6 tips for choosing the right construction sand

8 min

Sand, in principle, and even more so in construction, is a very versatile “tool”. It belongs to the category of sedimentary rocks and is mined in various ways: both natural and artificial, by crushing crushed stone or gravel. Sand really plays an important role, being part of all kinds of compositions and mixtures, and the quality of the building as a whole can depend on its quality.


sand1For a different type and stage of construction work, different types of sand are needed with different particle sizes and, as a result, their unique properties, which will be useful in a particular field of application. And, of course, when choosing sand for these cases, you should pay attention to a lot of criteria, which we will list below.

So, if you decide to engage in repairs or construction and do not know what sand is needed for your plans, then you should read this article, in which we will analyze in more detail all the subtleties noted above, and give some useful tips on choosing sand for construction. …

Types of sand

sand2Before moving on to the direct selection of sand, it would be logical to first consider several criteria that affect its use and quality. It is best to start by classifying it by type, and basically, three types are most often distinguished:

  • ravine (or career);
  • river;
  • quartz.

All these types of sand have different characteristics and qualities and one way or another find their place in use in construction.

Quarry sand

sand3This type of sand is perhaps the most common in construction and can be used at all stages. It is a fairly good competitor to other types, as it ideally combines indicators such as price and quality. Moreover, its properties are practically not inferior to other types, with the exception, probably, of one single minus. This sand has very high levels of impurities, such as clay and other possible rocks, depending on where it is mined. Despite this, it remains one of the most popular, used by many.

Due to this, it is not recommended for use in the construction of important elements, the main qualities of which are strength. However, such sand is perfect for filling a foundation or building a canopy, as well as for other various purposes such as concreting paths or drainage, and so on. The average particle size (so-called fractions) is 0.7 mm. This figure can also differ, given the area of ​​production, as in the case of impurities.

There is also, if I may say so, improvements to a subspecies of quarry sand, namely washed sand. This is all the same sand, only better washed from various impurities, but this does not mean that it has become absolutely clean. Its strength, if increased, is not so much that it can be used for critical buildings. In this case, it would be better for you to pay in excess of a certain amount and buy more reliable sand.

Such sand, depending on the extraction, processing and the sieve itself installed on the processing equipment, can be either fine or medium or even large. It is worth paying attention to GOST, according to which this sand can contain no more than 10% of gravel and up to 5% of other impurities.

River sand

sand4As can be understood from the name of this species, this sand is mined from the bottom of the rivers. At the same time, it is additionally washed, and its main advantage is the almost complete absence of any impurities and a high level of filtration. It also means that a foundation made with the addition of this type of sand has less subsidence and actively removes water from its structure.

For the construction of walls, the construction of columns and pouring the foundation under the load-bearing parts of the building, it is best to use sand with coarse fractions. It is usually mined in fast flowing rivers, which efficiently flushes out impurities in a short time period. And the throughput of water, in comparison with the quarry option, is already 2 times higher.

It will not do without disadvantages. The main disadvantages of this type of sand are its higher cost in comparison with the previous option, as well as the “complexity” of extraction. The last drawback lies not in the complexity of the process itself, but rather in the fact that, naturally, not every settlement or nearby there are rivers, and the cost of shipping can sometimes also cost a considerable amount.

Quartz sand

sand5While some resources and experts classify quartz sand as absolutely unsuitable for construction, others empirically prove in practice that this is not at all the case. However, it should be noted that this type of sand is mechanically mined and crushed pieces of rocks. The consequence of this is that each such grain of sand has an increased, especially in comparison with other types, strength, as well as the smallest impurity coefficient.

From this, the following conclusions can be drawn. First, this sand is best suited for the construction and erection of structures, the main parameter of which should be strength. It doesn’t matter whether it is foundations, concrete blocks or other types of buildings, quartz sand can make them stronger. The second important indicator can be high porosity, in contrast to river sand, which makes it possible to eliminate water from concrete even more quickly.

Given the fact that this sand is a product of crushed rocks, it can have a different color, which is why it is quite often used as a “dye” for the manufacture of concrete blocks. The downside is the very high cost, since mining costs are quite high, and there are not so many companies involved in this.

