7 Different Types of Sand

Sea sand under the blue sky.

There are many different sand options, accounting for natural and artificially produced sand, each with its own pros and cons. Some common sand types include moulding sand, washed sand, beach sand, mason sand, and silica sand. Each sand has slightly different properties, making some sands more suitable for construction projects than others.

While some sand types are geared more toward commercial construction applications, others are better suited for DIY projects for homeowners. 

Table of Contents

Types

While sand may seem like an everyday item that is relatively simple, countless types of sand can be used for different applications. Much of the sand type revolves around the grain size, with smaller grains and types being better used for intricate construction projects.

Before debating between artificial sand, natural sand, beach sand, and green sand, it is best to learn some of the more common sand types available and understand how each can be used. Below, let’s look at some common sand types and understand each of the common uses and applications. 

Moulding Sand

Moulding sand

Sometimes, moulding sand is called foundry sand. This sand is a particular type of sand that reacts differently when the sand is moistened or mixed with oil. This sand also responds differently when it is heated and is commonly used in manufacturing applications.

When this sand is combined with water or moisture, the individual grains of sand tend to stay more closely compacted. This characteristic makes moulding sand an excellent choice for preparing the moulding cavity for sand casting applications. 

Silica Sand

Silica sand

Silica sand is commonly used in commercial applications and is often referred to as industrial sand. This sand is actually made of quartz that has been broken down by water or wind for thousands of years. When the silica sand is manufactured with a very particular grain size, it is referred to as industrial sand.

This type of sand allows the manufacturer more control over the final product than normal, common sand that might be used in concrete or asphalt applications. Silica sand is commonly used for flooring, mortar, high-grade concrete, or roofing shingles. 

River Sand

River sand

As the name might suggest, river sand is a naturally occurring sand that comes from the earth. This sand is usually a light brown color and can be extremely coarse. This type of sand is usually used in construction projects, but it is regularly available for homeowners to purchase for small, DIY projects around the home. Sometimes referred to as concrete sand, river sand is the primary sand type that is used to mix concrete.  

Manufactured Sand

Manufactured sand

Although the name may imply that manufactured sand is actually a synthetic material, this type of sand still comes from natural stones. A production company will work to smash and crush rocks into small sand particulates. Once these particulates are small enough, they are then washed and grated to be used in construction applications. Manufactured sand is commonly used as a construction aggregate. 

Compared to river sand, manufactured sand is often a better product and better option for construction. Because the individual pieces of sand are made on-site, there are fewer impurities through the sand.

This process means that manufactured sand does not have silt or clay pieces floating through the mix. Manufactured sand is also denser compared to natural sand, which offers more flexibility and higher weight. Plus, this sand can hold up better to wear and tear.

Mason Sand

Worker laying concrete paving slabs on sand foundation base.

One of the finest sands available is called mason sand. This very fine sand is commonly used for masonry work, as the name implies. However, it can also be used for sandboxes, volleyball courts, or to fill underneath swimming pools. Mason sand is commonly used to lay the soft bed and groundwork for laying pavers in the garden.

The very fine texture and shape of the sand grains make it particularly malleable and easy to work with. This type of sand is finer than concrete sand because mason sand often goes through additional refining processes that make the individual grains smaller and more pulverized.  

Beach Sand

Woman walking by the beach leaving footprints on the sand.

Beach sand is a natural type of sand that is commonly found along beaches around the world. Usually, the sand is made of silicon dioxide from quartz. Over years and years, quartz naturally occurring in the ocean is broken into tiny, individual minerals that make up beach sand.

Common minerals can include quartz, mica, and feldspar. Natural erosion such as wind, rain, and freezing weather can cause these rocks to break down into fine grains.

Like the many beaches around the world, there are many types and colors of beach sand, ranging from pure white to the deepest black sand. Compared to other manufactured types of sand, this sand has a very irregular grain pattern and can be somewhat unpredictable for manufacturing and construction projects. Beach sand is rarely used for commercial applications.  

Washed Sand

Washed sand

Washed sand goes by many names and is sometimes referred to as concrete sand or grit sand. This type of sand is more coarse compared to other available sands. This characteristic is because the individual sand grains are larger and more irregular. Compared to builder’s sand, washed sand is much rougher and heavier.  

There are many ways to use washed sand, and there are plenty of applications for this coarse and heavy sand type. Washed sand, or sharp sand, is usually used in the garden. It makes an excellent base for laying patios or pavers and is often mixed together with compost to make suitable soil for planting.  

Where Can I Buy Sand?

A pile of sand

Sand is a regularly available material, but it can be challenging to find the right type of sand for your application. For simple home projects, most hardware stores will carry at least mason sand or washed sand. These are prevalent sand types that have a range of applications that are suitable for DIY homeowners. Try big commercial hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot for sand. 

For more specialized types of sand, you may have to do some research to find a specialty construction retailer or online store. Very specialized sand can often be purchased in 20 pounds bags, making moving the sand an easy and clean process. Or, for larger applications, it may be possible to buy your type of sand by the truckload or by the pound, making bulk purchasing cheaper and easier. 

FAQs

Choosing the right kind of sand for your application can have big implications on your final product. It is essential to be selective about the type of sand you are choosing, and you must understand the differences between the multiple sand types.

Below, we will take a look at some commonly asked questions related to sand to help you make a better decision with your next sand purchase or project. 

What type of soil is sand?

Sand can be made of many soil types depending on the type of sand you are using. Most commonly, though, sand is made from worn quartz that has eroded from wind and rain. The quartz is often further broken down into mica and feldspar.   Most sand is made of natural rock or soil that has been pulverized to smaller grain size.  

What is the bulk density of sand?

Knowing the bulk density of sand is important for several large-scale construction projects. In general, the bulk density of sand is 1,690 kg/m^3. This density is common for most construction-grade sand applications. However, choosing a different sand material can impact the overall density and overall project and weight load. 

What are the characteristics of dune sand?

Dune sand is sand that has come from beach sand. As the sand on the beach is blown, it collects in different hills or dunes that reflect the weather patterns and wind direction. Dune sand is natural beach sand that has been collected from a sand dune. This sand will commonly have the same characteristics as beach sand, accounting for a smaller grain size that is very irregular.  

Which sand is used in sand casting?

Sand casting requires specialized sand that will hold together well during the casting process. Usually, molding sand is used for sand casting applications. This particular type of sand will stick together if water or oil is added to the mixture and hold together even through high heat applications. 

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