Are you trying to learn more about the different types of sand? If yes, you should check out our guide by clicking right here.
What do you think about when someone mentions the word sand? Do you imagine tropical sandy beaches? Or dusty sandy roads?
Sand is a type of aggregate and one of the most simple mineral formations on the planet. You can find it in almost every country in every climate. If you visit these different countries and climates, you’ll find there are also different types of sand.
Sand is also one of the most versatile materials in the construction and landscaping spheres. The different types of sand make it useful in everything from laying bricks to growing crops. To make things more interesting, each type and grade of sand has a unique name and a specific set of uses.
Are you planning a DIY project and require sand for landscaping or building? This detailed guide will help you understand the different types of sand and find the right type for your next project!
What Is Sand?
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of sand, let’s explore more about what sand is. All types of sand start as rocks. When rock erodes and breaks down, it forms small particles known as sand.
One of the primary minerals found in the sand is silica, which makes up a fourth of the Earth’s crust. Quartz contains high amounts of silica. Another prominent mineral in the sand is Feldspar, a mineral that makes up about three-fourths of the Earth’s crust.
A combination of erosion, waves, and wind will cause quartz and Feldspar to breakdown and create the sand you find along beaches, lakes, and river beds.
In terms of grain size, sand lays between fine silt and rocky gravel. Sand must have a grain size between 2mm and 0.06mm. Anything larger is gravel and anything smaller is silt. Of course, there’s a little lenience as it’s impossible to measure and guarantee every particle meets that size requirement.
Sand is a major ingredient in most types of concrete and brick mortar. Glass manufacturers use sand to create all types of glass.
The only downside is there’s only a finite amount of sand on the earth. With such high demand, we must treat sand as a precious resource.
How we plan to use the sand will help you decide which type of sand is best for your project. When you purchase sand for a project, it should be free of impurities and have a uniform grain size.
The Different Types of Sand
Different types of sand vary in color, texture, and grain size. The most common type of sand you’ll come across will have a yellow-orange color with medium grain size. But there are many finer and rougher sands in a variety of colors.
Let’s explore the different types of sand and which building applications suits them best.
Builders Sand or River Sand
Builders sand, also known as the river, plasterer’s, or mason’s sand is one of the most popular types of sand used in the building industry. It features a fine even grain and a pale yellow or light-gray color. The grains have rounded edges making it smooth and soft to the touch.
Sand companies will collect this sand from river beds and other inland water sources. This type of sand doesn’t consist of much salt or impurities that could affect how the sand dries. These impurities can cause the sand to absorb atmospheric moisture which can lead to problems.
After sourcing, many companies have a form of sand storage. Proper storage is necessary to keep sand dry and free of impurities after sourcing.
The small smooth even grains result in a smoother finish for building. Popular uses of builders sand include general masonry work, plastering, bricklaying, and rendering. If you need sand with a smooth finish, builders sand makes an excellent choice.
Coarse sand, also known as pit sand or sharp sand, consists of large angular particles. Unlike builders sand, this sand type is much rougher and has an orange-red color due to higher levels of iron oxide.
Sand companies source coarse sand from inland areas to avoid salt impurities. These impurities can cause moisture and dampness problems in construction. This sand lays a few meters underground and requires digging to access it.
The large jagged particles making up this sand makes it a great choice for concrete. The angular grains bind well to the cement creating a strong surface. Coarse sand is also great for masonry work.
If you’re planning to use this sand for concrete and masonry work, you need to ensure it has less than 4% silt. Too much silt can cause your concrete or masonry work to become weak.
Jointing sand also goes by the names of sea, silver, washed, and beach sand. As the names suggest, jointing sand comes from beaches and coastline areas. Through the process of washing, jointing sand consists of very little silt, clay, and other sediments.
Jointing sand has small rounded grains that make it smooth and fine similar to builders sand. This sand has a brown or deep yellow color.
Since jointing sand comes from the coasts, it consists of salts, chloride, and other small impurities that allow it to absorb atmospheric moisture. The chloride in this sand can cause nearby metals to corrode in a relatively short time. Due to these impurities, jointing sand is not a popular or common type of sand used in building and construction industries.
This type of sand, however, works well for paving, patio stones, and recreation. You can find this sand in golf bunkers and children’s sandboxes.
Artificial or Crushed Sand
Artificial sand, also known as crushed or manufactured (M) sand, is an artificial type of sand. Sand companies do not naturally source this sand from waterways, coasts, or underground.
Sand manufactures will crush granite or basalt rock to create sand. This type of sand is finer with rounded grain edges.
Artificial sand grains are very similar to those found in builders sand. Manufacturers created artificial sand to replace natural builders. There’s a very high demand for builders sand but only a limited amount of the natural sand.
Artificial sand has many of the same uses as builders sand. It works well for plastering, rendering, bricklaying, and general masonry/mortar work.
Less Common Types of Sand
The types of sand listed above are the most popular sands used for building and masonry work. There are, however, several more types of sand used for other industries. Here are a few lesser-known sand types and their specific uses.
Desert sand is fine-grained sand sourced from, as the name describes, desert areas. The fine smooth grains make this sand unsuitable for most construction and building applications. This is ironic as desert sand is the most plentiful natural sand in the world.
Recently, scientists are creating a concrete substitute that uses desert sand as the main ingredient.
Bio-organic sand consists of small shells, coral, and bone fragments as well as other sea life. This type of sand has a lighter color with a pink or yellow hue. This type of sand is common in low-altitude beaches.
Areas with high-volcanic activity have volcanic sand. Also known as black sand, volcanic sand has a dark black color.
There are 2 main types of volcanic sand. One type is a mix of dark fine sands that is glossy, heavy, and has some magnetic properties. The second consists of small basalt fragments, usually near a volcano.
Volcanic sand is popular in some all-natural cosmetics. Lightweight volcanic sand works well for planting and gardening.
Olivine sand is a magnesium iron silicate mineral. This type of sand isn’t ideal for construction as it’s unstable. The grains are round and smooth with a brown-green color.
Olivine sand has a high heat absorbency and conductivity. Its uniform and low thermal expansion give it a smoother finish. Foundries use olivine sand to create highly accurate metal castings.
Testing the Quality of Your Sand
How do people tell the different types of sand? How do they know they have high-quality sand?
The most obvious way is to check the grain size, texture, and color of the sand. You also have to check the source of the sand as well as how clean the sand is.
Sand must be free of impurities, like silt and clay, to function properly. Sand with levels of silt greater than 4% can cause integrity issues with the concrete, mortar, or other building materials.
Fortunately, you can test your sand through the Silt Test. This will help you determine how much silt is in your sand.
Most sand you purchase should meet the low silt expectation. If you’re unsure, try the silt test. This way you’ll know the sand you’re using is safe.
Make Your Next DIY Project Great!
Know that you know about the many different types of sand, you can pick the right sand for your next DIY project. Whether you’re mixing cement, laying brick, or making a sandbox for your family, you’ll know exactly what type of sand you need.
Are you interested in learning more great DIY and home project tips? Check out our latest Home and Garden articles to stay up-to-date on the latest trends!