An image of sandbags, filled and with different materials and colours

Sandbags and Their Uses

Sandbags are simple but effective items composed of burlap or woven polypropylene and commonly seen utilised in flood defences, as roadwork barriers, and even in military fortifications.

Due to their weight and versatility its hardly surprising that they are employed in erosion control, flood walls, and traffic control when building levees, berms, dikes, and even barricades.

LC Packaging offers a packages solution of standard, or UV protected (heavy duty) sandbags. These bags can either be made from woven polypropylene or traditional jute hessian fabric.

If you ever wanted to find out more about sandbags, then look no further! We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in regard to sandbags and answered them all for you.

Types of Sandbag

What Kind Of Bags Do You Use For Sandbags?

Let’s get this started with one of the most significant questions when it comes to looking around for sandbags or making your own. After all, you will need to have the correct type of bag to use as a sandbag for it to be effective.

So, what kind of bags can you use for your sandbags?

Here at LC Packaging, we recommend using either a standard bag or a UV protected bag. Depending on the reason in which you need a sandbag, will depend on which bag you will need.

If you are wanting to go for a bag which is going to withstand the force from water and hold up for as long as possible, then a UV protected sandbag might just be the one for you!

Another common sandbag type is jute sandbags. These can be seen regularly around different military installations and in flood defences. Hessian jute bags can be a great type of bag to use for your sandbags for all occasions.

When you are choosing which jute bag will work best for your needs, think about the reason why you are getting them for and the severity of the job. The more demanding the job is, the more advisable it will be to use heavy duty bags.

What Material Is Best For Sandbags?

Once you have decided which sandbag type you are going to use, you will want to check that the materials used will suit the purpose it will be used for.

One material which is highly recommended for sandbags is woven polypropylene. Whilst this material is not biodegradable, if it has been treated against UV exposure its lifespan will be immeasurably increased, lasting indefinitely without much maintenance or care required.

The added benefit of using these treated bags is their increased durability in comparison to other material types – fortunately, at LC Packaging we are a proud global market leader in woven polypropylene bags.

A commonly used alternative material you will see being used for sandbags are hessian jute bags. These bags are made from roughly spun plant fibres which are ideal for enduring substantial usage.

The natural fibrous materials which they are comprised of comes from the skin of the jute plant, making these bags completely organic. Jute sandbags have historically been one of the best packaging materials possible to use when constructing flood defences or reinforcing dikes and levees.

Can I Use Plastic Bags For Sandbags?

The short answer to this question is yes! Not only is the highly recommended material, woven polypropylene made from a flexibly type of plastic, but you can also use binbags as a temporary source of sandbags if you are in an emergency.

That is correct, you heard us right. If you are in an emergency and in desperate need for sandbags immediately, fill your binbags up with soil from your garden and use these until you can get hold of correct types of sandbags. If you don’t have binbags, carrier bags can even act as a temporary sandbag but make sure these bags don’t have holes in for the sand or soil to escape.

If you are using these bags, we recommend for you to lay a plastic sheet down underneath these bags to act as a stronger seal and more protection.

One thing you may want to bear in mind and monitor if you are going to use carrier bags, it will be easy for them to fall out of place when being stacked. Plastic bags can often prove to be difficult to stack neatly and remain stacked as they can slide off one another.

Polypropylene is a type of plastic and is quickly outranking the long-standing hessian sacks. This is because they are considered as a cheaper alternative which does not rot down over time so you will nearly always be covered.

Whether you decided to get a standard woven polypropylene bag, or a UV protected heavy duty bag, you know that these sandbags will help to keep you protected from the harsh elements of the typical British weather.

What To Use To Fill Sandbags?

Just like it says in the name, the best thing you can use to fill up your sandbag is sand! But can you use just any sand, including the sand at the beach? Also is there anything else I can choose to fill up my sandbags besides sand?

Let’s start with the most popular filling for a sandbag - sand. Whilst you can get many different types of sand, there are only a few types which are useful and effective when it comes to filling your sandbags.

