metal buildings

Planning to build your dream metal shop building? A strong concrete slab is the backbone of your project, and getting the calculations right is key. I’ll share my experience and insights to help you figure out exactly how much concrete you need, so you avoid over-ordering or coming up short.

Sizing It Up

  • Shop Dimensions: Start with the size of your shop building. Don’t forget, the slab should extend a bit beyond the edges – usually 6 to 12 inches on all sides – to help anchor the building and keep out moisture.
  • Thickness: The thickness you need depends on what you’re planning to do in your shop. For most hobbyist shops, 4 inches is usually fine. But if you’re storing heavy equipment or vehicles, you might need 6 inches or even more. A good rule of thumb is “the heavier the load, the thicker the pad.”

The Math

  1. Area = Length x Width: Pretty straightforward – multiply the length and width of your planned slab in feet to get the total area in square feet.
  2. Volume = Area x Thickness: Now, multiply that area by the thickness (in feet, so 6 inches is 0.5 feet). This gives you the total volume of concrete needed in cubic feet.
  3. Cubic Yards = Cubic Feet / 27: Concrete is usually sold in cubic yards, not cubic feet. So, divide the volume in cubic feet by 27 to get the cubic yards.

Real-World Tweaks

  • Don’t Forget Waste: Always order a little extra concrete – about 5-10% is a safe bet. This accounts for spills, uneven ground, or even just a little overestimation.
  • Footings & Extras: If you’re planning footings (those deeper sections under posts or walls), you’ll need to calculate their volume separately and add it to your total. Same goes for any extra concrete areas like an apron in front of your shop.

Let’s Crunch Some Numbers

Say you’re building a 30×40 foot shop with a 6-inch thick slab, and you want to be cautious with a 10% extra:

  1. Area: 30 ft x 40 ft = 1200 sq ft
  2. Thickness: 6 inches / 12 inches/ft = 0.5 ft
  3. Volume: 1200 sq ft x 0.5 ft = 600 cubic ft
  4. Cubic Yards: 600 cubic ft / 27 cubic ft/yard = 22.22 cubic yards
  5. Plus Waste: 22.22 cubic yards + 2.22 cubic yards = 24.44 cubic yards

You’d probably round that up and order 25 cubic yards to be safe.

Additional Tips

  • Prep the Ground: Make sure the ground under your slab is level and compacted. This helps with drainage and prevents your slab from cracking later on.
  • Ask for Help: If your building plans are complex, or you’re unsure about local rules, get a structural engineer or experienced contractor to check your calculations.
  • Schedule Smart: Order your concrete when you’re ready to pour. Concrete starts hardening as soon as it’s mixed, so you don’t want it sitting around for too long.

The Bottom Line

While figuring out the concrete might seem a bit daunting, it’s a crucial step to ensure your metal shop stands strong for years to come. With a little planning and the right calculations, you’ll be well on your way to building a solid foundation for your projects.


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