What is Builders Sand: Everything You Need to Know

For anyone looking to undertake a construction project, builders sand is an essential building material. The type of sand you use for your project is hugely important. Too fine a sand and your mortar could crumble away, too much of the wrong additives and the sand could jeopardise the integrity of other construction elements – for example, sand that contains chloride can cause metal to rust.

M B Wilkes is one of the south’s biggest suppliers of sand and aggregates. Our team consists of highly knowledgeable sand and aggregate experts, and they’ve created this guide to ensure both DIY enthusiasts and building industry professionals have all the information they need to choose the right builders sand for their project.

If you would rather speak to an expert, don’t hesitate to get in touch with team at M B Wilkes on 01258 857465.

In this guide, we cover:

  • What is builders sand and what is it made from?
  • Where does builders sand come from?
  • What is builders sand used for?
  • What shouldn’t you use builders sand for?
  • Is builders sand the right choice?
  • MB Wilkes for all of your builders sand

What is builders sand and what is it made from?


Builders sand is a sand aggregate made up of decomposed rock. The grains of builders sand usually sit between 1.5mm and 2mm in size, and vary in colour depending on where the builders sand is sourced. Builders sand can very from light grey/white to reddish or yellow in hue.

Where does builders sand come from?

MB Wilkes Swanage

Builders sand can be quarried, dredged from the sea floor, or mined from rivers. Builders sand typically comes from water sources. This is because water creates sand particles that are more favourable for combining with other materials to form the likes of concrete or cement. Desert sand is actually too smooth to be used as builders sand.

What is builders sand used for?

According to an article written by the BBC, sand is our most consumed natural resource after water. It is suitable for bricklaying, pointing, rendering, and general building usage and is the primary raw material that modern towns and cities are made from - from blocks of flats to shopping centres.

Using builders sand for bricklaying


Builders sand is the first type of sand called on for brick laying, thanks to its fine texture and the stickiness of its clay composition. Its clay-heavy composition also means its really compressible, making it easy to work with when bricklaying.

Using builders sand for rendering

Builders sand can be used for the base layer or top layer of any rendering, although plastering or rendering sand is generally preferred, due to it being finely textured and clean-washed. While builders sand can be used in the main rendering mix, it shouldn’t be the primary ingredient.

Using builders sand for concrete or cement


Sharp sand is usually preferred over builders sand when making concrete because of its grittier consistency, however you can add a coarser aggregate to your builders sand if you don’t have any sharp sand to make concrete.

Using builders sand in the garden

You can use builders sand in the soil in your garden, although you should look out for coarse builders sand, which is better at aiding with drainage and air flow in the soil.

What shouldn’t you use builders sand for?

Builders sand shouldn’t be used for:

  • Concreting and screeding (unless mixed with a coarser aggregate)
  • Paving and patio laying
  • Children’s sand pits
  • Golf bunkers
  • Masonry
  • Rendering (aside from bottom or top layer)

Is builders sand the right choice for your project?

Sand is such a versatile material, and can be used for all manner of projects. However, there are lots of different types of sand, so you should make sure that builders sand is the right choice for your project before you start.

Builders sand vs sharp sand

Sharp sand is grittier and heavier than builders sand. Thanks to its larger grain size, sharp sand is better for cement and screed, while the smaller grains of builders sand make it a better choice for bricklaying mortar.

Sand Sharp Sand

Builders sand vs play sand

Play sand is much finer than builders sand, making it a better consistency for building sandcastles and making sand structures. Builders sand also contains harmful elements such as silicones and carcinogens – play sand has had these elements removed.

Sand Play Sand

Builders sand vs plastering sand

Plastering sand is has been cleaned and washed to take out salt, silt, and clay, making it a much better choice for rendering. The removal of the salt, silt, and clay stops the render from shrinking and cracking once dry.

Sand Plastering Sand

Builders sand FAQs

Still need some questions answered? Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about builders sand:

  • Can builders sand get wet?

    Builders sand needs to get wet in order to form a mortar for bricklaying. Once the mortar has been used for brick laying, drizzle or light rain shouldn’t do it any harm. On the other hand, heavy rain can wash all the lime out of the mortar, damaging the builders sand’s ability to bond bricks together.

  • Can builders sand go off?

    Builders sand shouldn’t go off if it has been kept in covered conditions. If builders sand has been left out in the rain, some of the essential minerals may have been washed away, making it less effective.

  • Why is some builders sand orange?

    Some builders sand is orange due to the minerals in the soil from where the sand was quarried. Iron minerals tend to be why builders sand may have an orange colour. MB Wilkes’ Building Sand Corfe 4 (Ginger) is an orange coloured sand that creates a dark beige mortar when dry.

  • What are the other names for builders sand?

    • River sand
    • Screeding sand
    • Plasterer’s sand
    • Mason’s sand
    • Bricklayer’s sand

Bear in mind that multiple types of builders sand is covered here. Screeding sand is generally another name for sharp sand, while plasterer’s sand another name for washed river sand. Mason’s sand is finer than ‘traditional’ builders sand.

MB Wilkes is your first stop for builders sand

M B Wilkes is the first stop for sand aggregates in the south. Our team consists of experts who are ready to provide you with answers to any questions you have regarding builders sand and our wider range of aggregates.

To order sand for your construction or DIY project, don’t hesitate to get in touch by giving us a call on 01258 857465 or order your sand online for delivery in four days!

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