How Do You Pour A Slab On Sandy Soil?

Sand is commonly utilized in construction, and it is frequently used to add strength, bulk, and stability to materials such as concrete and cement mixtures. Concrete sand, natural sand, and river sand are the most common sand used in construction. So how do you prepare the soil for laying a slab?

Prepare the soil by removing the topsoil until you reach the subgrade level. Create a subbase with compacting soil and aggregate, then lay a sand layer for the base structure. Compact each layer, place a vapor layer on the ground and add reinforcement. Finally, pour the slab and add finishing.

Continue reading and learn more about pouring a concrete slab on sandy soil. We’ll go through the essential processes involved in pouring a slab.

Complete Guide To Pouring A Slab Of Concrete

To begin, make sure you’re working on a level area. A concrete slab built on solid, well-drained soil will last longer and have fewer cracking and potential movement. Next, scrape up the sod and topsoil and add gravel fill if you have sandy soil. Below we will explain how to prepare the ground underneath the slab.

Preparing And Testing The Soil Underneath The Slap

Sand comes in various shapes and sizes, each with its own set of physical characteristics. Sometimes sand can behave more like gravel and other times more like silt. Therefore, before you begin any pouring, you must first choose the sand you will be using.

The soil components beneath a concrete slab, soil density, moisture content, and the flatness of the surface the concrete sits on all affect the slab’s final performance. It is easy to blame slab failures on the concrete itself; however, specific concrete issues such as inadequate soil preparation and management of the grade on which the concrete gets placed all contribute to its effectiveness and strength.

The loads exerted on the concrete from the traffic above will be sustained if a well-prepared flat ground surface is below the concrete. As a result, uniformly compacted ground with the requisite densities is critical. Furthermore, when water tries to infiltrate compacted soils, they will neither shrink nor expand.

For each type of slab application, a structural engineer calculates the load capacity that the ground surface must support. Next, geotechnical experts sample the soil at specific locations to see if it can hold the load. There are many ways to improve support capabilities if it can’t, such as removing the soil and replacing it with appropriate soil materials.

Other aggregates and blends are placed into the ground to increase strength and compressibility. The new layers of more suitable materials are placed over weaker soils to disperse applied stresses better. The thicker a soil is, the more significant load it can support.

Sand can withstand 1,500 to 3,000 pounds per square foot in most cases. To figure out how much load capacity you’ll need, you’ll need to calculate the weight of your building or the traffic it will have to carry. Consider any regional incidental building codes that will contribute to the total weight when estimating the carrying capacity of the flooring, walls, and other structures.

After preparing the ground, you will need to compact the different substrate layers.

Compacting The Soil

Next, you will need to compact the soil sand and other aggregates. Again, controlling moisture within the soil and adequate compaction is vital to achieving the desired density level. What is beneath your concrete slab is essential to the job’s success. A slab on the ground sometimes called a slab on grade, is not self-supporting. The soil support system should support the slab.

The kind of soil underneath the slab determines the soil support system. There are three fundamental types of soil you will find on every site:

Organic soils: often known as topsoils, are fantastic soil for the garden but terrible beneath a slab since they cannot be compacted. Remove the organic soils and replace them with a compressible fill.

Granular soils: are made up of sand or gravel. The individual particles are visible, and water quickly drains from them. If you take a moist handful of granular soil and form a ball, it will disintegrate as soon as it dries, like a sandcastle. Granular soils have the highest bearing strength and are the easiest to compact. Granular soils with gravel are the best compactable fill soil under a slab.

Clays:  are soils that stick together and feel oily and slick between your fingertips. Cohesive Clay soils are frequently tricky to compress and dry to a rock-hard consistency. In addition, some clays expand while wet and contract when dry, making them challenging to work with as subgrade materials. If you need to use this type of soil, you will need to create a drainage system and compact it well.

A post-tensioned slab that floats over the soil and does not rely on the substrate for structural support is often the best method for clay soil. Depending on the size of the slab, you will need to compact the soil or subgrade before you can pour the slab. There are four types of compactors used in the construction space:

Plates that vibrate: These are maybe the most common compactors. They produce low amplitude and high frequency by spinning eccentric weights at high speeds and transmitting the force to a flat plate that moves forward along the ground. Frequencies vary from 2500 to over 6000 vibrations per minute and are best suited for compacting granular soils.

Reversible vibratory plates: On granular soils or granular-cohesive mixtures, reversible vibratory plates function effectively. The vibration is reversed using two eccentric weights to propel the machine forward or backward, pausing to compress a single soft zone. They are the most versatile compactors, capable of treating all soil kinds.

