Whats Larger 1 Ton or 1 Cubic Yard?
This is a question that is often asked and the best answer is, It depends.
When dealing with materials in the landscape industry, some places sell by the cubic yard and other places sell by weight such as either the pound or ton.
For 1 Cubic Yard of most materials such as Sand, Gravel, Landscape Rock, River Rocks & Cobble, etc. will weigh quite a bit more than 1 ton. Most of the rocks that we deliver weigh between 2400 lbs per cubic yards up to about 3000 lbs per cubic yard. Their are a few very light rocks that weigh less than 1 ton per cubic yard such as lava rocks. But they are the rarity and outliers and not the norm.
Does The Weight Matter?
The nice part is that the weight doesn't matter as much as how much coverage it will provide. The coverage for 1 cubic yard of material never changes regardless of what type of material you are dealing with. It will always be standard as this is a volumetric measurement and not weight based. While weight based calculations such as TONS the coverage is dependent upon each individual material and typically places will give a range of coverage instead of an exact figure making it difficult to know if you are ordering enough.
If you order 3 cubic yards of 2 different materials the piles will be the same size. But if you order 3 tons of 2 different materials you may have piles that are extremely different in size if the weight of those materials we different such as with Lava Rock vs a River Rock. This difference can be fairly significant even between some gravels where they may weigh 25% - 40% different.
When you measure your yard or area, you are measuring length, width, and depth of that area. Now when you calculate the math formula on that you will calculate it into cubic yards before you ever can convert to tons. Now unless you know the exact density of the material you won't have a calculation to convert that to a weight figure such as tons.
The most common mistake we find people making is mixing up cubic yards and tons. The other thing we see is an assumtion that they are the same which is not the case at all.
If you measured your area in cubic yards but ordered in tons, you will be placing another order as it is highly unlikely that you will have enough since most materials weigh much more than 1 ton per cubic yard.
Which is the Better Method?
While both methods do work, unless you have a specific need to weigh everything such as a quarry the cubic yard method is the most consistent and matches up with how landscapers and customers are measuring their areas.
Hope this helps you understand the difference with tons vs cubic yards a little better.