Whether you’re building a backyard volleyball court for the kids or a professional one, you will need to pay quite a bit of attention to the kind of sand for the court. So, what kind of sand is used for volleyball courts?
It takes time and money but it is worth the effort and lasts a long time. A sand court is also easier to maintain. So, let’s see what it takes to make that happen.
The Basics You’ll Need to Know
The first item on the list is court drainage and pea gravel. The decision depends on how the soil drains on the court. Calculate it from a few inches to about a foot of the thickness of the pea gravel. You must also take money into account.
So, if you’re running a little tight on the budget, it is good enough to have the pea gravel around the drain pipe. That will be a perforated PVC drain pipe which will keep the pipe’s holes from plugging.
This goes on top of the gravel on the base of the court. You will also need a sand preservation fabric that is on top of the pea gravel. It will keep the sand from washing away into your base gravel when it rains. Make sure to get quality fabric that is thick enough to keep you from sand loss.
Now, if you are planning to build a court for beach volleyball, you must remember that the sand should not ride up. That causes a sand or dust cloud which causes injury to the players’ elbows and knees. So, you will end up not using the court which is a colossal waste of time and money.
Get volleyball sand (we’ll get into which one in just a minute) and place 1-2 feet of it over the area that you have prepared for rake level and drainage. Now, this depth of 1-2 feet depends on your budget but also remember that if you don’t give the court enough depth, you will need to rake up the court more often than not especially if you use it often.
If you didn’t know it already, raking is the process of smoothening or leveling out a piece of the ground after digging it up.
A standard court will need about 12 inches of depth and that will take more than 100 tons of sand. The standard purchase for a court is about 100 to 300 tons and then the depth is determined.
Don’t use unwashed masonry sand or bunker sand that is used for golf courts if you are building a beach volleyball court. You must not have too much dust and the sand should be a blend with the right mix based on the size of the particles.
Now, there are three other important factors to look for while buying the sand—abrasiveness, playing dust and current dust. And you have to check the sand of your choice (or the blend) for all of them, no questions asked.
- You can test for abrasiveness by putting on a pair of shorts and kneeling on the sand in wet and dry conditions. That’s how you will play the game after all.
- Test for current dust by placing the sand in a bottle of clear water and shaking it. Then look at the cloudiness in the water.
- The test for playing dust will require some lab work where the shape of the particles will be evaluated.
The last factor is something a lot of people often skip only to regret it once the job is done. If you are not feeling up for it, you can take a chance but remember that sand is an expensive commodity.
It will cost you quite a bit to return it considering shipping rates, especially after it’s been laid on your court.
Types of Sand
Now, let’s look at what kind of sand you need for the court.
This is often put through what is called the fried-egg test using golf balls. The test is used to check if at least half of the golf ball submerges in the sand. But when it comes to volleyball, you actually want the opposite result.
You need the sand to be soft enough to engulf your feet, elbows and knees. You can perform the fried-egg test with knees and elbows instead of a golf ball but that will result in a bone contusion or a dislocated shoulder or broken bones. So, don’t get creative. Just skip this sand.
This one has a lot of pebbles or dust and sometimes both. Now, here are three things to consider.
- Typically, this sand will have about 3 to 5 percent dust.
- Commercial sand suppliers remove rocks that are the size of about ⅛ of an inch or bigger.
- Your court cannot have even 10 percent pea gravel because then the sand gets dusty, it will get packed after rains and cut into your feet and knees.
Now, none of this is good news. So, find a supplier who invests time in gathering, blending and screening sand without these three problems so that you can build a good volleyball court.
This is usually sand that children can sit and play in. That’s why it costs less than the other varieties. But to keep the prices there, suppliers don’t remove dust from it which means, the moment you start playing, you will see a lot of it ride up.
So, it’s not the best choice either unless you invest more time and money to fix it, which is really not recommended.
Your best bet is to get washed sand. That can be plaster, masonry or river sand. You can also try dune or beach sand but they should also be washed.
How to Make a Sand Volleyball Court
We talked about the kind of sand you should aim for, the little things to avoid and how to place it so that the players don’t get injured. But here’s how you do it in steps to make sure you have a truly great volleyball court.
- Step 1: Decide on the depth and with the help of a front-end loader, evacuate your planned court area. Don’t go for a bulldozer because it won’t do a good job picking up the dirt or replacing it for that matter.
Don’t go with a backhoe either because it does not dig an even surface. In low sea-level regions, your volleyball court must be a little above ground. This can easily be created using the dirt you just excavated. Make sure you have a small slope leading up to your court.
- Step 2: Mark the edges of the site and determine the perimeter of the court. This way you will be able to keep the grass and the dirt from the court area.
Cover the top edges of the court with padding so that the potential for injury is minimum. It is best to avoid railroad ties for the boundaries for the same reason. Instead, try escalator handrail material that is made of rubber.
- Step 3: Get the PVC drainage pipe out. Wrap every section of the pipe with a filter like burlap so that the sand doesn’t fill the pipe. But remember that burlap will rot after a period of time.
Flex wrap is also an option and can be found at any plumbing supplies store. Now, locate the perforated side and place it downwards and the open end of the pipe should be at the court’s low point.
- Step 4: Now you must prepare your net. Start that by attaching the hooks and get your winch hardware out. The poles must be at least three feet into the sand to make sure that by the time you are done, they are five feet into the ground.
If you are going to use wooden poles, make sure you stain them for weather resistance. You can use guy wires for support but you can do without them as well. But in that case, the poles have to pop out at an angle so that any bends that come from the tension caused by the net are automatically taken care of.
- Step 5: Get small gravel and cover the court area and the PVC pipe to a thickness of about one foot. This is where you use your small-sized pea gravel.
The consensus is to work with size #2 or #3 or #56 gravel. Tell your supplier that this is for drainage and ask for their recommendation on the size.
- Step 6: Get a filter or sand preservation fabric and cover the pea gravel with it. This will keep the dirt and gravel from reaching the level of the sand. Once again, burlap is not a bad option but not if it rains too much where you live.
A woven poly-blend is a good choice because it is not prone to as much deterioration. Excavating companies or landscapers can help you with referrals.
- Step 7: Start pouring the sand on the court to a depth of about one or two feet. If you have good gravel though, one foot is good enough. Rake it so that the surface is even.
- Step 8: Attach the nets and you’re all set.
The only thing we haven’t covered in this piece is that your volleyball court needs to be built on a well-drained piece of land. A typical regulation court is 30 x 60 feet with an extra 10 feet for the serving line and a perimeter of five feet.
Now calculate the playing area and determine the amount of sand you need. You already know your choices and how to pick the best one.