Mulch Calculator

Use this calculator to estimate how much mulch you need in volume (cubic ft, cubic yards, or cubic meters) or bags. It works for wood chips mulch and rubber mulch alike.

Pricing info


Calculation results

Mulch needed 0.148 cubic yards (4 ft3)
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Mulch calculation process

Many gardeners are faced with calculating or estimating the amount of mulch they need to cover a given garden area with it. Our mulch calculator is of great utility that you can use to assist in this task, but you should keep in mind that the results will only be as good as the measurements entered. The calculation process is the same for wood mulch and rubber mulch, and is as follows:

  1. Estimate the volume of mulch needed, using geometrical formulas and plans or measurements.
  2. If bag size and price are specified, divide by the bag volume, to calculate the number of bags.
  3. If bulk order price is specified (per cu yd or per cu meter), multiply the resulting volume by the price to get a total price.

In the process of step #2 price per cubic yard or cubic meter is calculated as well, allowing you to easily compare prices from retail and bulk vendors. It is a good advice to consider purchasing slightly more mulch than estimated, especially if uneven ground makes it harder to estimate the average depth of the area. 2 inches is a the generally recommended minimum depth.

Square or rectangular area

The volume formula for a rectangular (or square) box in cubic feet is height(ft) x width(ft) x length(ft), as seen in the figure below:

mulch rectangular

For example, to fill with mulch a box with a width of 10ft and a length of 22ft, to a depth of 1in, you need to multiply 0.083ft x 10ft x 22ft = 18.333ft3 (cubic feet) of mulch. To convert to cubic yards, divide by 3^3 = 27 to get 0.679yd3 (cubic yards).

Round area

If the area you want to cover, or the shape you want to fill is round, the calculation is a bit different:

mulch round

The volume of a figure with a round shape is its depth times the surface area. To calculate the surface area we need its diameter, since the formula is π x r2, where r is the radius, or diameter/2.

Irregularly shaped area

In case the area you are calculating has an irregular shape what you want to do is divide it in several regularly-shaped sections, calculate their volume and mulch requirements and then sum them up together. If you need to do this for a large number of sections, you might use our summation calculator next.

Mulch basics

A layer of material applied to the surface of soil is called mulch. It comes in two main types, organic mulch and synthetic mulch. Most commercial organic mulches (straw apart) are wood byproducts from the lumber industry, while synthetic ones are usually shredded old tires. Some organic mulch can actually be found just laying around, e.g. fallen leaves and grass clippings are excellent for flower and perennial beds, especially if shredded.

Applying mulch is done to conserve the soil moisture, to improve soil fertility & health, to hinder weed growth and last, but not least, to enhance the visual appeal of the garden or yard. A layer of mulch over the topsoil works great for most plants as it insulates them - keeping their temperature more steady and protecting roots from both cold and hot. It also keeps soil moisture from evaporating quickly, so can water less often. In addition, it has a weed-prevention function, as it shades out weed seeds, stagnating their growth due to insufficient sunlight.

wood chips mulch

Mulch for domestic or garden use is usually sold in packets of several cubic feet (1, 1.5, 2 and 3 cu ft are standard), while in Europe you usually see bags measuring 10-s of liters (e.g. 20l, 40l, 60l bags). For larger projects it is sold by the cubic yard or cubic meter, and more rarely by ton or tonne, or truckloads.

Wood vs Rubber mulch - a comparison

Both wood and rubber mulch have advantages and disadvantages and where one works better in some places, the other excels at others. Selecting the right type for your garden or playground is crucial.

Mulch types comparison
Wood Mulch
  1. Provides additional nourishment over time, as with time wood releases nutrients into the soil, enhancing its fertility.
  2. Great natural color.
  3. Easier to weed and add new plants.
  4. Can be used in any garden.
  1. Poor longevity, needs to be replenished by end of season.
  2. Heavy rain may displace it.
  3. Color may be washed out with time.
  4. Some animals & insects are attracted to the wood chips (termites, carpenter ants...).
Rubber Mulch
  1. Does not decompose, does not require replenishing.
  2. Stays in place, even heavy rainfall won't displace it.
  3. Lasting color that does not wash out.
  4. Discourages animals and insects from entering the garden.
  1. No additional nourishment for the soil.
  2. May leak heavy metals like zinc.
  3. Fire hazard.

As you can see from the table, rubber mulch vs wood mulch is not an easy choice! When calculating dollar and time costs, make sure to consider not only the one-time investment, but maintenance over a period of 5 or 10 years, in order to get a fairer comparison, otherwise the bark chips may get an unfair advantage.

Purchasing bulk versus in bags

As with any good, there are advantages and disadvantages in purchasing bulk versus purchasing in smaller bags or sacks. The plus of the smaller packaging is convenience: they are more widely available, you don't need a special vehicle to transport them, it is usually easier to store mulch in bags as well. The minus of buying in bags from a retail store is that the cost per cubic yard is higher. That's due to the packaging expenses, cost of shell space, and other factors.

The pros of bulk ordering is that you may save significant percentages versus the price you usually pay when buying by the bag. Depending on the size of your order, you might be able to get an additional discount as well. However, the minuses are higher transportation costs, harder handling, and the need for storage, if you can't use it all at once.

Is one better than the other? As always, the answer is: it depends on your particular circumstances and needs, so choose wisely.

Cite this calculator & page

If you'd like to cite this online calculator resource and information as provided on the page, you can use the following citation:
Georgiev G.Z., "Mulch Calculator", [online] Available at: URL [Accessed Date: 26 May, 2018].