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Recently I mixed a batch of mortar for building and was unsure if the hardware provided me with building sand or plaster sand..

What are the properties that differentiate the two? and are there any scenarios where its fine to use them interchangeably?

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The MSDS is the same, so they have the same active/hazardous ingredients – Jason Mar 14 '13 at 21:35
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's all about particle size, which is classified using the Wentworth scale or The Krumbein phi (φ) scale.

Sharp Sand

Sharp Sand, also known as Concrete Sand is a coarse sand with larger particles. This type of sand is typically used in concrete.

Coarse Sand

φ scale - 1 to 0
Size range - 1/2 to 1 mm (0.020–0.039 in)

Builder's Sand

Builder's Sand, also known as Plasterer's, Mason, or Bricklayer's Sand is a finer grade sand with smaller particles. It's often mixed with water and cement to make mortar for laying bricks/blocks.

Mason Sand

φ scale - 3 to 2
Size range - 125–250 µm (0.0049–0.010 in)

Jointing Sand

Jointing Sand, also known as Beach Sand is very fine sand with very small particles. This type of sand is used for grouting joints in paving or patio slabs.

Jointing Sand

φ scale - 4 to 3
Size range - 62.5–125 µm (0.0025–0.0049 in)

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