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Best Sandbags for Flooding
Mike Terry
Mike Terry

Content Contributor @ Batten

Here is a shocking statistic: did you know that in the USA alone, up to 14,000 people experience water damage emergencies every single day? Furthermore, up to 98% of basements will incur some type of water damage throughout their lifetime.

Equally shocking is that only 15% of American households are insured against flooding. This means that if a flood were to occur, and your basement got damaged, it’s likely that you’re not covered, and you’ll be on the hook for the full cost of the repairs.

Sadly, the frequency and severity of floods are increasing across the USA, with up to 24% of Americans currently living in flood prone locations. If you’re one of the one-quarter of Americans living in flood prone areas, you need to take the proper precautions to prevent your basement and the rest of your home from being damaged, possibly irreversibly so.

One of the best tools to prevent your home from being damaged by floods is the sandbag. Yes, the sandbag is a very old and classic flood prevention and control tool, but it has been proven to work and, therefore, is still one of the most popular options at your disposal.

Something as simple as a bag of sand can stop countless gallons of water from infiltrating your home. But this begs the question: what are the best sandbags for flooding?

This is exactly what we’re here to help you with today, to find the best sandbags for flooding. We’ll take a look at all of the different options in terms of sandbag materials and types of sand that can be used, as well as the most popular sandbags across the USA right now.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing sandbags for flooding depends on several factors such as the bag material and the type of sand.
  • Issues such as storage space, biodegradability, cost, and ease of use also come into play.
  • Generally, polypropylene sandbags are quite durable, they have long lifespans, and they’re also extremely resistant to physical and weather damages.
  • Mix different sand textures to make your sandbags more versatile.

Dealing with a flooded basement? Use a dehumidifier to dry it out!

Understanding Flooding and the Role of Sandbags

The unfortunate reality is that flooding can and often occurs very rapidly, almost without warning. Let’s take a quick look at the different types of floods that you might have to deal with.

  • Heightened Water Levels in Rivers: One of the classic types of floods is that which occurs when the water level in a river or other such body of water rises. This usually occurs due to severe and prolonged rainfall, which causes rivers to swell and the water to come rushing up over the banks. This type of flood may affect you if you live close to any such river.
  • Flash Floods: A flash flood happens when a large quantity of water comes hurdling in your direction, seemingly out of nowhere. Flash floods can occur in dry locations, small streams and rivers, and in dried-out river beds. This usually happens when a very large amount of snow or rainfall occurs great distances upstream or upriver, which then accumulates into one large body and comes rushing through a specific area.
  • Precipitation Floods: One of the most regular types of floods which you may be familiar with, especially if you live in a recessed area or on flat land is a precipitation flood. This is when large amounts of rain or snow build up in an area and are unable to drain away, effectively forming a pool. If you live in an area with heavy precipitation, you are likely to experience a basement flood.
  • Rising Sea Levels: If you live close to the sea, then the simple reality is that those rising sea levels could slowly start to encroach on your home, particularly your basement. This is one of the worst types of floods to deal with, because there is nothing you can do to lower those sea levels.
  • Storm Surges: Related to the above point, another type of flood is a storm surge, which is when a hurricane or any other such weather phenomenon causes a large wave or quantity of water to come inland from the sea. For instance, this happened quite recently in New York with Hurricane Sandy.
  • Man Made Floods: Man-made floods occur due to human error. Maybe you used a hammer instead of a wrench, or a jigsaw instead of a pipe saw, but whatever the case may be, you just managed to flood your home.

As far as the sandbags are concerned, their role is very clear. They form a solid layer through which water cannot penetrate. Although you might think that sand is not totally waterproof, when you stack enough of it against each other, and place it inside of adequate containers, it forms a waterproof barrier.

Moreover, sand is also very heavy, which is important when it comes to holding back large quantities of water. Water is also very heavy, which means that to hold it back, there needs to be a significant amount of weight in place.

