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Working with Sandbags -101

Sandbags - 101

Sandbags have long been used as a temporary flood control measure. The basic supplies required for an emergency sandbag levee are: 

  • Sandbags (cloth or plastic)Woven or Poly <br>
  • Source of Sand <br>
  • Polyethylene (Poly)Sheeting<br> 
  • Heavy Equipment (Optional) 
  • Shovels, Wheelbarrows, and other hand tools<br> 
  • People (Workforce)

Some general tips on how a sandbag levee should be created: 

  1. The sandbag levee requires careful and well-planned placement.<br> 
  2. A properly filled sand bag is only half-full, and weighs about 40 pounds.<br>
  3. The open end of a filled sandbag should be folded over, not stitched or tied.<br>
  4. A key trench should be excavated to a depth of 4 to 6 inches and a width of 18 to 24 inches prior to placing any sandbags.<br>
  5. Poly should be placed in the trench and anchored with several sandbags. A sufficient width of the poly is placed on the water side of the levee.<br>
  6. Sandbags should be stacked in alternating rows, similar to the alternating joints of a brick wall.<br>
  7. Sandbags should be stacked in a pyramidal structure using a 3 to 1 ratio of the base width to the height.<br>
  8. The elevation of the levee should be maintained to the desired level of protection.<br>
  9. The poly sheeting will provide a water proof cap, once the levee has been built. <br>
  10. Sandbags are placed to secure the poly on top of the levee. 
  11. Levees should be kept at least 6 feet from foundation or basement walls.


When filling sandbags, you should work in pairs with one person holding the bag while the other shovels in the fill material. The first shovel of fill will be placed on the lip of the bag to help hold the bag open. The shoveler should use rounded scoops of fill until the bag is approximately one-third to one-half full. A completely full bag of wet sand or soil will be too heavy to work with. While shoveling, avoid extra movements (turning or twisting of the back) as this will tire you out sooner. The bag holder should bend at the waist until the elbows are resting on the knees while he is holding the bag open (see picture).