Can I use all-purpose sand for a fire pit? It’s a less expensive alternative to silica sand, but will it hold up under intense heat? To melt all-purpose sand, the temperature must reach 3090°F. That is a higher temperature than most fire pits will ever reach.
You are able to use all-purpose sand in a fire pit. The composition of all-purpose sand is such that it will not melt under the heat of a fire pit until it reaches 3090°F. The average fire pit reaches temperatures of approximately 800°F up to 2012°F, which is not high enough to melt all-purpose sand and lead to damage of your fire pit.
Some DIY homeowners have a lot of questions about the best sand for fire pits. If you’re one of them, you’re asking the right questions.
It’s essential to use the right materials in a fire pit for the best results. Many homeowners prefer to use all-purpose sand because it is the most affordable. While it will work is it the best choice?
Today I share my experiences with all-purpose and other kinds of sand in fire pits to give you an idea of what to expect in terms of performance and longevity of all-purpose sand compared to the other popular kinds.
This will give you all the information to decide if all-purpose sand is the best choice for your home fire pit, or if you should consider another type.
Table of Contents
Is All-Purpose Sand A Good Base For A Fire Pit
The purpose of lining the bottom of your fire pit with sand is to protect the metal of the bottom of the pit from extreme heat from the fire.
Without this type of protection, the metal will be exposed to high temperatures. Over time, the heat weakens the metal, leading to oxidization, lowering the longevity of the bowl.
All-purpose sand helps to absorb the heat and distribute it more evenly. It is an insulative layer that protects the bottom of the pit bowl from the more intense heat that could be generated by fire.
I used five pounds of all-purpose sand in my first fire pit to cover the bottom of the small-sized pit. The sand was fine enough to achieve a uniform covering that worked as a strong protective layer.
The bowl held up nicely, which was the reason for using the sand.
All-Purpose Sand vs Silica Sand vs Paver Sand
I experimented with different sand types over the years. I replaced the all-purpose sand with Paver Sand, and also Silica Sand, which is advertised to be the best for fire pits.
My main concern was with the cost at the time I started with all-purpose sand. Here is what I observed with the three different types of fire pit sand:
All-Purpose Sand vs Paver Sand
All-Purpose sand, also known as C-33, or leveling sand is a finer grade of sand. It is easy to level the sand without any holes. It settles nicely into place and provides even thorough coverage of the firepit.
Paver sand is coarser in composition. The edges of the sand have more variation in size and shape. When it becomes compacted, the fine particles do shift, but over time, it settles with the finer particles compressing together.
The coarse particles in the sand tend to lock together and create a firmer base. Over time, the finer all-purpose sand becomes more uneven when compared to the paver sand, which is made of a rough-edged aggregate of gravel.
It’s usually comprised of granite and limestone, along with other kinds of pulverized rock, usually at Class 5 of crushed rock with the gravel removed.
If you want a firm base, paver sand tends to remain more stable over time, but the overall performance under extreme heat is equal to both kinds of sand. Courser sands tend to allow for better drainage over time.
All-Purpose Sand vs Silica Sand
I experimented with Silica Sand, highly recommended for fire pits, and compared the results to all-purpose sand. The silica sand is composed of 95% Si02 with the remainder iron oxide.
The composition is the distinction between the two. That and fact that there were more color variations available in the silica sand. It’s also referred to as construction, feldspathic and brown sand when used for construction purposes.
The allowable minimum of Si02 is at least 80% with some potassium, Iron, carbonate, and other trace minerals and elements thrown in. The lack of high levels of impurities in silica sand makes it less chemically reactive.
That is the reason why silica sand holds up so well under extreme heating conditions. Silica sand is fireproof. From my experience, this is true.
The Silica sand has agents added to it to help the particles bind together. The additives make it preferable when creating an insulative lining that protects the bottom of the fire bit from intense heating.
All-purpose sand held up as well as the silica sand and the paver sand. It settled a little more unevenly than the others, which was the only drawback, but it was simple to remedy with a bit more sand.
Paver sand and silica sand both performed as well in most instances as the all-purpose sand, but there are pros and cons for each type of sand, which we’ll discuss next.
Pros And Cons Of Using All-Purpose Sand In Fire Pit
- Durable under high heat exposure -Harder to form the sides because of the finer grains
- Easy to remove and replace if needed -Does not come in as many color options as silica sand
- Provides adequate protection for fire pit bottom -Settles unevenly over time
- Is less expensive than silica or paver sand
- Forms sides in the pit more easily -More expensive than all-purpose sand
- Creates a firm barrier to protect the bottom of the fire pit -Harder to remove than all-purpose sand
- Creates a more level surface when compacted
- Holds up structurally under high heat -Harder to remove from the pit than all-purpose sand
- Forms sides well in the fire pit -More expensive than all-purpose sand
- Available in various color choices -Becomes discolored by intense heat over time
There are a few advantages and disadvantages of using all-purpose sand. On the upside, all-purpose sand is less expensive, it is just as durable when used in fire pits, and it is easier to remove than pavers sand or silica sand.
On the downside, it’s harder to form sides. It tends to settle unevenly.
When comparing all-purpose, paver, and silica sand, there are distinct differences that are worth noting. The silica sand performed as well as the all-purpose sand in every aspect except for one. It discolored over time and needed replacement.
How Much All-Purpose Sand Do You Need For Fire Pit
The amount of sand needed for a fire pit depends on the size of the pit. A good rule of thumb is to use the following equation.
Measure the width times the length times the depth of the fire pit, then divide that figure by 19. The minimum depth of sand in the fire pit should be 2 inches, but you can add more.
For example, a 20 x 25 x 2 inch fire pit would require 52 pounds of sand.
Do You Need Sand For Fire Pit
Not all fire pits should be lined with sand. Some DIY pit builders avoid using sand if they operate pits with drainage holes drilled into the bottom.
Others prefer to use lava rock to line the pit. Sand is not required, but in my opinion, it extends the life of the bottom part of the fire pit by creating an insulating barrier.
The sand retains heat, but it also shields the bottom of the fire pit from extreme temperatures to prevent overheating and weakening over time.
Another benefit of using a layer of sand is that your fire pit will not require as much filler rock/stones. The addition of sand can extend the life of a fire pit by several years.
Helpful Tips To Know If You Should Use All-Purpose Sand In A Fire Pit
Not everyone is a fan of using all-purpose sand in a fire pit, but it’s been my personal preference over the years.
Yes, there are some advantages to using silica sand or pavers sand. However, when it comes to longevity, there isn’t much difference.
I like the cost-savings. Aesthetically, the silica sand doesn’t retain its beauty for that long if you use your fire pit a lot, so it’s a wash when it comes to factoring that aspect of the differences in as a benefit.
Here are a few tips to help you know if all-purpose sand is the right choice for you:
- If you want to save money
- You can live with a bit of settling and unevenness that is easy to fix by adding more sand
- You want inexpensive sand that holds up as well as the other types but is not concerned about the color
Can I use all-purpose sand for a fire pit? The answer is a definite yes you can. Some fire pit enthusiasts may recommend using the more fireproof silica sand, but you’ll pay more for that type, and it’s not going to last any longer.
While some sand turns to glass when it is exposed to high temperatures, fire pits do not get hot enough to melt all-purpose sand. It’s durable, inexpensive and aside from the inconvenience of it settling unevenly, or being harder to form sides, it’s an affordable alternative.