How to Calculate Paver Sand Requirements

paver stones resting in sand

Paver sand is an important component in the process of installing brick and cement pavers. Almost all projects involving paver stones are built on a foundation of crushed stone or pea gravel, that is then covered with a 1-inch layer of sand. The sand creates a soft and level bed so that after the install, as the pavers begin to settle, they do so gently and evenly. Sand is also ideal as it allows for proper drainage.

Because the sand is so crucial, determining the amount you’ll need for patio, walkway, or driveway project is an important step. Figuring out the proper quantity of sand to use can be done mathematically to get a precise answer or you can simply make a rough estimation.

Keep in mind that you will likely be purchasing the sand if you don’t already have a stockpile, so the larger the area you have to cover, the more cost-effective it becomes to calculate the precise amount you need. One of the only instances that making a rough estimation is all right is if the size of the project is small. This way, even if you end up buying too much sand, the surplus won’t be obscene or too costly.

Determine the Square Footage

Whatever the paver project, the first thing to do when determining the amount of sand you need is to calculate the square footage of the paved area. For square or rectangular areas this is fairly simple. You just multiply the length by width. For example, a 10-foot wide driveway that stretches out for a length of 50-feet is 500 square feet, as 10 x 50 = 500.

Look at the Area as a Collection of Shapes

For oddly-shaped areas, break them up into measurable familiar components so that the larger shape becomes a collection of smaller squares, rectangles, or triangles, then multiply the length by width and add the small areas together.

Triangular areas can be tricky. For right triangular areas, find the two sides of the shape that meet to form a 90-degree angle. These two lengths will be your base and your height. Extend your measurements to form a full square, multiply the two amounts, and then divide by two for the square footage. The same goes for acute and obtuse triangles; multiply base by height then divide by two, so long as the base and height you are using meet at a 90-degree angle.

Find the Cubic Amount of Sand

Keep in mind that you want a full 1 inch of sand to act as a layer beneath the pavers, so to get an accurate measurement, square footage alone is not enough as you’ll need to consider all three dimensions of the space.

To find such a cubic measurement using the above example of an area of 500 square feet, if you were to lay sand 1 foot deep below it, it would require 500 cubic feet of sand (10 x 50 x 1 = 500). It may be hard to see that there is a difference since the numerical amount is still 500, but 500 cubic feet, takes the depth into account as well as the area.

Reduce the Foot Depth to An Inch Depth

Of course, that example is not perfect, as you only need an inch layer and not a full foot. Given that there are 12 inches in a single foot, divide your 500 cubic feet by 12. You get approximately 42. The full equation for the process looks like this:

10ft x 50ft = 500ft² x 1ft = 500ft³ / 12 = approx. 42ft³

For this hypothetical driveway, you will need approximately 42 cubic feet of sand.

Convert Cubic Feet to Cubic Yards

There are 3 feet in 1 yard, and since a cubed measurement considers three different dimensional measurements, 1 cubic yard is the equivalent of 3'x 3’ x 3’ or 27 cubic feet.

The reason it’s important to make this conversion is that sand and gravel are sold in quantities measured by cubic yards.

Keeping in mind that every 27 cubic feet equals 1 cubic yard, divide the 42 cubic feet amount from earlier by 27 in order to figure out the amount of paver sand you’ll need as expressed in cubic yards.

You get approximately 1.55. That means, for an area of 500 square feet, you will need to purchase and lay 1.55 cubic yards of sand to create a layer that is 1-inch thick.

A more general equation that you can use for your own projects beyond this example is-- square footage divided by 12, and then that quotient divided by 27. That will tell you, as accurately as possible, without involving calculus, how much sand you’ll need.

Don’t Be Intimidated

This method does require that you keep track of a lot of numbers and figures, but at its core, you’re just doing basic arithmetic.

The math is not difficult, and taking the time to do it can have a practical and financial impact on your paver project.