Firstly, it is important that your sand is dry, free from any debris or foreign objects, and each grain of sand is large enough to avoid seeping through the holes and going everywhere. If this happens, your sandbag will very quickly become obsolete.

Another type of sand which you want to avoid is soft sand. Soft sand is often described as builders’ sand and each grain Is much smaller in size than regular sand, meaning the likelihood of this type of sand leaking out of your bags is quite high.

Another issue with using soft sand is within the actual defence itself. Soft sand is unable to hold back water due to the size of each grain and the softness.

If you don’t want to use sand or are unable to get hold of some sand, you can opt to use soil. It is important to inspect this before you place It into your bag.

Often soil from your back garden will contain foreign objects which are sharp and can pierce the container from the inside. In addition, certain materials can break down the fibres within the bag itself causing its utility to greatly drop!

What Is The Easiest Way To Fill Sandbags?

The easiest way for you to fill a sandbag at home will be between two people. We recommend that you never try to fill and move them around whilst you are on your own. Once a sandbag is full, they can be deceptively heavy and if they are not handled appropriately, they can induce an injury to yourself.

Before you start to fill your sandbags, we advise that you both wear protective equipment to keep you safe from sand particles. Gloves are very important during this process to prevent the sand from aggravating your hands. Safety glasses and a face mask will also help keep you protected from any grains of sand.

Once you have found someone to help you fill up the sandbags, the easiest way for you to fill them is by asking the holder of the sandbags to stand with their feet at shoulders width apart and hold the bag with their arms straight in front of their feet.

Then, using a shovel, start to fill the bag with your sand. Once you have reached about half-way up the bag, scrunch the top and secure it with twine or a cable tie. You want to make sure that you have not tied the bag too close to the sand as this will prevent it from moving around which will weaken its defence properties.

How Do You Make A Sandbag?

If you are making your own sandbags, you will need to know how to make them. We have already covered some of the different alternatives you can use for your sandbags, but there are a few more you can choose to use.

As mentioned earlier, binbags can be an alternative material to use when you are making a flood defence quickly to prevent any more water flooding in.

Another alternative can include pillowcases. Each of these alternatives may not be the same as a hessian bag or a woven polypropylene bag, nor will they be as affective, but they will still serve a purpose in the event of an emergency and provide you with a temporary flooding defence system.

What Is The Best Sand For Sandbags?

When sand gets wet, it will mould and stick together. This is perfect when it comes to needing a flood defence because once this happens, the sand not only forms a water repellent membrane, but it also becomes heavier which will reduce the chance of the bags shifting under intense water pressure.

When you are deciding which type of sand you need for your bags, sharp sand is the way to go if you need something durable. This could include washed granite sand as this allows the water to drain quickly and will not hold the water for a long period of time, allowing the bags to only get 10% heavier.

However, if it is an emergency, make use of anything which seems appropriate. Basically anything you can get your hands on that fills the bags will suffice until you can get something more watertight.

It is important to filter through any of the fillings prior to adding it to your bag as sharp edges will weaken the structural integrity of the bag.

How Do You Stack Sandbags?

Stacking your sandbags needs to be thought about correctly. Storing them on a base such as a pallet can help when loading them onto transport machinery, if you have access to them, and will also provide a better hand hold from when you need to move a larger quantity under tight time conditions.

They should be stacked neatly and flat which will keep the stack secure. The higher you choose to stack your sandbags, the higher the risk of them not being secure and stable. You could also face a lot of difficulty getting the top layer back down.


Sandbags Stacked


Can I Fill Sandbags At The Beach?

Sand from the beach can be used in your sandbags but this can run the risk of having debris mixed inside the sand and causing damage inside the bag which means the bag will not offer you as much support.

But if you are in an emergency and you live near a beach, it can provide you with a temporary alternative for your defensive wall.

Can You Use Kitty Litter For Sandbags?

Cat litter would work in terms of filling your sandbags, but it may work out being a very expensive alternative and would cost you much more than the usual materials such as sand.

Filling your sandbags will take a lot of doing no matter what you choose to fill them with. Depending on the area of which you are trying to protect will depend on how much and how many bags you will need for it to work effectively.

