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Different Types of Sand You Can Use For Building

If your only experience of sand is lying on it – or maybe building sandcastles with it – on the beach, you may be surprised to discover that there are different types of sand, and you may also be wondering what use it might have in the building trade.

Before we get on to that, however, let’s answer a more basic question: what is sand anyway?

What is sand?

Sand is basically very small bits of rock. In much the same way you grind wheat to make flour, so sand is the result of what is essentially the same process happening to rocks – it’s just that it takes place naturally via erosion and over thousands and even millions of years. That’s why you get different types of sand in different places – it’s different types of rock being ground down.

Only some of these types are of use to those in the construction trade, however. For example, the sand you find in the desert is too fine to be used in construction, while the sand at the beach is too salty – salt can have a negative impact on the durability of concrete.

Here are a few of those that are of use:

Sharp sand

Coarser than many of the other sand aggregates (i.e. the grains are larger), sharp sand is most commonly used in making concrete. That’s because as well as being fairly large, the grains are sharp (hence the name!) and angular, which means that they bind together well to make a tough and solid surface, albeit one that is not particularly smooth. Sharp sand is also a good aggregate to use for internal floor screeds. 

Sharp sand is also sometimes known as pit sand, for the simple reason that that is how it is acquired – by digging it out of a pit in the ground. It is usually sourced from ground containing plenty of iron oxide, which accounts for its orange/red colour. 

Building sand

Building sand is usually sourced from river beds and banks and provides a finer grain than sharp sand. That makes it a good choice for making mortar for bricklaying, basic paving and rendering. That smoother grain also makes it ideal for plastering, as it gives a much smoother finish than sand.

Jointing/kiln dried sand

Jointing sand is basically beach sand and, while it is – as already noted – too fine to be of use in construction, it does have a number of uses in landscaping and other outside applications. The name ‘jointing sand’ hints at one of its main uses: to fill in gaps between patio and paving slabs. We sell it as kiln dried sand, because it needs to be thoroughly dry when applied to be effective and to make the joints watertight.

It’s also ideal for a few recreational uses, such as children’s sand pits, bunkers on golf courses and the like. Do be aware, however, that as beach sand it is probably going to be salty, so you should be extra careful about placing it anywhere near steel, as it is likely to cause rust to develop.

Artificial sand

Unlike the other types of sand that we’ve mentioned – and, again, as the name suggests – artificial sand is not sourced naturally, but is manufactured by crushing rock, usually granite or basalt. It’s also known as M sand, where the ‘M’ stands for manufactured. 

M sand is usually crushed to the same size grains as building sand, and for that reason has many of the same applications.


For all your aggregates in and around Essex, including a wide choice of sand for various construction and landscaping applications, you can’t do better than order from Neil Sullivan & Sons. With immediate collection from our Wickford yard or fast delivery direct to your site, we’re the number one aggregates supplier in the area. 

Contact us now for more information or to place your order.