depth of 2-3 inches of material.