Should I buy empty or ready filled sandbags?

Both empty and pre-filled sandbags are readily available to buy online, however there are a few questions to consider before making your purchase:

  • What am I using them for?
  • How many do I need?
  • If I purchase empty bags, where will I source the sand and how will it be delivered/collected?
  • How much sand do I need to fill empty sandbags?
  • How long will it take me to fill the number of bags I need?
  • Can I accept a delivery of sand or a pallet of ready filled sandbags?

You will find that most ready filled sandbags sold online are partially filled bags and contain 10-20kg of sand. If you’re looking for sandbags which are filled to the top, it may be easier to purchase the empty bags and sufficient sand to fill them yourself; or you could buy part-filled bags and top them up.

Partially filled sandbags are often the most suitable option for requirements, such as:

  • Flood prevention – by building a sandbag barrier using sandbags in a brick pattern the amount of water entering an area can be significantly reduced.
  • Sign stability – sandbags are used as weights to prevent signs for roadworks or events blowing over.
  • Military bunkers or barricades, including re-enactments.


There are a few reasons for only part-filling bags with sand:

  • Firstly, to make them more mouldable – if they are too full they can be rigid, awkward to lift, reposition and may not be suitable for flood prevention.  Ideally the sand in the bags needs room to sag.
  • Partially filled bags are easier to handle – 15kg is still a fair weight to handle, especially if you need to move multiple bags, so caution should be exercised when lifting them. You should also bear in mind that the bags will become even heavier once they become saturated.
  • Less possibility of tearing – the more sandbags are moved from place to place, the higher the risk of the bags splitting; this is especially relevant when bags have been wet or exposed to UV light for an extended period of time. Containing less sand will put less pressure on the material of the bag when lifted.

If a heavier weight is required for a specific task, it is far easier to use multiple part-filled sandbags, than to use sandbags filled to the top which could weigh upwards of 30kg.

Generally, bags are rarely filled to the neck with sand.  However, for some projects where the sandbags will be in situ permanently – preventing bank erosion for example – the bags may be fully filled to the top with either sand, soil, or a mix of sand and cement, depending on your requirements. You may wish to fill the bags near the area they will be used, due to the weight of the bags when they are full.

Important note: For items being lifted below shoulder height the Health & Safety Executive recommend that a man shouldn’t lift more than 20kg alone and the recommendation for women is 13kg; therefore, part-filled bags in most cases are the most safety conscious option.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to fill sandbags?

As a rule of thumb one person can fill 12 sandbags in one hour; usually less in subsequent hours due to fatigue. The job is made easier with two people, one can hold the bag, while the other fills it with sand, which will save some time and allow you to swap roles when you start to tire.

How much sand do I need to fill the bags?

To fill one sandbag to 45cm x 25cm x 7.5cm would require approximately 8.5 litres of sand, which means that you should be able to fill roughly 70 bags from a 600 litre/0.6m³ bag of sand, or 118 from a 1m³ bag.

Is it easier to buy sandbags which have already been filled?

This is definitely the most time saving and easiest option of the two. When you buy ready filled sandbags they are usually delivered stacked on pallets, so are ready for immediate use. You know exactly what you’re paying per bag, there is no guess work when calculating the time it will take to fill your empty bags, or the amount of sand you’ll need to purchase to fill the number of bags you require and there will be less mess; sandbags generally have a narrow neck that is about as wide as a shovel, so spillage while filling is inevitable.

Can I accept a delivery of filled sandbags to my address?

You should always read a company’s Delivery Policy when you buy online, especially when purchasing bulky items as there may be access or offloading requirements.

Due to sandbags often being delivered on pallets, this is likely to mean the courier will need a solid, level surface to pull the pallet into position using a manual pallet truck; a pallet of sandbags can weigh as much as 1 tonne so a pallet cannot be dragged on inclines, or soft surfaces such as gravel or grass.


Buying empty sandbags and filling them yourself means that you have more control over the volume of sand in each bag.  However, you will need to calculate your sand requirements to fill the bags and ensure you have sufficient time to complete the task, remembering that it can take an hour to fill 12 bags.

Choosing to buy ready filled sandbags can be the easier, more time and cost-effective option. We know from experience that filling bags with sand is laborious, so buying pre-filled sandbags means someone else will do the hard work for you and when they are delivered, the sandbags are ready for immediate use.


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