What Is Polymeric Sand?

Use This Product to Lock Pavers Together

Image: tapping pavers into place with a rubber mallet.
Tapping pavers into place isn't enough. To hold them there, sweep polymeric sand into the cracks between them. Fotosearch/Getty Images

Some products are not exactly household names with the general public but are nonetheless of great utility in projects such as building paver patios. Polymeric sand is just such a product. Do not be put off by the scientific-sounding name: What it is and what it does are both pretty straightforward:

What Is Polymeric Sand?

Polymeric sand is used to fill the joints between pavers, including concrete pavers, brick pavers, and stone pavers. This product is a fine sand combined with additives, usually silica, that, when mixed with water, form a binding agent. These binders lock the sand particles together, which helps lock all of the pavers together.

Why Use It? A Look at the Pros

Plain old sand can be used to fill the joints between pavers, so why use polymeric sand? In fact, a drawback of this product is that it can cause staining on your pavers (to remove the stains, some suggest scrubbing with vinegar). Nonetheless, the product is also superior to regular sand in a variety of ways:

  • It improves durability: The binding agents in this product help lock the pavers together. This will give your installation more strength over the long haul. 
  • A heavy rain will not wash all of the sand out of the joints between pavers if you use polymeric sand. By contrast, with plain old sand, this is a common problem. Polymeric sand reduces the amount of water that will wash between the pavers and down into the base materials. This will help keep the foundation of your project sturdy, as well.
  • It deters weed plants. Weeds are amazingly resilient and can grow almost anywhere. Using this product will not guarantee that weeds will never grow in your new walkway or patio, but it will help considerably. Plain sand is a much more inviting home for weeds than polymeric sand.
  • It is resistant to ant pests. Ants will have a much more difficult time getting into and making homes in the spaces between your pavers if you use polymeric sand.
  • It comes in different colors. Polymeric sand comes in a variety of colors, usually in different shades of gray and beige. Choose the color that goes best with your pavers. For example, a shade of gray looks good with flagstone pavers.

    How to Use Polymeric Sand

    1. After you have laid your pavers down, sweep polymeric sand between the cracks, using a push broom.
    2. But be sure to get all of the sand off your pavers, because you do not want it hardening on the pavers when water is added (as it will be, in the final step). A leaf blower works well for cleaning this product off the pavers. 
    3. With a garden hose, spray a light mist over the area. This will activate the binding agent. 

    Where Can You Buy It?

    When you purchase your pavers, you will most likely be able to purchase polymeric sand at the same time. If not, check with your local home improvement store. This product usually comes in 20 or 40-pound bags, so it is relatively easy to handle. It is marketed under different brand names. For example, Sakrete puts out a product called "Paver Set."

    Using polymeric sand is an important step in installing pavers. You can (and should) use polymeric sand when installing concrete pavers, stone pavers, and other pavers.