How to Visualize Cubic Feet (and Meters)

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Background

Measuring areas and items is a part of interior design, building, and other professional and personal tasks. In addition to knowing the square footage of spaces and certain objects, another way to measure them is by knowing their volume or the amount of three-dimensional space that an object takes up. Most of the time, volume is measured using cubic units, such as cubic feet, cubic meters, and cubic inches. But it can also be measured using liters, gallons, and milliliters. [1]

A lot of things that we use every day are sold based on their volume. For instance, in the United States, gasoline is sold by gallon, as well as milk. In fact, even soil is mostly sold according to its volume. For example, loam is sold by cubic yards. In all of these, it is not the mass or density of the object or area that matters but the amount of space that it takes up.

In this post, we are going to focus on cubic feet (and meters). By finding the cubic footage of an object, you will be able to learn if it can fit in a certain space, how much of an area it will take up, and how much a certain object can hold. This way, you can make sure that your measurements for these items and spaces are complete and accurate. However, knowing the measurements is sometimes not enough, especially when we are not seeing the area or the objects physically. If you are given a measurement, such as 100 cubic feet, can you easily imagine what that looks like? Most of us won’t. That is why in this article, we are going to help you visualize cubic feet (and meters) easier.

What is a Cubic Foot?

a white 3D cube

Knowing how to calculate a room or building’s square footage by dividing its length by its breadth will put you one step closer to understanding how to calculate its cubic feet. A cubic foot pertains to an imperial unit of measurement for the volume of a space or three-dimensional object. Most professionals use cubic feet, cubic yards, and cubic meters in landscaping and construction projects to get the total volume of fill materials, such as concrete and dirt. [2]

To calculate cubic footage, you first need to find three linear measurements, such as the length, width, and height in feet. For instance, to get the volume of a cube, you need to multiply its length, width, and height, and the product will give you the volume of an object in total cubic feet.

However, not all things and spaces in real life are made of straight lines. Therefore, adjusting the volume formula to the shape you are measuring is essential to learn about. There are different formulas that can be used in calculating the volume of different objects.

  • Square Feet: The area or square footage of space is calculated by multiplying the length and width. To find the cubic footage, you have to multiply the length and width by the height of the object.
  • Cubic Inches: When you have determined an object’s cubic footage, you can convert it to inches by dividing the result by 12.
  • Cubic Centimeters: A cubic foot is equivalent to 28,316.8 cubic centimeters.
  • Cubic Feet of a Cylinder: The volume of a cylinder can be determined by multiplying the height in feet of an object by its diameter in feet. Then, multiply the product by pi (3.14).

What is a Cubic Meter?

illustration of a cube

A perfect cube with dimensions of one meter in length, width, and height is what makes up a cubic meter. The symbol m3 designates it as a unit of measurement. The volume of the cube, also known as the quantity of material that can fit inside it, whether it be liquid or solid, is measured using this unit. On top of that, a cubic meter measures the volume of a square, three-dimensional object that we measure in meters. The object’s solid shape, which cannot be altered, is perhaps its most notable characteristic. [3]

Calculating cubic meters is the same thing as finding the volume of a cube. However, the only difference is that it is measured in meters. The formula is length x width x height or l x w x h. Below are the formulas of cubic meters for measuring various units:

  • Meter: l x w x h = cubic meters
  • Centimeter: l x w x h ÷ 10,000,000 = cubic meters
  • Millimeter: l x w x h ÷ 100,000,000 = cubic meters
  •  Inches: l x w x h ÷ 61,023.8 = cubic meters
  • Feet: l x w x h ÷ 35.315 = cubic meters

Visualizing Cubic Feet (and Meters)

It’s easy to learn and understand how to get the cubic footage (or meter) of a certain object or space. However, what’s challenging is to visualize what certain measurements of cubic feet (and meters) look like. For example, if someone tells you that a box is 6.5 cubic feet (0.18 cubic meters), can you imagine how big the box is? Most of us can’t. But if you are told that the size of the box can fit your 19-inch television or stereo, it’s easier to imagine, right?

Therefore, to be able to visualize cubic feet (and meters) easier, comparing the size to familiar objects is one of the best ways. Take a look at the examples below:

What Does a Cubic Foot Look Like?

A cubic foot is defined as a unit of measurement used to describe volume. It is characterized as the volume of a cube that measures 1 foot in length on all sides. But what does a cubic foot of space actually look like?

What Does a Cubic Foot Look Like?

1 cubic foot is roughly equivalent to: 1 1/2 5-gallon water jugs.

