Using Polymeric Sand On Your Patio Between Your Pavers
by Matt Lee
Have you ever spent time, energy, and money, creating a beautiful walkway or patio, only for it to become overgrown with weeds? Taking care of weed growth is a lot like playing whack-a-mole. You pull one up, and three more appear, and before you know it, keeping your walkway weed-free becomes a full-time job.
It’s a frustrating reality for many homeowners. Before you grab a giant bottle of weed killer and risk damaging your patio and exposing yourself to copious amounts of Roundup – know that there’s a better solution.
Today, numerous homes have walkways and patios made from concrete pavers. Pavers are cost-effective, customizable, and DIY-friendly. The secret to keeping these paver patios and walkways weed-free and looking great is in a product called polymeric sand.
Let’s talk a little about polymeric sand: what it is, what it does, and how you can use it in all your paver projects.
What is Polymeric Sand?
Polymeric sand is a blend of sands and other polymer additives. When polymeric sand is combined with water, it creates a strong binding agent that keeps the sand together.
When you use polymeric sand, your pavers harden together, effectively locking your pavers in place. As a bonus, this polymeric sand also deters weed growth and insects.
Polymeric sand can be used with any commercial pavers, including permeable paving, brick, and Portland cement pavers.
You’ve probably seen people use regular sand before to secure their pavers, and while it is an option – it’s not the best one. Regular sand comes with some significant downsides. The most significant drawback to real sand is that rain can wash it all away, creating a muddy, uneven mess.
Sand doesn’t have any durability properties. Unlike polymeric sand, real sand doesn’t lock into place and hold your work together. You’ll have to frequently refill, relevel, and sweep pavers held together by natural sand. Additionally, sand comes in one color: sand color. Polymeric sand comes in a range of colors that allow you to customize your patio and walkway to fit your aesthetic.
Moreover, one of the most significant disadvantages to normal sand is that it doesn’t help with weed growth. Sand allows weeds to grow and ant beds to run amuck. So, if you want to make your work last and keep it looking fantastic for years to come, you should consider using polymeric sand. But how do you do that?
How to Install Polymeric Sand?
Using and installing polymeric sand is relatively straightforward. It works best with pavers that are spaced between a quarter and one and a half inches apart. If your pavers are further apart, it can still work, but it will take longer to harden and won’t last quite as long.
You’ll want to start with your pavers laid out how you want them. Then, you want to remove any sand, sediments, and weeds that are in between the pavers. The polymeric sand needs the full depth of the pavers to work at one hundred percent. (You might need to use a pressure washer to get it completely clean).
To be extra proactive with your weed control, you might consider spraying an herbicide in between the pavers before beginning to install the polymeric sand. This depends on how persistent weeds are in your area and how comfortable you are with herbicides.
Make sure your pavers and the ground is completely dry before you begin. Then, the steps are as follows:
1. Pour the polymeric sand on your pavers, and then carefully sweep it in between the cracks.
2. Using a blunt object, like the back of the broom handle, tap the pavers to consolidate the polymeric sand.
3. Continue filling the cracks until it reaches around one-eighth of an inch from the top. Be careful not to fill them all the way to the top.
4. Once every joint is full, sweep or use a leaf blower on the lowest setting to blow the polymeric sand off the tops of the pavers.
5. Now, it’s time to water the pavers. You need enough water to saturate the sand, but not so much that the polymers float. If you see a milky white substance floating on top of the water and pavers, you’ve used too much water. The best approach is to spray the sand a few seconds at a time, then wait and see if it continues to absorb. Repeat this process until the joints won’t absorb any more water.
6. Keep foot traffic off the pavers for twenty-four hours, and vehicular traffic off the pavers for seventy-two hours. Schedule this process when there’s no rain in the forecast for at least forty-eight hours.
Restoring Polymeric Sand?
Like most things, after several years, polymeric sand can loosen, either because of general wear-and-tear, water wear, or grass growth. The good news is it’s relatively straightforward to repair and restore it.
The toughest part of restoring polymeric sand pavers is that you have to remove all traces of the old polymeric sand. If you just have a few joints or areas to fix, it’s not quite as challenging. However, if you’re redoing your whole patio or walkway, you’ll have to do a complete and thorough cleanout.
The best method to do this is with a steam pressure washer. Using heated water (180 degrees Fahrenheit), spray the pressure washer between the joints. The heat reactivates the polymers, making them more malleable. At that point, use a tool to strip any remaining polymeric sand out from between the joints.
Once all the old polymeric sand is removed, you simply repeat the initial process. Polymeric sand is DIY-friendly, but it’s crucial that you follow the directions and apply (and re-apply) appropriately. If you have any doubt, hire a skilled contractor for the job, to ensure that you avoid any avoidable installation headaches.
Getting Started with Polymeric Sand
Polymeric sand is a terrific solution for keeping your walkways and patios locked in place and free of weeds and bugs for years to come.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Polymeric sand can absorb moisture, so you don’t have to worry too much about driveway drainage unless you live in an area prone to flooding.
- The application and installation process are simple, but don’t underestimate how important accuracy is.
- Polymeric sand can stain concrete. Correct application can mitigate this risk, however, expect a mild amount of unavoidable staining, and wait to do any finishes or stamping until after you’ve applied the polymeric sand.
- When applying, be sure to only do about ten-foot sections at a time before moving on to another area. The polymeric sand can set quickly.
Ultimately, as long as you do your research and follow instructions, polymeric sand could be the perfect solution for keeping your weeds at bay, and your patio and walkway looking great.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.