Particle size

sand6The particle size index affects the strength, quality and removal of moisture from the mixture. Usually, when buying one or another type of sand, the grain size is indicated in the documents, or in the product description. Basically, according to this criterion, the following groups are distinguished:

  • fine sand: up to 0.2 cm in diameter;
  • medium sand: 0.2 to 0.25 cm;
  • coarse sand: from 0.25 to 0.5 cm.


sand8From the above, an attentive reader, as well as a more experienced user in this matter, should already understand that for different types of construction work it is best to select a more suitable type and type of sand, since in principle there are no universal solutions in this matter. Let’s take a look at the three most classic cases, and determine which sand is best for each of them.

Sand for construction

If you are going to purchase most of the building materials from a reliable and trusted company, do not forget and check, since you cannot build a business relationship on trust alone. And since the construction process is very important, then the sand for it must be appropriate.

First of all, it must be dry and well cleaned, and its density must reach about 1.3 tons per cubic meter. If this indicator significantly exceeds this mark, this can tell us that either there is a large amount of foreign impurities, or it is too wet.

Sand for masonry and finishing works

Since the mortar used for masonry needs high-quality sand that can quickly remove moisture, the river version is often used in the batch. As we remember, this type of sand costs a little more than quarry sand, and therefore the overall costs may increase, but its use also makes the mixture more durable and at the same time elastic.

A mortar for finishing works, and more specifically for plastering, is best done on the basis of quarry sand, which will provide good adhesion to the working surface due to the sharp edges of small grains of sand. The presence of clay in the impurities, which acts as a good binding element, also has a positive effect.

Foundation sand

sand9Since there is no need to say much about the importance of having a foundation and its resistance to stress in various conditions, it should be noted that quarry sand with medium-sized grains is best suited for it. Among all the possible options, it has a combination of all the necessary indicators and at the same time is very affordable in terms of cost.

Definition of quality

sand10Many experts recommend on their own, and what is best before buying or after delivery, to determine the quality of the sand. And according to their statements, this can be done in two ways: visually and tactilely, in simple terms – to look and touch.

A visual way to determine the quality of sand includes the presence of a compact sieve through which it will be possible to sift this very sand. On the basis of the remaining possible impurities and the size of the fractions, provided that the information described above has already been obtained, you can easily determine both the type and type of sand.

For example, if its particles are as large as possible and practically free of impurities, then, accordingly, it will be quartz sand, and if, say, clay remains in the sieve, then this is the most common career option.

The tactile method is even simpler than the previous one and, as you might guess, all you have to do is take some sand in your palm and clench it in your fist. Naturally, if after this procedure you managed to mold a lump out of such sand, then this is still the same quarry sand and you should not believe the words that it is just wet. If it were any other kind of sand, it would remain quite crumbly even when wet.

There is also a third way to determine the quality of sand, and for this you need a transparent container, for which an ordinary plastic bottle is best suited. Further, it is worth doing just a few simple steps:

  • pour clean water into a bottle;
  • then pour a small amount of sand there;
  • shake the contents and leave for about a day.

After 24 hours, you can understand how high-quality sand is just by looking at this very bottle. The thing is that if the sand has not been properly processed, then the water in the bottle will become cloudy. While high-quality cleaned sand will lie at the bottom, practically not staining the water. Yes, this method also takes place, but on a large scale it is simply not profitable due to the amount of time spent on checking.


sand11Moving on to direct ordering, buying sand, it is important to choose a quality and reliable supplier who will be able to offer the cleanest, as far as possible, required type of sand at an adequate and appropriate cost.

Regarding the price, first of all it is better to familiarize yourself with the price list in order to understand what you have to deal with. Of course, it is quite natural that high-quality filtered sand can cost more than ordinary, unsifted sand.

Also, any supplier is obliged to provide accompanying documentation informing about the characteristics of this type of building material when drawing up and signing the contract. This information should be as accessible as possible even for a person who may not be too familiar with this field of activity. First of all, it will be a sign that the supplier is as open and honest as possible.

The presence in the company of a manager who promptly advises on all possible emerging issues regarding sand also speaks of the seriousness and reputation of the company. You should always be served by an intelligent specialist who, in the event of a mistake, will help to clarify a particular situation for you.

And since we are talking about specialists, every serious supplier company should provide the most comfortable services for the delivery of sand, having its own freight transport, as well as capable of servicing it by personnel.

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Passionate about DIY for over 10 years and all the new tools, I give you through this blog all my advice, tips, tests in all areas: carpentry, electricity, masonry, gardening, home automation ...


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