Calculating The Number Of Shovels Needed To Fill Anything

  • Time to read: 5 min.

Ever wonder how many shovels of dirt it will take to fill a hole, place mulch, or fill a sandbox? In this guide, we’ll be discussing how to calculate the number of shovels needed to fill anything. Whether it be a hole, a swimming pool, or even a bathtub, this method will help determine the number of shovels required.

Measurements Required To Calculate The Number Of Shovels Needed To Fill Anything

Several things come into play when making this calculation, such as the size and depth of the object you’re filling and the type of material you use to fill it, sand, soil, water, snow, gravel, and mulch.

1. Objects Volume

The first step is determining the volume of the object you are trying to fill. To do this, calculate the volume by measuring the object’s length, width, and depth. Once you have these three measurements, multiply them together, and you will have the volume.

For example, we want to fill a 3 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 2 feet deep hole.

We would calculate the volume as follows: 3 (wide) x 4 (long) x 2 (depth) = 24 cubic feet

2. Material Density

Now that the volume of the object to be filled is complete, we need to determine the type of material we’ll be using to fill it and the density of the material. 

Every material / substrate has a different density, which will affect the number of shovels required.

For example, fluffy snow has a lower density than snow with ice. Likewise, wet sand or soil has a higher density than dry sand or soil. Lastly there are other factors, such as additional components in the material as may appear in mulches. Is the mulch 100% wood, or does it contain plastics?

The way to determine the specific density of the material you have is to utilize the formula Density=Mass/Volume.

The chart below shows the average densities of various materials. 

As the calculations in this guide are based on average densities, outcome figures may be slightly over or under your needs. So if you purchase soil when wet, buy more than you calculate, as when the soil dries, the density will be less, resulting in you needing to top off with more soil.

SUBSTRATEPOUNDS PER CUBIC FOOTKILOGRAMS PER CUBIC METER
Gravel loose 95 1522
Gravel pea 95 11522
Gravel river rock 100 1602
Gravel with sand 120 1922
Ice 57 913.1
Mulch compost 44 704.8
Mulch hay 8 128.1
Mulch rubber 44 704.8
Mulch sawdust 13 208.2
Mulch straw 7.5 120.1
Mulch wood chips 24 384.4
Sand dry 100 1602
Sand wet 135 2162
Snow fluffy 2 32.04
Snow heavily packed 18 288.3
Snow ice 55 881
Snow lightly packed 8.5 136.2
Snow slush 38608.7
Snow wind packed 23368.4
Soil clay dry 851362
Soil clay wet 1252002
Soil topsoil/dirt dry 801281
Soil topsoil/dirt wet 1001602
Water62.51001
Substrate Density

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3. Weight Of Material Needed To Fill The Object

Once you know the density of the material you’re using, you can multiply the density by the object’s volume to determine the weight of material needed.

For example, if we’re using dry sand to fill a hole and we know that the density of dry sand is 100 pounds per cubic foot, we would calculate the weight as follows: 

24 cubic feet(the volume of the hole to be filled) x 100 (the density/cubic foot of dry sand) = 2,400 pounds (the weight of sand required)

Now that we know the weight of material required, we can finally calculate the number of shovels needed. 

4. Number Of Shovel Fulls To Fill Object

The number of shovel fulls will vary depending on the size of the shovel you’re using and how big a load you can lift and move.

So, how many shovels in a cubic foot? A good rule of thumb is that one cubic foot or .028 metres of substrate weighs about 20 pounds. 

The sand required to fill the hole is 2,400 lbs, and one shovel full is approximately 20 pounds; so we need 120 shovels of sand to fill the hole (2,400 divided by 20).

This is just a rough estimate, and your actual needs may vary depending on the size and type of object you’re trying to fill and the size of your shovel. However, this method will give you a good starting point for calculating the number of shovels needed for your project.

FAQ And Fun Facts

For fun, we have calculated; how many shovels are needed calculations. Some may come in handy for you.

How Much Snow Does One Shovel Full Remove?

With a standard snow shovel, you can expect to remove about 1/2 cubic feet of snow per scoop. 

However, the amount of snow that one shovel full can remove depends on the size and type of shovel utilized. For example, a small plastic shovel will hold less snow than a large metal shovel, and a scoop shovel will remove more snow than a standard push snow shovel.

How Many Shovels Of Water Would Be Needed to Fill a Swimming Pool?

For example, let’s say we have a rectangular pool that is 20 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 5 feet deep. 

Volume = 20 x 10 x 5 = 1,000 cubic feet

Density of water=62.5 pounds per cubic foot. 

Weight of water needed=1,000 x 62.5 = 62,500 pounds

Number of shovel fulls needed=62,400 / 20=3,120

Final Answer=3,120 shovels full of water are required to fill the pool.

How Many Shovels of Snow Will Fill A Basic Outdoor Kiddie Pool?

We have a kiddie pool 3 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 2 feet deep. 

Volume = 3 x 4 x 2 = 24 cubic feet

Density of fluffy snow=2.0 pounds per cubic foot. 

Weight of fluffy snow needed=24 x 2.0 = 48 pounds

Number of shovel fulls needed=48 divided by 20

Final Answer=2.4 shovels full of snow are required to fill the pool.

How Many Shovels of Dirt are Needed to Fill an Average Hole?

We have a 3 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 2 feet deep hole to fill. 

Volume = 3 x 4 x 2 = 24 cubic feet

Density of dirt=80 pounds per cubic foot. 

Weight of dirt needed=24 x 80 = 1920 pounds

Number of shovel fulls needed=1920 divided by 20

Final Answer= 96 shovels full of dirt are required to fill the hole.

How Many Shovels To Fill A Wheelbarrow?

A standard wheelbarrow holds about 3 cubic feet of material. 

Volume = 3 x 1 x 1 = 3 cubic feet

Density of mulch wood chips= 24 pounds per cubic foot. 

Weight of mulch wood chips needed=24 x 3= 72 pounds

Number of shovel fulls needed=1920 divided by 20

Final Answer= 3.6 is the answer, but let’s round it up to 4 shovels full of mulch wood chips are required to fill the wheelbarrow.

How Many Shovels Of —– To Fill A 5-gallon Bucket?

Calculating The Number Of Shovels Needed To Fill Anything 1
Calculating The Number Of Shovels Needed To Fill Anything 2

Final Thoughts

It would help consider a few different factors when calculating the number of shovels needed to fill anything. The volume of the object, the type of material you’re using to fill it, the density of that material, and your shovel’s capacity. Once you have all of this information, you can use the method outlined in this guide to estimate the number of shovels required for your project.

If your looking for the best shovel for you head over to our guide Choosing the Best Shovel for you?

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