Rammers: These gadgets, often known as “jumping jacks,” resemble an engine set on top of a rectangular steel foot. They function by providing high-impact pressures at lower frequencies, often between 500 and 700 hits per minute. Rammers are ideal for restricted spaces and are frequently used in trenches. They are very effective in densifying fine-grained soils like clay and silt. They are capable of all three modes of compaction: impact, vibration, and kneading.

Compactors that roll: There are several different varieties on the market, including walk-behind, ride-on, smooth drums, or drums with cleats affixed, vibratory, and non-vibratory. They have the highest production rates of any compactor and are ideal for asphalt applications and compacting sand and clay. Drums with cleats also have a kneading action and are great for packing trenches and may be controlled remotely to avoid operator strain.

Tire made of rubber:  These compactors, which are used for massive projects such as road construction, are made up of 7 to 11 pneumatic tires mounted on a heavy-duty chassis. Weights commonly range between 10 and 35 tons. Compaction is achieved by kneading the dirt and applying pressure to it.

After compacting the subgrade, subbase, and base soil and aggregates, you need to lay a vapor barrier.

Should You Install A Vapor Barrier Under A Slap Of Concrete?

Before installing your slab ground reinforcement, spread out a roll of black plastic on top of the compacted sand subbase to create a vapor barrier. In a heated building, not utilizing a vapor barrier under a concrete floor might result in a wet living environment conducive to mold and mildew growth.

A minimum of 6-mil polyethylene vapor retarder must be utilized between the concrete and the base course or prepared ground, according to Section R506.2.3 of the 2018 IRC.

According to the IRC, unheated structures, such as garages and utility buildings, do not require a vapor retarder unless they will be heated later. Likewise, patios, walkways, carports, and driveways do not require a barrier unless heated. Therefore, although it is not required, adding a vapor layer at this stage is an excellent idea.

The following instructions must be followed while installing a vapor barrier:

  • At all joints, there should be a minimum of 6 – 8 inches of overlap
  • All service penetrations for electrical or plumbing should be taped or sealed with a close-fitting sleeve
  • Use additional polyethylene film and tape to seal around the service penetrations and where there are punctures

Next, you will need to create a frame for the concrete.

How To Build A Concrete Slab Frame

A frame is relatively straightforward to construct, but the amount of time it takes will depend on the size of your concrete slab and the complexity of your design. Pouring a 4-inch slab, for example, you’ll utilize two by fours. Connect your form boards at the corners to create a solid square or rectangular frame.

Before staking, square up the frame you’ve made using the Pythagorean approach. Begin by holding your tape measure in one corner and marking 3 feet on one of the sides. Next, 90-degree rotation of your tape measure Mark four feet on the other side, then measure the distance between the two markings. When the distance between the two markers is five feet, your frame is square.

Begin adding wood or metal stakes on one side of your structure, spacing them 2 or 3 feet apart on all sides. Next, establish the height of the slab. Then choose an elevation in one corner and fasten the stakes to the frame with nails or screws. Then, work around the perimeter using a level, leveling, and attaching the stakes.

Once your forms are level and linked, you should begin the reinforcement layout.

Reinforcing The Slab

The compressive strength of concrete is exceptional, but it’s worth mentioning that the tensile strength of concrete isn’t as great. Rebars and mesh in the flooring will help to improve the bonding with the concrete and therefore reduce shrinkage-related concrete cracking. Concrete slabs are reinforced with rebar or re-mesh, making them exceedingly difficult to break.

To reinforce the concrete, install steel rebar into your pour. You can find rebar at home centers and concrete product suppliers. You will also need twist ties to connect the rebar. Next, cut and layout pieces about two feet apart in length and width directions, tying the rebar together at the intersections.

It’s now time to pour the concrete once the rebar or mesh has been firmly attached and laid out within the frame.

Pouring The Concrete Mix

A concrete slab mixture combines 1 part cement, two parts sand, and four parts coarse aggregate. Wet concrete on the skin can cause everything from minor redness to third-degree permanently disfiguring chemical burns, be sure you have the correct safety equipment. You’ll need rubber boots and gloves to avoid coming into close contact.

A clean, firm surface, such as an existing concrete slab or a piece of board, is required for mixing concrete. If one is available, you can also utilize a cement mixer. Place your calculated amount of sand first, then add the exact percentage of cement. Combine all ingredients while mixing until the color is uniform.

