What Is a Cubic Metre? (2024)

The term ‘cubic metre’ may sound confusing at first. It’s the term often used to describe the available space in a moving truck, storage shed or shipping container.

If you’ve never needed to calculate a cubic metre, it can be confusing to know how much space you will need on your moving day.

Keep reading to learn what a cubic metre is, how to calculate a cubic metre, and how many cubic metres you will need to book while organising your move.

What is a cubic metre?

What Is a Cubic Metre? (1)

A cubic metre is a common unit of volume used in the metric system, the system of measurement used in all countries of the world except the United States, Liberia and Myanmar.

A cubic metre represents the volume of a cube whose edges all equal one metre in length. Often the abbreviation m3 is used for a cubic metre. One cubic metre is equal to 1000L.

This unit is commonly used in engineering, construction, agriculture, forestry and branches of science, to measure the volume of solids, liquids or gases.

To calculate volume in cubic metres for a solid object, first measure the length, width and height (or depth) of the object (in metres), and then multiply these three dimensions together.

What Is a Cubic Metre? (2)

The formula for measuring Length (L), Width (W), and Height (H) and then calculating the Volume (V) looks like this:

V = L x W x H

How is a cubic metre different from a square metre?

What Is a Cubic Metre? (3)

A square metre and a cubic metre are used to measure different things, area and volume. Area is two-dimensional and volume is three-dimensional.

A square metre is used to measure area. It is the area of a square that has sides that are 1 metre long (1m x 1m). A square metre can be used as a unit of measurement if you are measuring flat surfaces such as a floor, sport field or property.

A cubic metre is used to measure volume (or space). It is the area of a cube whose sides measure 1 metre (1m x 1m x 1m). A cubic metre can be used as a unit of measurement to measure spaces like rooms, storage spaces, or insides of vans or trucks.

Why do I need to know how to calculate a cubic metre?

Knowing how to calculate a cubic metre comes in handy for many reasons.

For example, cubic metres are used in construction to calculate the volume of concrete required for a foundation or to measure the amount of soil needed for landscaping.

Understanding cubic metres allows for efficient planning and utilisation of space. Ultimately, cubic metre calculations help you to make informed decisions and optimise resources in a variety of different situations.

In the world of shipping goods and objects, knowing the volume of cargo in cubic metres helps determine shipping costs and storage requirements.

How much stuff fits in a cubic metre?

What Is a Cubic Metre? (4)

When working with professional movers, they will start off by asking you ‘how many cubic metres do you need in the moving truck(s)?’

This number can be hard to determine if you haven’t started packing up your house yet.

For context, eight medium-sized moving boxes stacked together form a cubic metre. Let’s say you can pack up your belongings into 32 medium-sized boxes, you’ll need to book four cubic metres of space (32 boxes take up 2x2x1 metres of space).

Measuring can get a little tricky when you are calculating the space of all of your furniture. Household furniture is not shaped like a perfect cube and it usually can’t be stacked the way boxes can. So, how exactly do you calculate the volume of standard larger household items?

How to calculate furniture as a cubic metre

What Is a Cubic Metre? (5)

To measure the volume of your irregularly-shaped furniture items, follow the same formula that you would for a cube or cubic rectangle: measure its width, length and height by imagining a box shape around it and measuring its greatest points.

A couch isn’t shaped like a cuboid so to measure its volume, you would find the height by measuring the highest point on the back of the couch. Measure the width by measuring the arm (including the width of the back part of the couch), and then measure the entire length of the back of the couch to determine the length. Multiply these numbers together and voila, you have your volume figured out.

For added ease, Top Move has developed a digital tool that automatically calculates how much space your items will need. Input each item below and add up the final numbers to figure out how much space you will need to book your move.

READ: New Home Moving Checklist

How much space do common household items take up in cubic metres?

Master Bedroom
King mattress, King bed frame, two bedside tables, chest of drawers, tallboy, large mirror = ~3.60m3

Double Bedroom
Double mattress, bedside table, chair, chest of drawers, desk, large mirror = ~2.70m3

Single Bedroom
Single mattress, single bed frame, bedside table, chest of drawers, dressing table = ~2.25m3

3-seater couch, two lounge chairs, medium television, TV stereo cabinet, coffee table = ~4.64m3

cupboard, cabinet, microwave, medium fridge, freezer, dishwasher = ~4.5m3

Dining room
dining table, six chairs, bookcase, buffet = ~4.70m3

computer, desk, lamp, office chair, printer = ~2.2m3

hat stand, five pictures, mirror, hall table, rug = ~1.37m3

rubbish bin, garden tools, hose, tool cupboard, wheelbarrow, lawn mower, ladder, boogie boards, chilly bin, two bicycles, barbeque = ~5.48m3

steam mop, vacuum cleaner, clothes basket, tumble dryer, washing machine, ironing board, clothes airer, brooms, mop = ~2.1m3

READ: Where to Find Free Moving Boxes For Your Move in Canada

What size of truck do I need for my move?

What Is a Cubic Metre? (6)

Moving truck sizes vary from a cube van to bigger box trucks measuring 8m3 to 19m3. Larger professional moving companies have huge trucks that measure up to 70m3. For context:

  • 15m3 is the same space as a single-car garage

  • 30m3 is the same space as a double-car garage

Start off by doing a complete inventory of your entire home, including outdoor furniture and garden items. The time and effort it takes to do this is worth it as it prevents over or underestimating the amount of space you will need.

You don’t want to be stuck on your moving day with not enough space for everything, or end up with a bill that is higher than needed because you booked too much space.

What Is a Cubic Metre? (2024)
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