How to Build the Ultimate Sandcastle

Are you trying to figure out how to build a sandcastle unlike any other? If so, you’re in the right place! Whether you’re competing in a sandcastle contest or looking to step up your beach activities, we’re going to give you the best tips and tricks.

How to Build the Ultimate Sandcastle

Continue reading to learn the must-have tools, impressive features, and unique ideas for building the ultimate sandcastle. And, if you need some inspiration, check out the world’s largest sandcastle here!

Must-Have Building Tools

The first step to building the perfect sandcastle is to have the right tools. While your standard bucket and shovel will work great, you need more if you want to take things up a notch.

Using various sandcastle tools allows you to take things up a notch.
Using various sandcastle tools allows you to take things up a notch. (Credit: nito/Shutterstock)

Shovels

You’ll need at least two types of shovels to get your castle just right: a small shovel and a long-handled shovel.

A small, sturdy hand shovel, such as a garden spade, is ideal for making smaller structures. A long-handled shovel helps add height to your sandcastle.

Buckets

Buckets serve a few different purposes when you’re building your sand castle on the beach. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • large bucket to mix sand and water
  • small bucket to shift around small amounts of sand
  • different sizes and shapes to make up the structure of your castle

Funnel

Some of the most unique-looking towers have a funnel shape roof. You can do this for your castle, too. A funnel is also a helpful tool for dripping sand to create a fun design.

Carving Tools

Carving tools are a must when it comes to shaping and smoothing out your sandcastle like a true artist! Ideas for carving tools include:

  • Knives with thin blades, putty knives, and paint scrapers for drawing lines and shaping
  • An offset spatula (flat paddle-like end), pastry knife with an offset handle, and/or a paintbrush for smoothing out large sections of sand
  • A straw to blow off excess sand

Check out this award-winning sandcastle toolkit! And, if you’re already at the beach without carving tools, you can always grab a plastic knife to help you with detailed carving.

How to Build a Sandcastle Step-by-Step

Now that you’ve got the proper tools handy, it’s time to start building. Follow these steps for the ultimate castle!

How to build a sandcastle: choose your location, right the right sand, dig your water hole, prepare your sand, and start building.
How to build a sandcastle: choose your location, right the right sand, dig your water hole, prepare your sand, and start building. (Credit: Phakorn Kasikij/Shutterstock)

1. Choose Your Location

Where you build your castle will depend on how long you have to create it, how far you want to carry water, and how long you want your structure to stay standing.

To make sure your castle stays for a decent amount of time, choose a location that’s above the high tide line. The best way to determine where the high-tide line is is by finding the spot where the smooth, wet sand meets the softer dry sand. 

Other things to keep in mind: A flat surface is best, and if you build too far from the ocean, you’ll have a trek to gather your water.

2. Find the Right Sand

The best sand is usually below the tide line, which is also a good reason not to build too far from the shore. You want to find moist sand that will hold together firmly when you roll it into a ball. If the ball of sand rolls around in your hand, then you’ve found the right stuff!

3. Dig Your Water Hole

When building a sandcastle, you’ll need to have a constant supply of water on hand. The best way to have easy access to water that doesn’t involve frequent trips to the ocean is to dig a water hole, which is easy to make. All you have to do is start digging in the wet sand and don’t stop until you reach the water. 

Depending on how far you are from the shoreline, you may only have to dig a few inches. Don’t worry about making the hole big. You just want it to be deep enough that it’ll give you access to water. It’ll also get bigger as you continue to remove more sand during the building process.

4. Prepare Your Sand

Once you’ve dug your water hole, it’s time to mix your sand. For the best castle, you need sand with a just-right consistency so that the sand sticks together. Some people prefer one-part water and one-part sand, but here’s the method we prefer:

  • First, fill your large bucket about 1/3 way with sand.
  • Then, fill your smaller bucket with water from the water hole and add it to the large bucket with sand.
  • Continue adding water and mixing with the sand until it has the same consistency as wet cement.

