Stuffing 15 yards of debris in a 10-yard container does not work. It will end up costing more because it is likely that a pick-up and re-drop will be required before the project is completed. 

Bill Weber

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 yard capacities.

To the right is a list 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:

1) Multiply length x width x height in feet to determine total cubic feet.

2) Then divide the total cubic feet by 27

It is 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 debris (shingles) is a bit more simplified because of the conformity in shape and size. Below are helpful guidelines to consider when choosing the size of container:

What fits into a 10-yard dumpster? A 10-yard dumpster may be appropriate for a smaller residential cleanup or other projects:

  1. Basement or garage debris cleanout
  2. 250 sq. ft. deck removal
  3. 1,500 sq. ft. of roof shingles (single layer)
  4. Small kitchen or bath remodeling job

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

  1. Basement, attic or garage cleanup
  2. Home remodeling project
  3. Flooring and carpet removal for a larger home
  4. 300 to 400 sq. ft. of decking material
  5. 2,500 to 3,000 sq. ft. of roof shingle removal (single layer)

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

  1. Major home addition—large remodeling project
  2. New home construction
  3. Garage demolition

Complete home window or siding replacement (small-to-medium size home)
What fits into a 40-yard dumpster? A 40-yard container is ideal for projects that will generate a substantial amount of construction and demolition debris.

  1. Residential or commercial demolition project
  2. Commercial roofing project
  3. Large new home and commercial construction
  4. Commercial landscaping and excavating
  5. Large water and fire remediation projects

Choosing a Dumpster that is Too Small Can Be an Expensive Mistake

Stuffing 15 yards of debris in a 10 yard container does not work. It will end up costing more because it is 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 (do not expect a discount on the second haul). Suffice it to say, ordering a 20-yard container initially is less expensive.

Do Not 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. Do not 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 will not 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 leftover debris still must be disposed of.

Recommending the Right Size

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 is difficult to suggest a size without seeing the debris, but most haulers will do their best to help recommend the right container size.

Bill Weber is Vice President of Franchise Support for redbox+ (Winona, MN) a national franchise system specializing in construction and demolition waste collection and disposal. Bill has more than 30 years of experience in the franchise and business development, residential remodeling and waste disposal industries. Bill can be reached at (507) 452-8242 or via e-mail at [email protected].