What Is Polymeric Sand And How Do You Use It?

In building your dream house, you might also be envisioning a beautiful patio that you can relax in after work or during the weekends. Truly, hardscape projects bring a different kind of class to your home. From patios to walkways, these types of structures complete the look of your dapper property!

However, the upkeep you need in order to maintain a visually appealing patio takes a lot of effort. Lucky for you, polymeric sand exists as a solution to keep your pavements and walkways in place and looking dapper all year round.

What is Polymeric Sand?


Simply put, polymeric sand is a construction material that is commonly used to fill in the gaps between pavements and walkways, also called paver joints. Polymeric sand is also known for other names like jointing sand, paver sand, or hardscape sand.

The material that composes polymeric sand are fine pieces of water-activated polymer, which are then mixed with other additives (depending on the manufacturer) so that when it is dampened, jointing sand takes the role of bonding concrete pieces on your pavement. When it dries, it produces a seal that is similar to grout and has proven to be a stronger adhesive than your standard filler sand.

Things to Consider in Choosing Your Polymeric Sand


In deciding how much polymeric sand you would need to buy from the store, and exactly what specifications you would need for your project, you need to look at these few specifications to make your purchase worth it:

  • Type of Polymer or Adhesive: In commercial polymeric sand, a bunch of additives is mixed in that gives it the binding effect.  The most common additive is that of silica. Here, the silica forms a flexible hold between the fine grains of sand and the pavers. Hence, in the instance when the ground shifts due to water or weed roots, the silica expands and keeps pavers in place.  
  • Size of the Gap: Understand that polymeric sand might only be utilized for the joints (the spaces between pavers) that are 1 inch or smaller before beginning a patio paver job. If that's the case, then polymeric sand is able to readily fill these cracks and protect the cracks from water, grass, weeds, and insects. 
  • Duration of Drying: Though polymeric sand may dry faster than concrete and cement, you must still take note of the drying times and the forecast during your time of application.  Always time your application during a sunny day, and give it 24-48 hours for it to be completely dry and ready for all kinds of foot-traffic 
  • Color: Polymeric sand comes in a lot of shades of beige and gray, so pick the one that's most suitable for your pavement. You can even opt to buy colored polymeric sand (through mixing it with dry pigment) to give it that designer pop. 
  • Cement: Be wary of polymer sands that are mixed with cement because they often cause a hazing effect. Although they may provide more hold and durability, it does become an aesthetic concern as time passes by, and it decreases the quality of paver sealers. 

How to Use Polymeric Sand


  1. 1
    Spread out the polymeric sand - When the pavers are completely dried out, then it will be the perfect time to start working. To start, gradually pour out small batches of polymeric sand over the area of your patio or walkway. Be careful not to apply it in heaps because overapplication will make it more difficult to remove the excess sand. Just put in enough to fill the cracks of the pavement while leaving little to no excess on the surface. (Related: A Comprehensive Guide To Paver Patios (With Videos))
  2. 2
    Sweep the sand into the cracks - For this step, it is best to use a push broom. Using the push broom, brush the sand to and of across the pavers to filter the sand to go in between the cracks. You can brush in opposite directions to make sure all the cracks are filled in. Add more sand until you're satisfied with how the gaps are filled in with sand. 
  3. 3
    Make the sand compact - To make sure that the sand did fill up the joint all the way to the bottom, you can use a vibratory compactor or even just by using a broom to tamp the sand into the cracks. 
  4. 4
    Clean the Pavers - Wouldn't you want all that hard work to go to waste, right? So, before you bind the polymeric sand with water, clean the pavers first so that you don't harden the excess sand on the pavers that may cause discoloration. For this step, you can use your handy leaf blower, but don't blow out the sand that you've perfectly compacted in the joints though. And if you really want to be accurate with it, you can use a fine brush. 
  5. 5
    Bind the Polymeric Sand With Water Mist - Using a garden hose, you can now start misting the polymeric sand found in the cracks in order to harden them. Remember, this is only to activate the binding agent that's already there, so don't overdo it because you might wash out the sand that's in the cracks.  After which, you must wait for it to dry (about 24-48 hours) and try to see if there are any gaps that you can still fill in with sand. 
  6. 6
    Additional Step: Spray the Pavers with White Vinegar - If you're a beginner, you might find yourself having some discoloration on your pavers because of scattered polymeric sand that hardened without you noticing. But, you can fix that in a jiffy by spraying it with white vinegar. After spraying the pavers with white vinegar, wait for an hour. After doing that, you can now wash it off with soap and water. 

Conclusion


"Ordinary sand performs the same function as polymeric sand, yet why must you use polymeric sand, right?" This can be a question that you may have asked while reading this article, but polymeric sand has a lot of benefits that don't come with ordinary sand.

If you're aiming for durability, ability to stand against climate, resistance to ants and weeds, and even aesthetic value, then polymeric sand should be an obvious choice for you. But above all, if you truly want your pavement to maintain its aesthetic and functional capabilities, then stick to polymeric sand; it's your best option on the market. 

Kenneth Wilson
October 12, 2021
Contractor Tips, Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.