To visualize one cubic foot (0.028 cubic meter), think of a 5-gallon water jug. The one that is placed on a water dispenser at home or in the office. A cubic foot is roughly equivalent to 1½ 5-gallon water jugs. [4]

Visualizing Cubic Feet (and Meters) Through Box Sizes

Visualizing Cubic Feet (and Meters) Through Box Sizes

Visualizing boxes is probably the easiest way to imagine what certain cubic feet (and meters) look like. Take a look at the infographic below:

Visualizing Cubic Feet (and Meters) Through Box Sizes

Item

Size
(in inches)

Cubic Feet

Cubic Meters

Possible Contents

Small Box

16"x12"x12

1.5 cubic feet

0.04 cubic meters

Small Items: Books, Tools, CD's

Medium Box

18"x18"x16"

3 cubic feet

0.08 cubic meters

Small Appliances

Large Box

18"x18"x24"

4.5 cubic feet

0.13 cubic meters

Lightweight Bulky Items

Extra Large Box

24"x18"x24"

6 cubic feet

0.17 cubic meters

Linens, Pillows, Towels

19-inch TV/Microwave Box

24"x24"x20"

6.5 cubic feet

0.18 cubic meters

TV, Microwave, Stereo

27-inch TV/ Microwave/ Computer Box

24.5"x24.5"x27

9.5 cubic feet

0.27 cubic meters

TV, Microwave, Computer

Wardrobe Box

24"x20"x34"

10 cubic feet

0.28 cubic meters

Skirts, Blouses, Jackets

Tall Wardrobe Box

24"x21"x48"

14 cubic feet

0.40 cubic meters

Hanging Clothes, Tall Plants

When you are told that you need to get a box that is 9.5 cubic feet, that size is quite difficult to visualize. But if you are told that you need to get a box that will fit a 27-inch television, microwave, or computer, that makes it easier to imagine how big the box is. It’s because most of us are familiar with how big televisions and computers are, as we often see them at home or at work.

Visualizing Cubic Feet (and Meters) Through Bed Sizes

How to Visualize Cubic Feet and Meters

Another way to visualize cubic feet (and meters) is through the size of the beds. Take a look at the infographic below:

Visualizing Cubic Feet (and Meters) Through Bed Sizes

Item Cubic Feet Cubic Meter
Single-size Bed 30 cubic feet 0.85 cubic meters
Double-size Bed 45 cubic feet 1.27 cubic meters
Queen-size Bed 55 cubic feet 1.56 cubic meters
King-size Bed 75 cubic feet 2.12 cubic meters

Most of us are also very familiar with the size of beds, such as king, queen, double, and single beds, as we often see them at home. If you were told that a certain object will take up 75 cubic feet (2.12 cubic meters) of space, think of how big a king-size bed is to visualize it easier.

Fitting Golf Balls in a School Bus

Let us make the visualization of cubic feet (and meters) a bit more fun. How many golf balls could possibly fit inside a 20-foot-long, 8-foot-wide, and 6-foot-high school bus? With these measurements, the bus is 960 cubic feet in volume. The volume of a golf ball is about 2.5 cubic inches. To be able to get the number of golf balls, we first need to convert 960 cubic feet to cubic inches. Since there are 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot, 960 cubic feet is equivalent to 1.6 million cubic inches.

How Many Golf Balls Will Fit in a School Bus?

Size of the school bus: 8 feet wide x 6 feet high x 20 feet long
Volume of the school bus in cubic feet: 960 cubic feet
Volume of the school bus in cubic meters: 27.18 cubic meters
Volume of a golf ball: 2.5 cubic inches
Volume of the school bus in cubic inches: 1.6 million cubic inches
Volume of the school bus divided by the volume of a golf ball: 640,000 golf balls
Based on computations, 640,000 golf balls will fit inside a 960-cubic-foot school bus. However, taking into consideration the seats inside the bus and the spaces between the balls when stacked, around 500,000 golf balls will likely fit.

To get the number of golf balls, divide 1.6 million cubic inches by 2.5 cubic inches. That is equal to 640,000 golf balls. But in reality, we also need to take into consideration the seats and other things inside the bus that also take up space, as well as the spherical shape of the ball that will leave considerable empty spaces between them when stacked. Therefore, it is safe to say that around 500,000 golf balls will fit inside a 960-cubic-foot school bus. [6]

How Big is 40 Cubic Feet?

Can you give examples of objects that are 40 cubic feet in volume? If you can’t find a single thing that has a capacity of 40 cubic feet, you can also try combining multiple items in your mind that will give the same measurements. Take a look at the infographic below to visualize 40 cubic feet (1.13 cubic meters) better:

How Big is 40 Cubic Feet?

