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Polymeric Sand vs. Regular Sand

polymeric sand e1549980358627 1024x557 Polymeric Sand vs. Regular Sand

The term “polymeric sand” might sound like some sort of high-tech, futuristic product, but there’s a good chance you’ve encountered it somewhere along the line.

It’s a type of sand used to fill in the joints between pavers, a product that’s created by mixing a fine sand with additives – typically silica – and water to form a binding agent that helps lock pavers together.

Polymeric sand vs. regular sand for pavers

You might be thinking “I’ve seen regular sand used to fill the joints between pavers. What’s so special about polymeric sand?”

To be honest, polymeric sand isn’t perfect, which is why the polymeric sand vs. regular sand for pavers debate exists in the first place.

For one thing, we’ve seen reports of this sand staining people’s pavers or leaving behind a filmy residue, something that doesn’t happen with traditional sand.

However, there are some significant advantages to using polymeric sand vs. regular sand for pavers.

1. You’ll get a more durable finish

The binding agents in polymeric sand help lock pavers together and keep them together for a longer stretch of time.

2. They’ll withstand the rain

Regular sand can wash away after a heavy rainstorm. But this isn’t an issue with polymeric sand, which reduces the amount of water that will work its way into the space between your pavers.

3. It prevents weeds and ants

How much time do you spend each summer plucking weeds from between your pavers? Weed prevention is yet another reason to use polymeric sand vs. regular sand for pavers.

Weeds feel right at home growing up out of traditional sand, but polymeric sand will help prevent – but not completely stop – weed growth.

The same thing goes for ants, which have no trouble burrowing through standard sand, but will have a lot more trouble trying to colonize the space between your pavers when you use polymeric sand.

4. It comes in many different colors

Regular sand is…well, sand-colored. But polymeric sand comes in a few different shades, allowing you to pick the color that goes best with your pavers.

Common mistakes when using polymeric sand

Polymeric sand will give your patio an amazing new look…assuming you install it correctly. Here are some common mistakes to avoid during installation.

  • Weather related errors – If your patio is completely in the shade, the area might be too cool and moist for the sand to set. And if you know that it might rain soon after the installation, it’s time to hold off. Wait for a stretch of warm, dry days for your installation.
  • Improper patio pitch – If water collects in low points on your patio, it can make conditions too damp for the sand to be effective.
  • Wrong sand for the job – Some sand won’t work on stones with larger joints or a concrete overlay. Make sure you consult with an expert to find the right sand for the job.

Do you have questions about polymeric sand vs. regular sand for pavers? Visit Woodward Landscape Supply, where we carry a wide array of different sands, from concrete sand to mason sand for sand for play areas and for pavers.

Our experts look forward to working with you to make sure your pavers and your patio look their best.

18 thoughts on “Polymeric Sand vs. Regular Sand

  1. Thomas Westgren

    It’s interesting how you said that polymeric sand is a good option for pavers because it is a little bit harder to wash away. Getting a sand supplier who is able to get you this kind of material would be really handy. That way you can be sure to have a patio area that will last a long time and you won’t have to worry about doing that many repairs.

    Reply
  2. Fred

    My patio is in a heavily shaded area. I followed the polymeric sand instructions to a tee (twice!). But after a few years, it becomes a little soft and moss grows in it like it’s moss food!!! I just scraped all the moss off two weeks ago, then sprayed moss killer to kill the rest. (It worked great!). Today I pressure washed it. This time I am going to try regular sand.

    Reply
    1. woodward Post author

      The generation of moss is not tied to the chemicals in polymeric sand but to the moisture and light characteristics of the area. A good moss killer will work on both regular and polymeric sand.

      Reply
  3. Dave

    When it comes time to “refresh” a patio/pathway where the pavers are held together with polymeric sand do you have to remove all the all sand before applying new polymeric sand? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. woodward Post author

      You need to remove enough that the new sand will set; usually, that is not “all” of the sand. Generally, you need at least 1″ in depth; but each brand has its own guidelines.