Therefore, having an exceedingly heavy sandbag, or realistically piles of them placed against each other both horizontally and vertically, should generally be more than enough to hold back even the largest of floods. If you have the sandbags in place before a flood occurs, you could potentially save your basement or your whole home from damage.

If you need a high-tech device that can tell you that flooding is occurring before it’s too late, check out the SimpliSafe Water Sensor!

Types of Sandbags for Flooding and Their Effectiveness

Sandbags can, of course, be extremely effective at holding back large quantities of water. It also depends on the type of sandbag in question. Let’s take a quick look at the different types of bags that can be used for this purpose.

Traditional Burlap Sandbags

First, we have the traditional burlap sandbag, which is one of the first types of sandbag ever used. These are usually made of either burlap or even natural jute. These are perfectly fine to use for basic erosion control, to hold down equipment, and as temporary flood barriers.

Traditional burlap sandbags are eco-friendly and biodegradable, which is why many people like them, because they won’t hurt the environment, not to mention that they’re also quite affordable. Burlap tends to be fairly breathable as well, which also lets moisture escape when needed.

Although burlap sandbags are very easy to use, easy to fill, cost effective, and biodegradable, they do also have some drawbacks.

First and foremost, they’re just not all that durable, especially where physical damage is concerned. Furthermore, when this material is exposed to moisture for longer periods of time, it starts to degrade, develops mold, and even rot. Burlap sandbags are best for short term use.

Polypropylene Sandbags

As the name suggests, polypropylene sandbags are made from polypropylene, a synthetic material, unlike burlap, which is a naturally occurring material. Polypropylene sandbags are quite durable, they have long lifespans, and they’re also extremely resistant to physical and weather damages.

In general, they are best used for severe erosion control, construction purposes, severe flood protection, and in some cases, for military fortifications. In many cases, they are also designed to be UV resistant, so they can be left out in the sunlight for prolonged periods of time without getting damaged.

That said, if this type of sandbag is not properly sealed from the outside, then it’s not totally waterproof, in which case, it might retain water. It’s also not biodegradable, which means that there are some disposal issues to think about, plus polypropylene sandbags are much more expensive than the burlap variety.

Polyethylene Sandbags (Tube Sandbags)

We then have polyethylene sandbags, which for all intents and purposes are plastic. Polyethylene is a synthetic polymer with many features that make it similar to basic plastic. Due to this, it is resistant to a variety of chemicals, very durable, and totally waterproof.

The polyethylene sandbag is used for a variety of landscaping purposes, for temporary barriers, construction, and basic flood control. However, where it really shines is that this tube-like bag is very quick to deploy and effective for diverting water in emergency situations.

The fact that it’s so resistant to damage and chemicals, and that it’s easy to transport is a big bonus. With that said, keep in mind that polyethylene sandbags are not as resistant to UV light as polypropylene sandbags. They may start to deteriorate with prolonged exposure to sunlight. This type of sandbag also requires a lot of storage space.

Woven Polypropylene Sandbags

Finally, we have woven polypropylene sandbags, which are made by weaving many polypropylene strands together.

This is considered to be one of the most effective types of sandbag materials to use, mainly because it is resistant to tearing and physical damage. Moreover, it is UV resistant and has very high tensile strength overall. These sandbags can be used for multiple situations and can be reused several times. Furthermore, if properly sealed, they are also totally waterproof.

Another benefit of this sandbag is that it’s fairly lightweight, which allows for very quick deployment and removal for emergency situations.

For this reason, if you are expecting a severe flood, or want to prevent erosion, the woven polypropylene sandbag is considered best. Of course, the big disadvantage is that these sandbags are the most expensive plus they aren’t biodegradable either.

Comparison of Effectiveness

If you’re wondering which type of sandbag to use for certain situations, burlap is probably the best for short-term and light floods. If you’re just expecting a short weather phenomenon and you need a bit of extra protection, then burlap should be fine.

However, if you need long-term flood protection, then burlap is not ideal. Burlap is also heavy, so if you need to act quickly, sand-filled burlap sacks might not allow for the fast reaction time you need. Remember, when a flood is incoming, every minute counts!