Two Refrigerators A standard refrigerator is around 20 to 25 cubic feet. Therefore, two standard refrigerators placed side-by-side is around 40 cubic feet.
Two Large Chest Freezers A large chest freezer is 18 cubic feet. Therefore, two of it is about 40 cubic feet.
A Water Tank A standard size of a water tank is 40 cubic feet, which is great for water storage at home or harvesting water.
Seven Bathtubs A standard bath tub is 5.70 cubic feet. Therefore, assembling seven of it can give you the 40 cubic feet size.
20 Car Fuel Tanks On average, one car fuel tank is around 2.13 cubic feet. Smaller ones can hold around 12 gallons while larger ones hold 16 gallons. Therefore, having 20 fuel tanks of 16 gallons capacity each will give you 40 cubic feet.
19 Beer Kegs A beer keg is around 2.07 cubic feet. Therefore, having around 19 beer kegs can be used to calculate a capacity of 40 cubic feet.
100 Basketballs A Spalding basketball used in the NBA is size 7 and measures 0.25 cubic feet. A packed basketball is around 0.392 cubic feet. Therefore, around 100 basketballs packed is equivalent to 40 cubic feet.

If you want to imagine what 40 cubic feet look like, you can visualize it to be as big as two refrigerators, two large chest freezers, a water tank, seven bathtubs, twenty car fuel tanks, nineteen beer kegs, or 100 basketballs. [7]

How Big is 12,000 Cubic Feet?

Let us try to visualize bigger cubic footage. For instance, if someone tells you that an object will take up 12,000 cubic feet of space, how big do you think that is? Take a look at the graphic below for better visualization:

How Big is 12,000 Cubic Feet?

30 Concrete Mixer Trucks A concrete mixer truck is about 390 cubic feet. Therefore, around 30 of it is equivalent to 12,000 cubic feet.
450 Hot Tubs The standard size of a hot tub is 25.40 cubic feet, and it can accommodate up to 4 persons. Therefore, having 450 of it is equivalent to almost 12,000 cubic feet.
2,000 Bathtubs A typical bathtub is 5.70 cubic feet. To reach 12,000 cubic feet, you need to have over 2,000 bathtubs.
4,500 Car Gas Tanks Around 4,500 car gas tanks, each holding 2.670 cubic feet of gas, is equivalent to 12,000 cubic feet.
6,000 Beer Kegs Since a beer keg is 2.07 cubic feet, around 6,000 of it is 12,000 cubic feet.

Compared to 40 cubic feet, 12,000 cubic feet is way bigger. You can imagine what it looks like by thinking of 30 concrete mixer trucks, 450 hot tubs, 2,000 bathtubs, 4,500 car gas tanks, or 6,000 beer kegs. [8]

Conclusion

Visualizing cubic feet (and meters) truly is challenging. But by learning about the volume of common items that we often see around us, it can be easier to imagine what certain cubic footage looks like. After learning this, you can now say that a 40-cubic-foot space can accommodate two standard-size refrigerators or seven bathtubs. Or that a king-size bed will take up 75 cubic feet of space. Getting the volume of objects will help you, particularly when arranging things in a room or when fitting items inside another object. We hope this post helped you in learning more about how to visualize cubic feet (and meters).

References

[1] Study.com, E. (2022). The Concept of Volume in Real Life. Study.com | Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://study.com/learn/lesson/volume-real-life-formula-application-examples.html

[2] MasterClass, E. (2021, October 26). How to calculate cubic feet: What is a cubic foot? – 2022. MasterClass. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.masterclass.com/articles/calculate-cubic-feet#how-to-calculate-cubic-feet

[3] Toppr, E. (2022). How to calculate cubic meters? | definition, method, properties. Toppr. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.toppr.com/guides/maths/units-and-measurement/how-to-calculate-cubic-meters/

[4] Zeigler Chrysler Dodge Jeep, E. (2022). Cubic feet of space: What does that really look like? Zeigler. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.zeiglerchryslerdodgejeep.com/what-does-cubic-feet-of-storage-look-like/

[5] Hudson, J. (2013, October 26). How many golf balls can fit in a school bus? The Atlantic. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/11/how-many-golf-balls-can-fit-in-a-school-bus/339663/

[7] Niklas (2022, May 13). List of 16 Things That Are 40 Cubic Feet. www.dimensionofstuff.com. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.dimensionofstuff.com/things-that-are-40-cubic-feet-ft3/

[8] The Measure of Things, E. (n.d.). 12,000 cubic feet: The measure of things. 12,000 cubic feet | The Measure of Things. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from https://www.themeasureofthings.com/results.php?p=1&comp=volume&unit=cf&amt=12000&sort=pr

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