Tip: You don’t want too much water added to your sand, or it won’t be firm enough. Remember, it’s always easier to add more water. And, if you don’t get the consistency down on the first try, it’s always okay to do it again!

5. Make Your Base

You want your base to be as solid as possible, which means you’ll need to get the right mix of sand and water. Here’s how: Start off by building the mound of sand you’ll make your castle on. Once it’s the ideal size, poke holes in the pile of sand, then use one of your buckets to pour water into the holes. As the water seeps, the sand becomes more solid. After you pour each bucket, stomp and press on the mound to pack the pile of sand.

Pro-tip: An excellent method to make sure you’ve got the right mix is to use a bottomless 5-gallon bucket. First, put the bucket on the sand and fill it one-quarter of the way full. Next, add a half of another 5-gallon bucket of water and let it settle. 

Following each step for how to build a sandcastle allows for endless possibilities.
Following each step for how to build a sandcastle allows for endless possibilities. (Credit: Timofeev Vladimir/Shutterstock)

6. Start Building

Now it’s time for the fun part – building your sandcastle! There are two methods for doing this: soft-packing and hand-stacking.

Soft-Packing

This is best for newbie builders because it’s fairly easy. It’s also the least time-consuming. For the soft-packing method, you’ll grab handfuls of wet sand and start molding them into your castle’s features. Start with the tallest piece first, then work your way down while you pile the sand and add all of the structures you want.

Hand-Stacking

The hand-stacking method is a bit more complex than soft-packing, which has an easier blending technique. Instead of mounding elements into shape, you’ll use a pouring technique to pack the sand. 

To hand-stack, you should start with slightly wet sand. Then, pile or pour the sand onto your base in small layers. Be careful not to apply firm pressure because it can damage the base. You’ll use a gentle steady jiggling action to create multiple layers of sand. You’ll want each later to work its way into the layer below to make your structure denser, and therefore more sturdy.

7. Choose Your Features

The ultimate sandcastle isn’t complete without adding features to make it stand out. You can add towers, walls, arches, and whatever else you can come up with.

Towers, walls, and arches are awesome ways to make sandcastles stand out.
Towers, walls, and arches are awesome ways to make sandcastles stand out. (Credit: Canetti/Shutterstock)

Towers

One of our top tips for creating a great tower is to give it a base slightly larger in diameter than the tower itself. A broader base will provide you with more stability, which will make it easier to keep your towers tall.

Using the same technique as you did for your base, start stacking layers of sand on top of each other until you reach the height you want. Remember to lightly jiggle the tower each time you add a layer and stop once the new layer of sand has worked its way into the previous layer.

Once your tower is stacked, you can flip your funnel upside down and mold some sand into a perfect cone shape as a finishing touch. Then, move on to a second tower or start with your walls!

Walls

Building sandcastle walls will likely take the most amount of time to complete. But the more time you take, the more sturdy you can make sure each castle wall is.

Using the same plopping technique you used for your towers, drop a few handfuls of sand into the space between your towers. Let the sand settle a bit on its own, then use your hands to jiggle it a bit more, creating your first brick.

Once you’ve built your first brick and stabilized it, continue building more bricks until you’ve reached the height and width you need.

Tip: Be gentle with this step as applying firm pressure can knock your walls down.

Arches

Arches allow you to add a bit of unique architecture to your castle. Think arched doorways and windows.

Note: If you’re building a big arch, you might want to enlist the help of a fellow builder to help support your arch as you build.

Arches are the most complex aspect of building castles because the sand has to be mixed and packed just right to keep the arch from collapsing. But, this feature will definitely add a special look to your castle!

Using the same technique you used to build your towers, construct two bases that are somewhat close together. Add your layers until the sides of the arch are the size you need, and make sure they’re even in height.

Once you’ve built the bases as tall as you want them to be, slowly start adding layers to the top of your bases that lean toward the other side. Alternate between sides, adding one layer at a time with one hand while you support it from beneath with your other hand.

