How to Use Polymeric Sand When Installing Pavers

Tapping pavers into place with a rubber mallet

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Some products are not exactly household names with the general public but are nonetheless of great value in projects such as building paver patios, walkways, or driveways. 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.

Polymeric sand is a unique mixture of fine sands combined with other additives (polymers), that, when mixed with water, form a surprisingly strong binding agent that locks the sand particles together. It is particularly useful for filling the joints between pavers, including concrete pavers, brick pavers, and stone pavers. The binders lock the sand particles together, which helps secure the pavers into a uniform, durable surface.

Advantages

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. 
  • Heavy rain will not wash the sand out of the joints between pavers if you use polymeric sand. By contrast, this is a common problem with ordinary sand. Polymeric sand reduces the amount of water that will wash between the pavers and down into the base materials, a quality that also keeps the base foundation under the surface sturdy and intact.
  • 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 ants. 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.

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

  • Polymeric sand
  • Push broom
  • Leaf blower
  • Garden hose

Instructions

Filling the cracks with polymeric sand is the last step in the larger project of installing a stone or brick paver patio, walkway, or driveway. The success of this final step depends in large part on the pavers being installed properly on firm, flat layers of gravel and paver sand—a type of sand much different than polymeric sand.

Apply Polymeric Sand Over the Pavers

Make sure to work when the pavers are completely dry. Pour several small heaps of polymeric sand over the patio or walkway. Do not over-apply the sand, because the excess will be hard to remove. You can always add more sand, as needed. The goal is to completely fill the cracks between pavers, without leaving excess sand on the surface.

Sweep the Sand Into the Cracks

Using a push broom, brush the sand back and forth over the pavers to filter the sand down through the cracks between pavers. Brush in opposite directions to make sure all cracks are filled. Add more sand, if necessary, until all cracks are visibly filled with sand, without gaps.

Clean the Surface of the Pavers

Before setting the sand with water, it is important that the surfaces of the pavers be free of sand because any excess will harden on the surface of the pavers and discolor them. A leaf blower works well for cleaning excess sand off the pavers. Make sure, though, not to blow sand out of the cracks between pavers.

Mist the Pavers

With a garden hose, spray a light mist over the area. This will activate the binding agent in the sand. Let the joints dry completely for a day or two, then inspect the joints for any gaps. Additional sand can be applied to fill any remaining gaps.

Should you find yourself with discoloring stains due to polymeric sand on the surface of the pavers, spray white vinegar over the stains, allow it to sit for about 1hour, then wash away with soap and water.

Purchasing Polymeric Sand

The same retailer who sold your pavers is likely to also sell polymeric sand. 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 depending on the manufacturer. For example, Sakrete offers a product called Paver Set.