Thinking about using polymeric sand on your pavers? Read this before you do. We offer a step-by-step solution below that’s an alternative to polymeric sand.
Are interlocking pavers still interlocking pavers when polymeric sand is used in the joints. I’m not sold that’s the case. One of the most necessary aspects to achieve interlock in concrete pavers is forcing course particle sand into the joints. This should happen in two stages of an interlocking paver installation. The first is when the pavers are installed over top of a course concrete sand setting bed. When the pavers are compacted using a vibratory plate compactor, the pavers are pushed into the sand bed forcing and lodging the sand into the joint. The installer will then cover the pavers with the same or similar sand used for the sand bed and again run a vibratory plate compactor over the top of the pavers forcing the course particle sand into the top of the paver joint. You now have a paver joint that is filled with large particle sand that typically wouldn’t find it’s way into the narrow paver joint without force and interlock is achieved. The picture below shows pavers being lifted. Notice the whole surface lifts, not just one paver. The fact that the whole surface moves together demonstrates the sand holding the pavers together.
So what does all of that have to do with polymeric sand. Let me explain. In my opinion, I believe that polymeric sand was created for Do-It-Yourself installations where the installer lacked experience or proper equipment to get the proper size particle sand into the paver joint. Of course it was primarily created to prevent weeds growing in-between the pavers, but once that objective was accomplished I believe the next order of business for the manufacturer was to make the product easy to install. If polymeric sand was made with the same course joint sand that’s been recommended for years we might not be having this discussion. But that’s not the case.If you remove the ease of installation it would eliminate more than half of their market in my estimation. What exactly did the manufacturers do that makes polymeric sand so easy to install, they made the sand particle size as fine as they possibly could so that it easily falls down into the paver joints. As I discussed in my first paragraph, it’s imperative for large/course particle sand to get forced into the joint to achieve interlock. This is not what’s happening with polymeric sand. (In some rare instances, polymeric sand is a good solution. In these instances, our sister company offers polymeric sand installation in Dayton, Ohio).
But polymeric sand gets hard when you wet it. Sure it does, but the sand wasn’t forced into the joint. Instead it was placed into the joint and vibrated to fill the joint. When you wet polymeric sand, it doesn’t expand it just gets hard. So when the adhesion breaks down thats holding the sand into the joint (usually happens during freeze/thaw) you have an entire joint that can pop out. And it does.
Side Effects of Polymeric Sand
It’s been said that some of the polymeric sand manufacturers will add cement to their polymeric mix to cut down the cost of making the product. Cement will stain the pavers and cause a white/light gray film on the pavers and around the joint. The polymeric sand manufacturers blame the white haze on the pavers claiming it to be efflorescence.
Keep the weeds from coming back
If you’ve found this page because you’re trying to figure out how to keep the weeds from growing in your pavers, I’m sorry to tell you that polymeric sand is probably not the best solution. Over the past 10 years of installing pavers, we’ve developed a very reliable system for eliminating weed growth in our paver installs and it does not involve polymeric sand. Our solution is the result of a lot of trial and error – and finally we’ve perfected it.
If you’re interested in purchasing our step-by-step process for properly cleaning pavers and how we prevent weeds from growing in the joints without using messy polymeric sand, we’re currently selling this through Paypal. You can get it by clicking the Paypal button below. We’ve discounted the price to $20.00 during the winter months. We will adjust the pricing back to the normal price starting spring 2014.
Our Process Before and After
Hi Mark – we ordered your instructions on fixing and sealing our patio brick pavers. Our patio is 17 years old and needed some help. We just finished our project and although not professionals, we can’t believe how great it looks. Our pavers sparkle in the sunlight and the sand in the seams is rock hard. Your process couldn’t be easier and even though contractors around here said we should us that other sand that hardens, we read too many bad reviews about it. Dont have a before picture but it truly wasn’t pretty – lots of gaps, moss and weeds from chipmunk damage. Thanks so much for sharing your method. Here’s a picture.
I'm not a professional, will I be able to follow your instructions?
Will I need any tools?
My pavers are new, will this process still work?
My pavers are old, will this still work?
But polymeric sand makes the sand hard so that weeds can't grow and sand doesn't spread everywhere.
Does your process require that I purchase any products?
How long will it take?
How/When will I receive the instructions?
My pavers are very dirty, is it worth it?
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