If you’re experiencing an emergency situation and you only have a few minutes or hours to protect your home from a flood, then polyethylene sandbags, otherwise known as tube sandbags, are the best. That’s because they are very easy to deploy and effective at diverting water when you don’t have much advance notice.

The issue is that polyethylene sandbags aren’t overly resistant to UV light. Therefore, if you need something that can resist a lot of sunlight, go for a polypropylene sandbag. This is also ideal for holding back large quantities of water.

If you are looking for the best of the best, then it is a woven polypropylene sandbag that you want. These are more durable and more UV resistant than regular polypropylene sandbags, plus they can also be ideal for very quick deployment.

Best Sand for Sandbags for Flooding

If you are planning to protect your home from flooding, it’s not only the type of bag that you need to consider, but the type of sand as well. The three main types of sand used for sandbags for flooding include coarse sand, fine sand, and gravelly sand.

Coarse Sand

First, we have coarse sand, which is generally preferred over most other types and thought of as the best sand for flood sandbags. One reason for this is because coarse sand tends to be quite dense.

This means that you can pack a whole lot of it into one sandbag, making a single bag quite heavy. The heavier the bag is, the more water weight it will be able to hold back, thus allowing for structural integrity.

Furthermore, the relatively dense nature of coarse sand means that the grains interlock quite finely, therefore preventing water from seeping through to the other side. It forms an effective, near-100% waterproof barrier.

However, the grains are not so tight that they will compact with each other, to the point where the shape of the sandbag is altered thus reducing effectiveness. Coarse sand should not be too small as to allow water to seep through small holes in your sandbag. Also remember that coarse sand allows sandbags to have decent drainage.

Fine Sand

Next, we have fine sand. It’s just much finer and smoother than coarse sand. One of the big advantages of using fine sand for sandbags is that it’s more readily available. If you have an emergency situation and you need sandbags fast, then fine sand may be the only option you have at your disposal.

Technically speaking, fine sand is ideal to use for situations where you need to hold back a lot of weight for short periods of time. This is because the finer the sand is, or the smaller the particles, the more densely you can pack them together.

Realistically, this should mean that you should be able to fit more fine sand into a sandbag than coarse sand, based on their weight. It compacts together much more, allowing for a heavier and more structurally sound sandbag. The issue, however, with fine sand is that it gets so compact.

Eventually, if the water keeps pounding on it, and if water soaks into the fine sand, it will compact to the point where the bag’s shape alters thus losing its effectiveness. If the sand in a sandbag becomes too compacted, the sandbag becomes less effective. On that note, if the sand particles are compacted together far too closely, water also can’t drain out of the bag, which negatively impacts its structural integrity.

Gravelly Sand

Gravelly sand, which as you can imagine, is extremely coarse sand, almost to the point of looking like pieces of gravel. Essentially, this is a sandbag filled with small rocks or pebbles. Because the particles are so large, it helps to provide additional stability and weight to the sandbags.

This means that in terms of physically holding back water, they perform quite well. They’re also ideal to use in areas that have a high risk of water erosion.

They’re good at stopping water from washing your property away. However, the downside is that because gravelly sand is not very coarse, it doesn’t form a 100% waterproof barrier. Water can still seep in between the particles.

Considerations for Sand Quality

One of the biggest considerations to make when choosing sand for your sandbags is the moisture content of the sand. It really comes down to the fact that you should use dry sand, not wet sand.

Dry sand is much lighter and therefore easier to transport, especially if you need large quantities. Because it’s dry and lighter, it’s much easier to fill the bags with as well.

You don’t want your sandbags, that are supposed to protect your home from water damage, to already be soaked with water. This decreases their overall effectiveness. To ensure that sandbags work well, the sand inside should be dry.

Furthermore, whether you use coarse sand, fine sand, or gravelly sand, make sure that it doesn’t contain soil or dirt. Soil and dirt both wash away very easily and will create other problems as well. It’s pure sand that you want with as few contaminants as possible.

