Being Sandbag Savvy Can Save Structures

When it comes to preventing and/or significantly reducing damage to structures from flooding, sandbags are the go-to item. But there are often questions that arise regarding the use, storage, and materials used for sandbags. Here are some tips on what types of sandbags are available, how to use them, and what to do after a flood:

Types of Sandbags:

While the most common type of sandbag is burlap, polypropylene sandbags can prove useful in many situations. Because polypropylene deteriorates less quickly, these bags can be easily stored for extended periods of time. Polypropylene bags with UV protection guard against breakdown from sun exposure. Additionally, some polypropylene bags are avialable in high-viz colors when visibility is necessary. It is important to keep in mind, however, that polypropylene is not biodegradable as is burlap.

Another type of sandbag, self-inflating jute sandbags, can save time and manpower in controlling flooding with the fastest speed in the event of an emergency. These bags automatically expand when making contact with water and inflate to roughly 40-44 lbs. in just minutes.

In most cases, however, standard sandbags are most widely used. With that in mind, here are some tips to optimize their effectivness in preventing damage from flood waters:

How to Use:

  • Fill sandbags 1/3 to 1/2 capacity - this allows for a good seal when bags are stacked.Clear away any debris where sandbags are to be placed and put down plastic sheeting for additional water protection.
  • Lay sandbags on top of sheeting from one end to the other tucking the extra material under the weight of the bag or you can place another back over the unfilled top section of the previous bag.
  • Place the next layer on top in a brickwork fashion, staggering the rows for optimal water sealing.
  • Flattening the tops of the bags also helps create a better seal.
  • Remember to also cover drainage holes such as bath/shower trains and toilets with sandbags to prevent back flow of contaminated water.
  • Be sure there is at least one doorway that can be used to access or exit by placing sandbags far away enough from the door to allow it to open.

After Use:

  • Any sandbags that have come in contact with contaminated water cannot be reused and should be discarded
  • When handling wet sandbags, it is critical to wear good-quality protective gloves as flood water can contain harmful chemicals and/or waste by-products.
  • Contact your local agancy to see if there is a specific protocal for disposing of sandbags.