Understanding the differences in construction sand

Those new to the DIY and construction worlds, may think that sand is just sand but this is definitely not the case. There are many different types of sand, with each one specific to certain jobs.

Using the right type of sand for the job you are doing is very important as using the wrong type can have bad consequences.

As we know, there are various different types of sand, and each type can have multiple different names depending on the area you’re in and what trade you’re involved with. It’s not only confusing to DIY new comers but can also be just as confusing to the pro’s!

Silver Building Sand

What is sand?

Before we get into what types of sand there are and how each one should be used, it would be a good idea to find out what sand actually is and where it comes from.

Sand is made from rocks that have been broken up and eroded over time and ground down to form smaller particles. One of the primary ingredients of sand is silica. This is a naturally occurring material found in the earth crust.

One of the other key constituents of sand is Feldspar. Feldspar is a common group of minerals found in the earths surface.

As a general rule, sand is only classified as sand if its particles range from 2mm at largest down to 0.06mm at the smallest.

The different types of sand and what they're used for

Coarse sand:

Also known as Sharp sand, Grit sand, Rough sand and Concreting sand.

This type of sand is a fairly coarse type of sand because the particles that make it up are quite large. The grain particles are also sharp and angular in shape.

It’s mainly used in making concrete as due to the shape of the grains, it bonds very well to form a solid surface, but because of the size and shape of its particles, it doesn’t have that smooth finish.

In summary, coarse sand should be used for masonry work and concreting.

Fine sand:

Also known as Building sand, Soft sand and Silver sand.

Unlike coarse sand, fine sand is much finer due to the grains being much smaller.

In terms of the grains, unlike the coarse, sharp and angular grains that make up coarse sand, the grains in fine sand are much more rounded and smooth.

As the grains are smaller and smoother, this results in a much smoother finish overall hence the reason fine sand is used in screeding and plastering.

In summary, fine sand should be used for plastering, rendering, general mortar mixes and block/brick work.

Sea sand:

Also known as Play sand, Beach sand and dredged sand.

Keeping with the name describing where a type of sand is sourced from, sea sand is collected mostly from beaches and coastlines.

Sea sand is also known as washed sand which relates to the way in which it’s processed. It’s thoroughly washed to remove any unwanted dust, clay, shells etc. and then it is left to thoroughly drain.

The grains that make up sea sand tend to be very, very fine. Through the action of the tides swooshing everything around, this also makes them very smooth and rounded.

The main uses for sea sand are for children’s sand pits, golf bunkers, recreational areas and as an additive to soil to aid drainage and fertilizer.

Other types of sand:

Other types of sand out there are Artificial sand, Desert sand, Olivine sand, Bio-Organic sand and volcanic sand.

None of these sands are really any use in the construction industry, they are of more use to specialist trades.

Need some sand for your project? Head over to our online shop to buy construction sands online!