Mixing Sand Types

Many issues can arise when flooding occurs, so it’s a good idea to mix various types of sand. For instance, you may want to create a 50/50 mix of gravelly and coarse sand.

The structural integrity of the gravelly sand helps to keep the sandbags in place and prevents large volumes of water, as well as physical objects from breaking the sand barrier Also, the nature and texture of the coarse sand will prevent water from seeping through the bags. This is just one example of how you can mix various types of sand to achieve certain goals.

What are the Best Sandbags for Flooding?

Now that we know exactly what to look out for when choosing a sandbag for flooding, let’s take a look at four of the best options on the market.

Sandbaggy Heavy Duty Sandbags

The Sandbaggy Heavy Duty Sandbags can be bought in various quantities ranging from 1 all the way to 20,000 bags. These sandbags are used by many different nonprofit and government agencies in the USA, including the Red Cross and the US army, which speaks of their quality.

These sandbags are made with military-grade materials, along with a double stitched bottom, which means that they can hold around 50 lbs of sand or gravel. The polypropylene fabric used is very tough.

The 14-inch wide opening makes them very easy to fill. Even better is that they are made with a special UV inhibitor to make them resistant to sunlight. Each bag comes with a pre-attached tie string to make tying them shut easy.

UpNorth Sandbags

If you’re looking for high quality yet affordable woven polypropylene sandbags, then here is a great option for you to check out. You can buy as few as 10 or as many as 500 at once. Not only is the woven polypropylene extremely strong, but these bags also feature a double-sewn bottom for added strength and rigidity.

The top of the sandbag features a special cut design for easy filling. These are some of the most user-friendly sandbags available at this time.

Each bag holds roughly 50 lbs of sand or gravel, with each bag being resistant to direct sunlight for up to 1600 hours. These sandbags are reusable. They might not look like anything overly special, but they get the job done, and are more than suitable for most basic applications.

Durashack Heavy Duty Sandbags

These high-quality polypropylene sandbags are designed to hold up to 50 lbs each. This particular option allows you to purchase anywhere from 5 to 100 pieces at a time.

Keep in mind that both gravel and sand can be used to fill these bags, as the material is very durable and resistant to puncturing.

Furthermore, the opening is also designed to make the bags easy to fill with a shovel, and you also get a built-in tie string for easy closure.

Thanks to the material used here, not only are the sandbags resistant to physical damage, but towards UV damage for up to 1600 hours. These sandbags are best used for long-term situations where you need prolonged protection from flooding and water damage.

Quick Dam Water Activated Flood Bags

This unique sandbag is also known as an activated flood bag. It is a little bag that you place on the ground. When water comes into contact, it grows by 3.5 inches in height in just minutes.

What’s really cool is that you can place a whole stack of these in one area, and when they get wet, they’ll all activate and form a solid barrier. However, if you expect a large rush of water to come at once, then the bags should be presoaked so that they are already at full size. These are ideal for emergency situations and short-term preparedness.

You get two of them in a single package and they can be rather expensive. The main benefit is the convenience factor in terms of storage, because they don’t take up much space when not in use. It’s a fantastic option to consider if you need something for an emergency situation and need to react quickly.

How to Properly Fill Up and Use Sandbags for Flooding

To fill up sandbags, first choose your sand of choice, and refer to the points covered above. To fill your sandbags, it’s a good idea to start by putting on gloves. Put the sandbag on the ground with the hole for filling pointing upwards.

With your sand or gravel of choice, fill the bag about two-thirds of the way to the top, but don’t overfill it. If you overfill the bag, you won’t be able to tie it shut, and maneuvering it into place will be difficult as well. Once you’ve filled sand into the bag, take the open end and fold it downwards several times and really press it down. You want to compact the sand so that it forms a tight layer. You can then tie the bag shut with the included ties.

To use the sandbag, place the filled bags parallel to the direction of the flow of water and make sure that the bags are touching lengthwise. You need to ensure that all of the bags overlap with each other and are firmly pressed against each other. On that note, you need to use what is known as staggered placement, which is exactly how brick walls are built. This creates a much stronger barrier. Also, you need to interlock the bags.

