How do I figure out how many concrete bags I need?

Figuring out how much concrete you need for a project can seem daunting, but it’s actually quite straightforward once you know the basic calculations. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the entire process step-by-step, from measuring your project area to determining the right concrete mix and quantity of bags to purchase.

Step 1: Measure the Area

The starting point for figuring out concrete needs is to carefully measure the area you’ll be pouring concrete over. Here are some tips for getting accurate measurements:

  • Use a measuring tape – Measure the length and width of the area in feet to get the square footage. For irregular shapes, break the area into rectangular sections and measure each individually.
  • Double check accuracy – Measure at least twice to ensure your measurements are correct before calculating bag needs. Even small measurement errors can throw off concrete calculations.
  • Account for depth – Make note of how many inches deep your concrete pour needs to be. Depth is used to estimate the volume of concrete needed.

For example, say you’re pouring a concrete slab for a shed foundation that will be 10 ft long x 8 ft wide x 4 inches deep. You would calculate:

  • Length = 10 ft
  • Width = 8 ft
  • Area = Length x Width = 10 x 8 = 80 sq ft
  • Depth = 4 inches

Knowing the area and depth will allow you to accurately calculate how much concrete you’ll need in the next steps.

Step 2: Estimate Concrete Volume Needed

Now that you know the area being poured and depth required, determining estimated cubic yards or cubic feet of concrete needed is straightforward:

  • For slabs/flatwork: Multiply the area by depth. So for example, 80 sq ft x 0.33 ft (4 inches) = 26.4 cubic ft
  • For footings: Multiply the length x width x depth. For example, 10 ft x 2 ft x 1 ft = 20 cubic ft
  • For columns: Multiply the circular area x depth. For example, a column with 4″ diameter and 3 ft tall would need 0.6 cubic ft of concrete.

Concrete is sold by the cubic yard, so if working in cubic feet you’ll need to convert to cubic yards. To convert:

  • Cubic yards = cubic feet / 27

For our 10 x 8 shed foundation example, we needed 26.4 cubic feet of concrete. Convert to cubic yards:

  • Cubic yards = 26.4 cu ft / 27 = ~1 cubic yard

Now we know we need approximately 1 cubic yard of concrete for the shed foundation.

Step 3: Choose Concrete Mix

With an estimate of how much concrete you need, the next step is deciding on the right concrete mix. Important factors in choosing a mix include:

  • Application – Mixes are designed for specific uses like foundations, slabs, footings, or patches.
  • Strength – Measured in PSI, higher strengths cost more but last longer.
  • Cure time – Faster setting mixes speed project completion.

Some common pre-blended concrete mixes include:

Mix Type PSI Rating Uses
General purpose 3,000 – 4,500 PSI Slabs, footings, repairs
High strength 5,000+ PSI Driveways, garage slabs, patios
Fast setting 3,000+ PSI Projects needing quick cure time

For most residential flatwork like a shed foundation, a general purpose pre-blended mix with 3,000 – 4,500 PSI is ideal. It offers adequate strength at a lower cost. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Step 4: Calculate Bags Needed

Now we can determine how many concrete bags are required. Most mixes are sold in 60 or 80 lb bags. Here is how to estimate bags based on cubic yards needed:

  • 60 lb bags – ~1 cubic yard = 60 bags
  • 80 lb bags – ~1 cubic yard = 43 bags

Bags are sold as full units, so you must round up to the next whole bag. Using our example shed foundation:

  • 1 cubic yard needed
  • Using 60 lb bags: Round 1 cubic yard up to 60 bags

Therefore, you would need approximately 60 bags of concrete mix for this project. For improved accuracy, add 5-10% extra bags to account for waste and spillage.

Step 5: Purchase Concrete

With your concrete calculations complete, simply:

  • Purchase the bags – Have bags delivered or pick up at home improvement store.
  • Order bulk delivery – If purchasing over 5 cubic yards, consider ordering bulk delivery by the truckload.

Make sure to have extra bags on hand for small repairs or modifications during the pour. Now with the calculations done, you’re ready to tackle the concrete project!


Estimating concrete needs seems tricky, but just follow these simple steps:

  1. Accurately measure the area being poured and depth.
  2. Determine volume needed in cubic yards or feet.
  3. Select an appropriate concrete mix for the job.
  4. Calculate the number of concrete bags required.
  5. Purchase enough bags from the home improvement store or order bulk delivery.

And always add in a buffer for waste and changes. With the right measurements and a reliable concrete mix, you can pour the perfect slab or foundation. Just take it step-by-step using the tips above.

