How to calculate volume of building materials, useful formulas for calculating areas and volumes, and hot to convert imperial measurements to metric

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Available DIY How To Projects

Calculating the volume of the materials that you need is an important part of preparing and budgeting for a project. You will need to calculate the volume or tonnage of the materials that you need to order, be it soil, aggregate or any other building materials. When it comes to concrete, getting the correct mix is essential to ensure that what ever you are building stays up. To help you with this try our concrete calculator and find out the exact volumes of sand, cement and aggregate you will need

Calculators are usually required to work out floor areas and material volumes

Calculators are usually required to work out floor areas and material volumes

There is a little more help about how to measure areas, particularly relating to measuring up for floor covering, that can be found on our setting out and measuring Project. This will give you some practical tips about how to measure areas.

The Formula for calculating Areas, Volumes and Perimeters:

To calculate the areas, use the following formula:

  • Width x length = Area (For example, a floor 2 meters by 3 meters the area will be 2 x 3 = 6 m2)

To calculate the volume, use this formula:

  • Width x length x depth (or height) = Volume (For example, to top soil required on a for a garden 2 meters by 3 meters and laid to a depth of 30 cm has the volume 2 x 3 x 0.3 = 1.8 m3)

To calculate the perimeter, simply add up the sides of the area that you are working with. For example, the fence length (and perimeter) around a garden which is 2 meters by 3 meters will be 2 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 10m

Converting Imperial Measurements to Metric

All conversions formulas are approximate but would generally be accurate enough for use on a building or DIY project. To converts measurements of length from imperial to metric use the following formulas:

  • 1 inch = 2.54 cm; to convert centimetres to inches divide by 2.54, and inches to cm then multiply by 2.54
  • 1 yard = 0.91 meters
  • 1 meter = 3.3 feet
  • 1 mile = 1.6 Km

To convert weights use the following:

  • 1 gram = 1/28 of an ounce; to convert grams to ounces, divide by 28. For ounces to grams, multiply by 28
  • 1 kilogram (Kg) = 2.2 pounds; multiply kilograms by 2.2 or divide pounds by 2.2 to convert
  • Metric Tonne = 2205 pounds; A metric tonne is always spelt this way. An imperial ton (spelt this way) is very similar in weight being only 2240 pounds (lb). It’s something called a “long ton”, because Americans use a “short ton” when they refer to a ton, which is only 2000 lb.

When using the imperial system remember:

  • 16 ounces (oz) = 1 pound (lb)
  • 14 pounds (lb) = 1 stone
  • 2,240 pounds = 1 ton

To convert between imperial capacities use the following:

  • 20 fluid ounces = 1 pint
  • 2 pint = 1 quart
  • 4 quarts (or 8 pints) = 1 gallon

So to convert betweens metric and imperial use the following guides:

  • 1 litre = 1.75 pints; to convert pints to litres divide by 1.75 or multiply if going from litres to pints

Note that a US pint is a slightly smaller large as they are only 16 fluid ounces. This also makes a US gallon slightly smaller too. To convert US pints to litres divide by 2.1.

Getting the right volumes and calculating the right amount of building materials is critical to your project. These projects should give you some of the most common ways of calculating what you need and converting between measuring systems, be it metric or imperial.