Maintenance and Storage of Sandbags

Here are some quick tips on maintaining and storing sandbags for flooding.

  • Always inspect your sandbags for signs of damage or degradation. Look for holes, weakened areas, and tears.
  • If you have built a whole barrier of sandbags, consistently examine it to look for any signs of erosion or weak spots.
  • Although some types of sandbags, particularly the burlap variety, may be repaired, if they have any kind of damage, they should be replaced.
  • Some areas may consider floodwater to be a contaminant, which means that sandbags need to be handled appropriately after exposure to said floodwater.
  • If the sandbags are still in fine condition and are not contaminated, then you can empty the sand back out and store them for future use. Make sure to clean sandbags with water so that there is no remaining sand, let them dry, and then store them in a dry place.
  • Do not store sandbags in the sun.

If your yard or home is already flooded, you may need to use some kind of water pump to quickly dispose of the water.

Alternative to Sandbags for Flooding

If you don’t want to use sandbags to help prevent and control flooding, there are some other ingenious and innovative options at your disposal.

VEVOR Floor Barrier

This is a very special type of flood barrier that instead of being filled with sand is filled with water. It takes the shape of a long tube that is 24 feet long, 10 inches deep, and 6 inches tall.

It is designed to be filled with water and can hold up to 76.6 gallons, which produces a weight of 662 lbs. This weight should be more than enough to hold back large volumes of water and debris, and heavy enough to stay in place.

It also comes with special mechanisms to prevent it from rolling over or moving when water presses against it.

It’s made out of several layers of PVC, which is a very tough material. It should be able to resist tearing, physical damage, and UV light as well. It’s a fantastic option if you need something to block a driveway, a doorway, or the entrance to a basement.

Floodworx Flood Barrier

Here is another water barrier similar to the one above. This particular one is made of industrial-strength tarpaulin material, which is known for being impact resistant, tear resistant, and UV resistant as well.

It can be used to contain large quantities of water and to divert water as well. What’s surprising is that this option is actually eco-friendly and reusable too.

Thanks to its special design, it should also stay in place once you put it somewhere. A single unit is 48 by 9 by 6 inches long, but what really stands out is that these units are modular.

This means that individual flood barriers can be attached to each other to form a completely waterproof layer against the ground. With that being said, they’re not ideal for stacking on top of each other.

ESP Water Absorbing Snake

We then have this water absorbing snake, which is essentially a long piece of fabric that is able to absorb great quantities of water, up to one gallon.

It’s 48 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, therefore making it perfect to block off doorways, particularly for those small spaces between floors and doors.

Of course, this is not something you would use to divert large quantities of water or to stop major floods from occurring. Instead, this is just a small sandbag-like piece of equipment that is ideal for quickly and effectively controlling small spills, leaks, and small floods.

Final Thoughts

What it really comes down to is that the right sandbags can make the difference between your home staying in one piece and your basement being flooded to the point where your home essentially becomes a large pile of scrap wood and metal.

If you pay attention to the materials that the sandbags are made of, as well as the actual sand itself, and you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to adequately protect your home. We strongly recommend taking a look at the products that we’ve discussed here, as they’re considered the best in their respective classes. 

Best Sandbags for Flooding: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about sandbags and flooding.

How Many Sandbags are typically Needed for Home Flood Protection?

If you have a 1-foot-high wall, you’ll need around 5 sandbags per linear foot.

Can I Reuse Sandbags After a Flood Event?

Whether you can reuse sandbags after a flood event depends on the type of sandbag. For instance, polyethylene sandbags are reusable.

Are there Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Sandbags?

Burlap sandbags are eco-friendly.

What Safety Precautions Should Be Taken When Using Sandbags for Flooding?

Do not walk on the bags, do not expose the bags to UV light, and do not try to puncture them in any way. Furthermore, only carry as many as you can easily hold to avoid injury.