Sand is an important ingredient for all of the plastering portions of stucco but there are a ton of different sands out there nowadays and choosing which sand is the "right sand" can be daunting.
There are a few choices you have when choosing sand, the "standard" sand that it specified by building codes and specialty sands that are graded to get a desired look. We will go over all of these in this article.
What Kind Of Sand Can I Use For Stucco?
The industry standard states that you need to use a washed plastering sand of some sort when mixing stucco. This can have different colors and different sized granuals, depending on your geographic location but should be available in most cases.
You can also use just about any other sand out there though, as long as it is a clean, washed sand.
Bulk Sand From Material Yards:
This sand is usually for larger projects and is the most cost effective method when you need plastering sand. You can usually order sand by the yard or ton and some material yards will have a minimum amount that is sometimes less than a whole yard or ton.
My local material yard will let me get a 1/2 yard of sand that usually costs me around $11 and is enough sand to mix up about 3-5 bags of base coat material.
Keep in mind that if you do order sand from a material yard, you will have to load it into a truck or trailer (1/2 yard to 1 yard max. usually) or have it delivered which can cost anywhere from $65-$85 and up depending on your location from the material yard.
You will want to call a local material yard that sells sand, gravel, etc. to see if they have a plastering sand or something similar like a masonry or fine sand that is washed. I like to use fine sands with my base coats but have used medium grit plastering sands with good results too.
Bagged Sands From Hardware Stores:
You will find a couple of different bagged sands at various hardware stores that are usually located nearby the cement aisle and some of these can also be used for stucco, if they are washed.
Home Depot has a few different bagged sands to choose from in my local area and I wanted to take a look at a few different examples to give you a better idea of what would work...
Play Sand is available at nearly every Home Depot I have been inside in my area. It is a washed sand and screened so the sand is pretty fine and is comparable to the masonry sand I get locally.
It is a good sand for stucco base coat materials and can be used for custom finishes as well.
The All Purpose Quikrete sand that is found at most Home Depot locations will also work for stucco base coats, as it is washed and screened too. This sand is a coarse sand though and will make for a rougher base coat over a finer sand.
I would not use this sand for a custom finish coat as it is too coarse for that in most scenarios.
The Multipurpose sand made by Sakrete is carried by some Home Depot stores but I do not see it in all of them and it is another washed sand and is graded too, like the other two sands we looked at.
The Sakrete Multipurpose sand is a finer sand that is great for stucco base coats and can be used for custom mixed finishes as well.
Home Depot also sells a bulk sand that comes in a large bag like the image shown and is roughly 9 cubic feet in size (3' long x 3' wide x3' tall) and is a fine sand that is suited for stucco base coats mixes and custom finishes.
These are large bags though and will need to be carried in a truck or trailer as they weigh around 1,000 - 1,200 lbs.
Take note that bagged sand from the hardware store is considerably more expensive than getting it in bulk from a material supply yard but can be more convenient for smaller projects and worth the money if that is the case.
In this article I refer to "custom finish coats" which are very seldom used due to pre-bagged stucco finishes that come with sand added to them but in some cases a custom finish coat can be made from scratch and that is what I am referring to.
Variations Of Plastering Sand:
It is important to note that plastering sand and sand in general is deriver from local rivers, etc. and can vary in color and texture but it is all the same, as long as it is washed and graded it should be fine.
Take a look at this screenshot I took of all of the different "plastering sands" I found by doing an image search and you will see that the variations are astounding!