      Reply
  4. Vince

    An old time Italian mason has a third solution he told me about years ago to help set pavers. Use a mix of 50/50 sand and mortar. Sweep it in just as you would and other paver set. Once the spaces are totally filled spray lightly with water. Cleaning and mortar from the top of the stones as you go. The mortar with harden and lock in the stones. I’ve only tried it once on a neighbors patio and five years later it still looks solid.

    Reply
      1. woodward Post author

        Any joint finishing material that needs to set should have at least 24 hours of dry weather to be safe. It is possible that the set will take in less time, but, personally I wouldn’t risk it.

        Reply
  5. Paul

    I have a screened in patio with clay brick pavers. The bricks were laid on top of the patio. I originally just swept sand into the joints but when power washing some of the sand comes out. Would polymeric sand be a better option for the patio or should i just continue to apply sand every couple of years or so to keep the bricks tight?
    Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. woodward Post author

      You could use polymeric sand but the installation would be tricky in an enclosed porch. Once you fill in the joints with the sand, you use a leaf blower to remove excess dust and sand (where would it go in a porch?) then you hose it down and let the excess water run off (where would it go?).
      If you can open up a good exit point, it might work.

      Reply
  6. Mike

    Hey guys, hoping you can help me! I am lying beveled edged pavers next to each other with minimal gapping. Mayb 1/8 of an inch and maybe a little more in other areas. What should I use? I bought the paver set polymeric from Lowe’s but it says not to use under 1/4 of an inch on seems. The gator brand says 1/8. What do you
    All think. Will polymeric sand work in such tight cracks? I don’t mind sweeping and tamping…. just want to know what sand to use!

    Reply
    1. woodward Post author

      I don’t know what product Lowes sells but the Alliance or TechniSeal brands will work in narrow joints. However, you need to get the sand at least 1.5″ deep. To do this may require blowing the base sand out of the joints first. It will definitely require tamping the polymeric sand into the joint to fill it completely which may be done with a tamper or by hand with a soft mallet on a board spanning the joint. Make sure you watch the how to video online to ensure the same sets completely.

      Reply
  7. Mike D

    I’m at the final stages of building a good sized patio, but I think I’m running into trouble. The grass from the cellar door to 25′ away from the house is perfectly level (aka had no slope or pitch), but my patio has a 1% grade.

    I’m going to be about 3″ lower than the grass at the far end, and I’m worried about drainage. I have an area of crushed stone/stone dust that will slope down the 3″ to walk in/out of the patio, but I don’t think this will be enough for a heavy storm. Should I forego polymeric sand in favor for regular sand which will drain through the pavers a little better?

    Reply
    1. woodward Post author

      One simple option is to put a border around the patio. My border I mean something that produces a curbing protecting the patio from eroding ground. Most manufacturers amke a matching border for their pavers. Curbing usually costs from $5 up per foot. You can use Cobblestone for curbing if you prefer something natural. Of course, you could also regrade your yard but that would require re-sodding. if you want to make a big investment, instead of curbing you could install a sitting wall.

      Reply
      1. Mike D

        I have my foundation wall around about 1/3 of it, and some modular blocks around 1/2 of it. The remaining area will have the top of pavers about 3″ lower than the grass. I ended up digging a 2′x2′ trench around this area and filling it with stone for water to drain into, and I sloped the stone up to blend in with the grass. I think it’ll end up looking nice, but I really hope there is enough stone to take the water. I left about a 2″ gap between the walls/pavers as well. We’ll see

        Reply
  8. Shaina S

    I just purchased a house where they started putting pavers in with regular sandbox sand. Obviously it’s not very water resistant. Will I need to remove all the regular sand before using Polymeric sand, or can I just remove a bit and start using the correct sand?

    Reply
    1. woodward Post author

      You will need to remove the play sand out of the joints between the pavers – you can blow it out or power wash it out. Polymeric sand needs to fill at least 1.5″ deep in the joints in order for the chemical reaction to take place that causes the sand to set. If you power wash, the entire area must dry thoroughly before applying polymeric sand or the polymeric sand will stick to every damp surface and be extremely difficult to remove. There are video instructions on UTube and on vendor sites and written instructions on the bags. Be sure to follow them carefully.

      Reply

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