Garden Advice

Building vs. Sharp Sand: Which One Should You Use?

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Whether you are building a house from scratch or just improving your garden, there is a chance that sand will be on your building materials list. However, what a lot of people fail to realise (until they are faced with a home renovation project, of course) is that not all the sand is the same and that some types are better for certain situations than others.

So, if you:

  • are planning a new home improvement project;
  • are wondering what is the difference between builder’s sand and sharp sand;
  • want to know where and how to use these types of sands.

Read on! This article is just right for you. 

What is building sand?

Builder’s sand, or soft sand, is a soft granular material that is commonly used in construction. The diameter of the grains doesn’t exceed 1.5 – 2 mm, however, the composition may vary depending on the rocks and minerals present in the mining site. That said, sand from river beds and banks is usually rockier than sea sand that might have fine shells and coral particles inside.

The composition of the sand doesn’t only influence the quality of grains. The material gets its colour from the minerals that can be found in the sand. Due to the fact that builders’ sand is primarily composed of silica quartz, its natural colour can vary from light grey to nearly white. However, you can find it in yellow and red shades, which the sand receives from iron minerals and feldspar. 

Another detail that you need to know is that there are two types of building sand – washed and dry screened. But what is the difference between these two?

Washed means that the sand in this package has been screened and washed with water to remove clay, dust, and other particles that can influence the quality of mortar. 

Dry screened sand, on the other hand, is passed through a vibrating screen or a drum that filters sand by size, and frees it from larger particles.

Builder’s sand uses

Builder’s sand is primarily used for bricklaying. Due to its fine texture, builder’s sand serves as a perfect bonding material for mortar, preventing it from shrinkage and cracking during setting.

Apart from that, building sand can be also used for:

  • Plastering;
  • Pointing;
  • Top layers of rendering;
  • Bedding of pond liners.

What is sharp sand?

Sharp sand, also known as concrete, coarse or grit sand, has slightly larger and rougher grains than builder’s sand. This type of material is usually used for building and construction work. Like builders’ sand, sharp sand also comes in two options – washed and dry screened.

Sharp sand shouldn’t be mistaken for ballast sand. Even though sharp sand is one of the components of the ballast sand mixture, those two types of materials don’t share the same characteristics and aren’t interchangeable. Ballast sand is a blend of sharp sand, stones, and gravel and is used to create concrete mixtures for hard landscaping projects.

Sharp sand uses

Because of its larger grains, sharp sand is often used in concreting and screeding, where the final material needs to be strong. 

Exactly for that reason, sharp sand is also used as a concrete base for driveways, patios, and block paving. The more angular grains provide a great bonding effect, prolonging the life of the concrete.

Apart from that, you can also use sharp sand in your garden. This type of sand is often added to potting soil to improve its drainage. Gardeners add the sand to clay soil to loosen the texture and enhance water retention as well. Washed sharp sand has low clay content, which makes it a great material for draining. 

Additionally, sharp sand makes a perfect top dressing for lawns, as it enables water movement. 

To sum up, sharp sand is used for:

  • Bedding sand for block/slab paving;
  • Screeding and external rendering;
  • External and floor screeding;
  • Projects that require tough mortar;
  • Root cutting and propagating cuttings in compost;
  • Soil drainage improvement.

What is the difference between sharp sand and builders sand?

The main difference between sharp sand and builder’s sand is in the texture of grains. Sharp sand is less soft, has larger grains, doesn’t compact as builder’s sand, and as a result doesn’t provide the same flexibility as building sand does. That said, sharp sand is primarily used for concrete mixtures, whereas soft sand is used as a component for mortar.

Get professional help for your next paving project

Are you planning to lay a new patio or a driveway, but don’t know how to approach the task? Although it is a fairly simple job that shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to complete, it still requires expertise. You don’t want to spend all of your precious time researching, ordering the materials, finding spare time, just to end up having wonky or sinking slabs, right? 

To avoid this potential, unpleasant situation, why not get your paving done by professionals? The landscapers who work with Fantastic Services are experienced in laying various types of pavings, be it a driveway, patio, or a resin-bound surface. During an on-site consultation, you will be able to describe all of your ideas and requirements, so that the professionals can deliver the best solution for your garden.

Upon completion, you will be given professional maintenance advice. Like what you are reading? Book a professional paving installation service with us today!

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  • Building sand is a multipurpose material that is mostly used in bricklaying, pointing, and rendering;
  • Sharp sand has larger particles than building sand. Its texture is also coarser, which makes it perfect for creating concrete;
  • Sharp sand is also widely used for block paving, soil improvement, and lawn top dressing.


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