Some key takeaways:

  • Carefully measure the pour area and depth using a tape measure.
  • Choose a pre-blended concrete mix suitable for the job.
  • Estimate bags needed based on concrete volume and bag weights.
  • Have extra bags on hand for changes or repairs during the pour.
  • Order concrete in bulk for very large projects over 5 cubic yards.

Concrete projects seem intimidating at first, but are actually quite simple once you understand the basic process of estimating how much you need. With the right calculations and measurements, your concrete slab, foundation, or other project will turn out perfectly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size area will one bag of concrete cover?

One 60 lb bag will cover approximately 0.5 sq ft at a 4 inch depth. An 80 lb bag covers around 0.75 sq ft. Coverage also depends on how evenly and efficiently the concrete is poured.

How do I calculate concrete volume for a circular area?

Use the formula: Volume = 3.14 x (radius)2 x depth. So for example, a 4 ft diameter (2 ft radius) circle that’s 6 inches deep would need:

3.14 x (2 ft)2 x 0.5 ft = 6.28 cubic ft of concrete.

Should I add any extra concrete as a buffer?

It’s always smart to order 5-10% extra concrete above your volume calculations. Factors like uneven ground, spillage, and small changes can increase concrete used beyond exact estimates. The extra bags prevent you from running short during the pour.

Can I return unused concrete bags?

Most home improvement stores will accept returns of unopened concrete bags with receipts. Always check return policies first when purchasing extra bags. Bagged concrete also has a shelf life of a few months before expiring.

What tools do I need for mixing and pouring concrete?

Essential tools include mixing trays or wheelbarrows, hoes or shovels for mixing, a float for smoothing, trowels for edges, and forms or molds to contain the pour area. Having water accessible is also critical.

Tips for Mixing and Pouring Concrete

Once you’ve estimated how much concrete you need, proper mixing and pouring technique will ensure a successful result. Here are some top tips:

  • Always follow manufacturer’s mix instructions.
  • Mix concrete thoroughly for 2-3 minutes in batches.
  • Use just enough water so concrete is workable but not runny.
  • Pour in layers no more than 4 inches deep at a time.
  • Compact each layer while still wet using a float or tamping tool.
  • Smooth the surface with long strokes and fill in low spots.
  • Use an edging tool for clean, smooth edges around the perimeter.
  • Wet cure concrete for 3-7 days by misting periodically with water.

Properly mixed, poured, and cured concrete will gain strength over 28 days and provide years of service. Taking care through every step of the process ensures your project ends up looking fantastic.

Estimating Concrete for Small Jobs

For minor concrete repairs or small projects under 1-2 cubic yards, buying bagged mix is much simpler than ordering truck delivery. Here are tips for small DIY jobs:

  • Look for fast-setting mixes to speed completion.
  • Start with half as many bags as you estimate – you can always get more.
  • Mix by the shovel or bucket instead of a wheelbarrow for small batches.
  • Have a helper available to transport and pour mixed concrete.
  • Rent a concrete mixer for large DIY projects to save time and effort.
  • Divide larger pours into multiple sessions if needed for easier handling.

For simple repairs or small flatwork, bagged concrete is perfectly adequate. Just focus on good mixing, pouring, smoothing and curing techniques.

When to Hire a Concrete Contractor

While DIY concrete projects can certainly save money, there are times when hiring a pro makes more sense:

  • New home foundations or basements – Precise forming is required.
  • Pouring over 5 cubic yards – Bulk delivery required.
  • Elevated slabs – Careful grade preparation is needed.
  • Curves and decorative patterns – Skilled finishing work is required.
  • Structural work – Must meet building codes.
  • Extensive demolition & site prep – Hauling fees add up.
  • No helper – Moving wet concrete quickly takes 2+ people.

While pricier, an experienced contractor’s expertise can save major headaches on large, complicated, or hazardous concrete projects.


Figuring concrete needs for your project doesn’t have to be confusing. Follow this simple 5-step process:

  1. Accurately measure the area and thickness.
  2. Calculate volume required in cubic yards or feet.
  3. Select a suitable concrete mix for the job.
  4. Estimate 60 or 80 lb. bags needed based on volume.
  5. Order extra bags and have tools ready for efficient mixing and pouring.

Taking measurements carefully, adding a buffer for extra concrete, and properly curing your project are keys to success. For major structural work, consider hiring an expert contractor for a quality result.

With the techniques outlined here, you can calculate concrete needs for projects large and small. Get your measurements right, choose a quality mix, and simply follow the steps for concrete that lasts.

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