Add the coarse aggregate and carefully combine all three elements until the color is uniform. Finally, add your calculated amount of water and slowly drizzle it over the mix, stopping to flip it over regularly until the color and texture are uniform. You don’t want your mixture to be too sloppy, so don’t add too much water; it will become brittle. The water should be around half the weight of the cement.

Using a wheelbarrow, take the concrete to the slab area, pour it into tiny heaps, and spread it out evenly. Continue to fill the whole frame with concrete. It is a good idea if you have a concrete vibrator to use that at this stage. Before vibrating the concrete, double-check that other coworkers haven’t previously vibrated it. Then, immerse the vibrator head entirely in the concrete and keep it in place for at least 10 seconds.

Before turning on the vibrator, wait until the tip is wholly immersed. Then, pull the vibrator up at a rate of no more than 3 inches per second on average; 1 inch per second is frequently the optimum. Every time you insert the vibrator, it should overlap the previous vibration radius. According to a decent rule of thumb, the radius of action is four times the diameter of the vibrator tip. When air no longer escapes from the concrete, and the surface acquires a shine, stop.

Finishing The Top Layer Of The Slab

Screeding is the finishing layer on internal floors or to level the surface before final floor coverings such as carpet, tiles, natural stone, linoleum, wood flooring, resin coatings, etc. When screeding, slide the screen across the top of the concrete forms to level the concrete; you may need to make several passes to get a flat, evenly filled surface.

After filling and screeding the whole form, use a bowl float to smooth the surface. The aim is to remove screeding marks and fill low places to achieve a flat level surface. Floating drives bigger aggregates further beneath the surface; three or four passes with the bull float are generally adequate. Excessive floating might degrade the surface by attracting too much water and concrete.

Now, use an edger to round the slab form’s edges. Work the edger tool until the edge is smooth and firm. Before you begin edging, the concrete should be hard but not completely dry, and longer strokes usually result in straighter lines. If the edger leaves a line, you may need to go back over the surface with the hand float.

Control joints are typically put in during the finishing phase or within 24 hours of pouring concrete. A control joint must be built if your pore is 10 feet long and more to avoid cross cracking. A groover can be used if the concrete is wet; if the concrete is dry, a saw can be utilized.

If you want to make a non-slip surface, use a brush to finish the slab. You’ll want to aim for a rough enough finish to provide grip but not so rough that it hurts bare feet.

Beach And Desert Sand In Construction

Traditional standards for usage as a construction material are rarely met by sea and desert sands, especially in their natural condition. Sand comes in three form factor categories based on grain size: coarse, medium, and fine. These factors impact sand’s engineering features and performance when mixed into concrete in terms of plasticity, strength, and bearing capacity.

The density, stability, and general engineering behavior of sand particles are all affected by their form. For example, angular or elongated particles with rough surfaces would be less prone to slip than smooth spherical particles.

Desert Sand In Construction

Due to the finer and slicker nature of desert sand grains, their surface structure would be unable to provide a significant number of multidirectional connections. As a result, the cement slurry will slide off the sand, and the concrete will be fragile if the grain size is too tiny.

The bonding bridge between sand particles gives significant bearing strength only when the sand is dry. However, when desert sand becomes moist, the bridges soften, and when they become overloaded, they crack and fail.

The alkali concentration of desert sand is too high, produced through long-term weathering. When the alkali content is too high, it will have a chemical reaction with the building materials, modifying the bearing or load strength.

Sea Sand In Construction

The main problem is that sea sand contains a lot of salts, which will reduce the durability of concrete, causing early corrosion of steel reinforcement and structural sections breaking apart unless it gets meticulously washed, which is a costly operation. In addition, because of the constant ebb and flow of the waves, the particle form of sea sand becomes rounded, creating poor bridge strength.

The Chloride in seawater will cause corrosion of the steel or iron rebar, resulting in a reduction in the carrying capacity of the slab, making the structure erected on top unsustainable. Furthermore, the salt in coastal sand absorbs moisture from the air, resulting in dampness that further weakens the reinforcement.

After salt migrates to the surface of a porous medium, it forms an efflorescence layer, which is visible when the concrete is dry. Furthermore, reinforcements will corrode more quickly because of the chloride level, and concrete will decay more rapidly due to the sulfate content. 


There are many steps to pouring a concrete slab on sandy soil, and we hope that our comprehensive guide has delivered you with all of the information you need to construct the ideal long-lasting slab.

Please remember to follow your local construction code and wear the necessary protective gear. Lastly, do not use sea sand or desert sand in your slab mix.


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