Sandbagging Tips

To minimize flood water damage, sandbagging is one of the most versatile flood fighting tools. It is a simple, effective way to prevent or reduce flood water damage. Homeowners who are preparing homemade sandbags need to be aware of the proper steps to take:

  • Two people should be part of the sandbagging process. It will take about one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, giving you a 1-x-20-foot wall.
  • Make sure you have enough sand, burlap or plastic bags, shovels and time to properly prepare.
  • Contact your local municipality for information on obtaining sandbags.

Fill materials:

Sand is by far the easiest material for filling and shaping sandbags and becomes heavier when saturated from rain or moisture.

  • In emergencies, other materials such as silt, clay, gravel or a mixture of these may be used, but none work as well as sand.
  • When vehicle access is cut off to the flood site, and you have no other choice, use the back side of the levee or an adjacent field to find whatever material is available to fill sandbags.

Proper filling procedure:

  • Always use gloves and avoid touching your eyes and mouth.
  • Filling sandbags is normally a two- to three-person task.
  • One member while crouching with feet apart and arms extended places the bottom of the empty bag on the ground.
  • The opening of the bag is folded outward about 1 to 1.5 inches to form a collar and held open to allow the second team member to only fill with material approximately one-half or twothirds full, and then fold them over and tie them at the top. This allows the bags to conform to each other and make the wall watertight.
  • Don't hurry, haste can result in undue spillage and additional work.
  • The third team member stockpiles or stacks the open sacks.

Proper placement:

  • Remove any debris from the areas where bags are to be placed.
  • Place the bags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of flow if water is moving swiftly.
  • If water is slow moving or from a body of water place bag with the sealed end towards the water.
  • Fill the low spots first before placing bags the full length of the area to be raised.
  • Start at approximately one foot landward from the river or levee's edge.
  • For moving water, fold the open end of the bag under the filled portion. The folded end of bag should face upstream.
  • Place succeeding bags with the bottom of the bag tightly and partially overlapping the previous bag.
  • Offset adjacent rows or layers by one-half bag length to avoid continuous joints.

See the following diagrams for quick reference on estimating quantities needed and site design to ensure safety in large operations.

Safety Equipment

Filling Materials

Filling Methods


Example of Sandbag Filling Area


How to Build a Sandbag Wall