But if you can get hold of a large quantity of cat litter, then this will work for your bags. It can also be acceptable to use tis source if you do not require a large quantity of sandbags.

How Long Will Sandbags Last?

The answer to this question can vary with every situation a sandbag is put through. Whilst they say that a woven polypropylene bag can last indefinitely, this statement doesn’t hold as much truth when they are being used as a heavy-duty flood defence.

Once they have been put under strain, you can expect them to last for around a year. If they are left exposed to a lot of sunlight or hit with a strong flow of water constantly, this could also weaken them and speed up the process of their breakdown, meaning they last many months less than a year.

Hessian jute bags are biodegradable which means that over time, no matter how extreme the flood defence is, they will begin to breakdown. This means that over time, the flood defence system will become less effective and eventually will fail as a defence system. But with appropriate care, you can make these bags last from eight months to a year.

How Do You Tie Off A Sandbag?

When you are finished filling your sandbag halfway with whichever filling you chose to use, you will either use them straight away or transport them to another location. Whether this be for storage or usage after they have arrived.

If you decide to use the bags straight away, it is not necessary to secure the top of your bag. If you decide to tie them, then make sure you are doing so towards the top instead of nearer the sand. This will allow your wall to be more compact and secure because the sand is able to move within the bag.

You can secure it with anything you may have. This can be a cable tie, twine, string, duct tape, or anything else which may help secure the top. Otherwise fold the open end of the bag underneath and place it flat as possible.

How Much Do You Fill Sandbags?

Knowing how much to fill your sandbags can all depend on the reason you need the sandbags.

If you are wanting a sandbag to help control or prevent erosion damage from soil, we recommend filling your bag to nearly full and securing the top of the bag before placing it into position.

Another reason you may completely fill your sandbags is for traffic control. If you want to prevent anybody gaining access onto your property in a vehicle, then you are going to want to block it with something compact, heavy, and difficult to move. What better thing to use than a heavy sandbag wall?

When you are filling your sandbag for a flood defence wall, never fill it to the top, ever! Filling it halfway ensures that the sand can move around and make it much easier to compact the bags together when you are building a wall. A full sandbag will be incredibly heavy and difficult to manoeuvre and carry.

Will Sandbags Stop Water?

Sandbags are a great defence mechanism when it comes to flooding and controlling a flow of water. But there is a limit on how much water a sandbag wall can stop, along with how powerful this wall is.

If they are filled and placed correctly, there is a higher probability that your wall will prevent water from damaging an area or mitigate the effect it has on your property.

They can make a vast difference on the level of damage which can be caused by flood water, but if there is an increasing amount of water at a fast rate flowing through, they may not be able to stop the water altogether.

Sandbags Water Barrier

How Do You Make A Water Barrier?

Building your sandbag wall correctly is vital for making sure that it works to the best of its abilities and doesn’t make the situation worse.

Before you do anything with your sandbags, you will need to clear the area of any debris in close proximity to the site – make sure to look for any objects which could damage the bags. This will also provide more space for the bags to lay flat on the surface and become a wider sturdy defence wall.

As expected…your starting base must be flat!

This is where your skills will come into action. The bags which you have either bought or made must be laid lengthways to the direction of the flow of water. It is vital that they are laid this way and are parallel to one another. The top needs to be secured or folded underneath to ensure that they will not spill out or allow an excess amount of water in.

As you start to build the layers, they will need to imitate a brick wall. Each bag overlapping by half and laid perfectly flat and straight.

Make sure that you flatten each bag you lay down and once you create a row, flatten that all down as much as possible. This will help to create a very strong seal whilst offering support to the rest of the barricade.

The wall should be in the shape of a pyramid and be three times wider than it is tall. Something which is much taller than it is wider will be weaker in structural integrity and lack the supportive base.

If you would like your wall to have that extra watertight seal, adding a plastic sheet on the side of the water flow will provide exactly this. Secure this with a row of sandbags along the top and the bottom so it does not allow water to seep through.

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