The last step is to add the keystone, which is the last handful of sand you’ll use to construct your arch and will hold the two halves together. To make your keystone, simply add a handful of sand between the two sides and carefully mold them together until they form a solid piece.

Once you’ve constructed your arch, you can start thickening it. Make sure you keep one hand under the arch as you build. Add layers on top of the arch just like you did for your bases until your arch is the right size. 

Continue adding towers, arches, and walls until you’ve created your sandcastle. After you finish your structure, it’s time to really bring your creativity out with carving!

Carving

Now that your building is complete, it’s time to break out the carving tools. This part can be the most exciting because it really lets you get creative! However, be sure to allow your structure to rest a bit before you start this process. This will let some of the water evaporate from the sand for the castle to set.

The most important thing to remember when you start carving is to always start from the top and work your way down. This way, you won’t have to worry about falling sand from the top sections, which can damage already carved surfaces.

Work gently by carving small sections at a time using smooth strokes. When you carve, don’t rush. Carving can take a while, depending on your goals. Rushing can easily cause your carved surfaces along with the entire structure to crumble (literally!).

Other Tips and Tricks

Now that you’ve got the basics down, you may be ready to jazz up your castle. Take a look at a few extra tips and tricks!

Most importantly, let your creativity come out when building your sandcastle.
Most importantly, let your creativity come out when building your sandcastle. (Credit: Light and Vision/Shutterstock)

PVC Pipe

An excellent trick for building towers is to use short lengths of PVC pipe or an aluminum can with both ends removed. These materials work incredibly well if you’re using the soft-packing method to construct your castle. 

Using the same method for creating your base, put the PVC pipe on top of your castle where you want the tower. Then, alternate adding sand and water until it’s your desired height.

If you work carefully, you can use this method to create tall towers that are perfectly round.

Measuring Spoons

Having a few measuring spoons on hand can allow you to add small features. Make sure you use the right mix of sand and water for your features because they can crumble just as easily as your castle.

Skewers

Wooden skewers make great drawing tools. If you want to add fine details like images or rock walls that have a more realistic look, you can use skewers to draw them in. You can get really creative using skewers, so let your imagination run wild.

Skewers can also double as flag poles or spears. And you could add a knight or a flag cut from a napkin to your skewer.

Hand Rake

A hand rake can be helpful if you’re adding uniform lines to your walls. The teeth on the rake will make it easy to carve evenly spaced bricks that are perfectly straight.

Spray Bottle

Dry, loose sand is how sandcastles crumble. Avoid dry sand from water evaporation by having a spray bottle on hand. This is also great for not messing up your designs and features when adding water. 

How to Make Sandcastle Building Extra Fun

Whether you’re looking to entertain children or you’re having a beach day with friends, here are some ways you can make building your sandcastles extra exciting!

Sandcastle building is extra fun if you create a friendly competition, make new friends, and get creative.
Sandcastle building is extra fun if you create a friendly competition, make new friends, and get creative. (Credit: Tatiana Ganapolskaya/Shutterstock)

Create a Friendly Competition

Sandcastle competitions, big or small, can be a great way to motivate you to step up your skills! Set a timer and get to work. At the end, observe everyone’s sandcastles and even set up a vote with other beachgoers.

Make New Friends

If you’re not up for a competition, ask a nearby beach bum to join you (or your child) in building a castle. This is a great way to socialize if you’re solo or teach your little ones how to make new friends.

Get Creative

If your child (or you!) loves to draw, turn a 2-d drawing into a 3-d sand sculpture. Or create a castle from scratch!

Enjoy Building Your Next Sandcastle!

We hope you enjoy these tips and tricks for building your next sandcastle like a pro! Sandcastle building is so much fun for beachgoers of all ages. It’s a great way to get creative, spend time with friends and family, and make new friends.

Interested in joining a sandcastle competition? Check these out!

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