Picking the right sized dumpster

Having an understanding of roll-off dumpster sizes and their measurements is important in helping select the right size container for the project at hand. Roll-off dumpsters typically come in four different sizes; 10, 20, 30, and 40 yd capacities.

Below is a table depicting the length, width, and height of each size. Although these measurements are considered industry standards, they may vary to a certain degree based on the individual hauler.

Size                          Exterior Dimensions                             Capacity/Volume
10 yd                          12 ft. long x 8 ft. wide x 3.5 ft. high            10 cubic yards
20 yd                          22 ft. long x 8 ft. wide x 4 ft. high               20 cubic yards
30 yd                          22 ft. long x 8 ft. wide x 6 ft. high               30 cubic yards
40 yd                          22 ft. long x 8 ft. wide x 8 ft. high               40 cubic yards

What is a cubic yard?
Simply put, a cubic yard is a measure of space or volume. For example, a cube of space is 3 ft. long x 3 ft. wide x 3 ft. high. These measurements equal 1 cubic yard. By taking the dimensions of a dumpster in feet one can then calculate the number of cubic yards of debris the dumpster can hold by using the basic formula below:

  • Multiply length x width x height in feet to determine total cubic feet
  • Then divide the total cubic feet by 27

It’s important to note that dumpster dimensions are generally provided in feet and measured from the outside of the container walls.  So, by using the exterior dimensions, the formula above will slightly over estimate cubic yards. To get a more accurate interior volume, use interior dimensions by subtracting approximately 6 to 8 inches off each exterior measurement. An 8 ft. exterior width then becomes 7.4 ft. of interior width.

What size container should I use?
Estimating the volume of your debris can be a challenge, especially for household junk or construction and demolition debris.  Roofing debri (shingles) is a bit more simplified because of the conformity in shape and size.   Below are helpful guideline to consider when choosing the size of container.

What fits into a 10 yd dumpster?   A 10 yd dumpster may be appropriate for a smaller residential cleanup or other projects.

  • Basement or garage debris cleanout
  • 250 sq. ft deck removal
  • 1,500 sq. ft. of roof shingles (single layer)
  • Small kitchen or bath remodeling job

What fits into a 20 yd dumpster? A 20 yd container is the right dumpster size for larger clean-up and remodeling projects. A 20-yarder can hold approximately 10 pickup truck loads of waste and debris. 20 yd dumpsters are the most widely used containers because they are priced competitively and hold a large amount of debris.

  • Basement, attic, or garage cleanup
  • Home remodeling project
  • Flooring and carpet removal for a larger home
  • 300-400 sq. ft of decking material
  • 2,500-3,000 sq. ft of roof shingle removal (single layer)

What fits into a 30 yd dumpster? A 30 yd dumpster may be the right solution for complete residential cleanouts, large home remodeling projects, new home construction and commercial remodeling or construction projects.

  • Major home addition – large remodeling project
  • New home construction
  • Garage demolition
  • Complete home window or siding replacement (small-to-medium size home)

What fits into a 40 yd dumpster? A 40 yd container is ideal for projects that will generate a substantial amount of construction and demolition debris.

  • Residential or commercial demolition project
  • Commercial roofing project
  • Large new home and commercial construction
  • Commercial landscaping and excavating
  • Large water and fire remediation projects

Choosing a dumpster that’s too small can be an expensive mistake.
Stuffing 15 yards of debris in a 10 yd container doesn’t work. It will end up costing more because it’s likely a pick-up and re-drop will be required before the project is completed. The cost doubles since your rental charge is based on a single haul (don’t expect a discount on the second haul). Suffice to say ordering a 20 yd container initially is less expensive.

Don’t over-fill the dumpster.
It may be tempting to try and work around a dumpster that is too small by piling debris over the rim of the container. Don’t do it. Debris piled over the top is considered a road hazard and the dumpster service cannot legally haul the container. Most drivers will leave the job site and it won’t be picked up until the debris is leveled off, of which will result in an extra trip charge. Some drivers may jump up and level your dumpster by throwing out debris.  In this case, an “overfilling fee” will be added and the left-over debris still must be disposed of.

Finally, choosing a roll off dumpster size is not an exact science.  Calling several local haulers and describing the scope of your project is well advised.  It’s difficult to suggest a size without seeing the debris, but most haulers will do their best to help recommend the right container size. End.



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