How Many Yards Are in an Excavator Bucket?

Matt at Centex Excavation
Author: MattPublished: April 16, 2022 Updated: January 2, 2024 • Filed Under: Equipment and Machinery

Key Takeaways

  1. Bucket Capacity Calculation: The capacity of an excavator bucket depends on factors like the material’s density, the bucket’s fill factor, and the excavator’s cycle time. Calculating the bucket capacity involves understanding these factors and applying them to the specific excavator model.
  2. Importance of Knowing Bucket Capacity: Understanding the capacity of an excavator bucket is crucial for efficient operation, ensuring safe lifting limits, and determining the right attachments for specific tasks.
  3. Variability in Bucket Sizes: Excavator buckets come in various sizes, typically ranging from 1/2 yard to 1 yard in width, with their capacity varying based on the excavator model and the type of material being handled.

The capacity of a bucket to complete a task is contingent upon the hourly requirement for production and how dense the materials are; the amount of the bucket will be for a particular kind of material, also known as the “fill factor,” and the time of the cycle.

The project manager determines the hourly production requirements. The quantity of product per sq yard is calculated from standard reference tables. The duration of a cycle is the time between when a bucket has been full and is filled up again.

So if you’re wondering how many yards are in an excavator bucket, we’ve got the answer for you.

Bucket Size (Width in Inches)Approximate Capacity (Cubic Yards)
12″ (Mini Excavator Bucket)0.03 – 0.05
18″ (Mini Excavator Bucket)0.06 – 0.08
24″ (Standard Excavator Bucket)0.2 – 0.3
36″ (Standard Excavator Bucket)0.5 – 0.6
48″ (Large Excavator Bucket)1 – 1.25
60″ (Large Excavator Bucket)1.5 – 1.75
72″ (Extra-Large Excavator Bucket)2 – 2.5
This table shows standard bucket sizes and approximate cubic yards of material each can hold.

What Is The Length Of A 1-Yard Bucket?

Available in 58” (1/2 yard) and 62″ (1 yard) widths. These buckets are designed for landscaping materials that require accurate measurements of the products delivered in a container that permits dumping in the back of pickup trucks, if necessary.

What Is A Bucket Of An Excavator?

Before you can determine how many yards are in an excavator bucket, let’s talk about what an excavator bucket is.

Excavators are attachments for digging that have teeth on the arms of an excavator. The excavator operator operates the buckets through the controls located inside the cabin. Excavator buckets are also utilized to move dirt or load dump trucks to transport them to dump locations.

How Many Yards Can Fit Into The Pickup?

A typical size pickup can contain the equivalent of three cubic yards (a complete load). Two cubic yards is around the body’s level. In the case of soils, sands, or gravel, One cubic yard is the minimum suggested on a pickup truck.

How Do You Calculate Excavator Bucket Capacity

The material used for filling is vital since it affects how much weight is per cubic yard, and the filling factor differs by the manufacturer of the bucket. This is critical for determining how many yards in an excavator bucket.

  • Step 1 – Material Identification: Identify the material to be excavated. For example, crushed stone weighs 2,500 pounds per cubic yard. Refer to the Fill Factor Data Sheet for specific materials to determine how full the bucket can be.
  • Step 2 – Timing the Load: Use a stopwatch to time the excavator bucket’s loading process. Calculate the number of cycles per hour by dividing 60 by the cycle time.
  • Step 3 – Calculating Hourly Production: Divide the hourly production requirement by the number of cycles per hour to find the amount of material moved per cycle.
  • Step 4 – Determining Nominal Capacity: Divide the payload per cycle by the material’s density to find the bucket’s nominal capacity.
  • Step 5 – Adjusting for Fill Percentage: Calculate the required bucket capacity by dividing the nominal capacity by the fill percentage.

Example Calculation

For crushed stone, if the cycle time is 0.5 minutes, and the goal is to move 800 tons per hour with a fill factor of 85%, the required bucket capacity is calculated as 6.21 cubic yards.

How to Calculate Backfill

Backfills are used to substitute soil or dirt taken out of the earth. This could include the site of a garden for raised beds or a material to put behind a wall to create a retaining one. Backfill is typically calculated so that the backfill should not contain all large stones or other forms of vegetation.

In addition, backfill should not contain wood debris since the material can decay and create underground gaps. The voids may collapse and cause an opening within the center of the filling. Backfill is usually measured in terms of cubic yards or cubic feet.

Here’s a simple method to calculate backfill—

  • Step 1 – Volume Calculation: Calculate the volume of the area needing backfill. For example, a space 8 feet wide, 6 feet deep, and 50 feet long has a volume of 2400 cubic feet.
  • Step 2 – Cubic Yardage: Convert cubic footage to cubic yardage, as backfill is sold per yard. Divide the total cubic feet by 27 (since one cubic yard is 27 cubic feet) to get cubic yards.
  • Step 3 – Circular Holes: For circular holes, calculate the area (using the formula 3.14 x radius squared) and then the volume. For a 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep hole, the volume is 392.5 cubic feet or 14.5 yards.
  • Step 4 – Truckload Calculation: Determine the number of truckloads needed based on the truck’s capacity. For the circular hole example, one 15-yard truckload is sufficient.
  • Step 5 – Total Truckloads for Rectangular Space: For the rectangular space, divide the total cubic yards by the truck’s capacity (10 yards) to determine the number of loads needed, rounding up to the nearest whole number.

Know your equipment!

By keeping these measurements in your hands (or noted down in our measurement guide), you should have everything you require to begin your search for a used excavator bucket when you know how many yards can be found in an excavator’s bucket.

With that, you’ll be well on your way to finishing up your project.

About the Author

Matt Avatar


Excavation Expert

Matt is a highly experienced heavy equipment operator with over two decades of experience in the construction industry. His expertise covers a wide range of machinery and project types, and he is known for his focus on safety, efficiency, and problem-solving. Matt's commitment to delivering high-quality work within deadlines and budgets has made him highly respected at Centex Excavation and the excavation industry.

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