Polymeric Sand – 14 Things You Should Know Before You Buy

Polymeric Sand is as ubiquitous to interlocking pavers as garden soil to gardening.  You need good garden soil to grow your vegetables and plans.  You need good polymeric sand to maintain the look and appearance of your landscape.

Some naysayers will say that polymeric sand is a complete waste of money and that it isn’t worth a dime because the weeds keep on coming back or the insects are burrowing between the pavers.  This may be true, however, like everything else nothing is ever maintenance free.  Like your car, a little bit of maintenance can go a long way to protecting your investment and keeping your landscaping looking that much nicer longer.

So here is what you need to know about polymeric sand and why it is really that important to protect your interlocking paving investment and maintaining the curb appeal of your home.

What is Polymeric Sand made of?

Pretty every single manufacturer of polymeric sand in the marketplace has three main ingredients:

  1. Quartz silica

  2. Crystalline silica

  3. Proprietary polymer/organic

Out of these three main ingredients, the first two make up approximately 85-95% of the product by volume.  The rest of the ingredients are some type of filler and the proprietary glue.

What is the proprietary polymer?

Essentially this is a man-made chemical binder or organic biner that binds the sand together and to create a single surface between the joints of the interlocking pavers. This glue holds the sand in place so that when it rains or running water, the water will not wash away the sand.

Are all polymers the same?

No. Not all polymers are the same. Some are stronger and some are weaker.  The cost of the polymeric sand can indicated how good the glue is and its performance.

How is the polymer activated?

The polymer is activated by the use of water.  It can only be activated once and hardens to make the joint water repellant.  With that being said, there are now polymers that can be resoftened with the use of water so that minor cracks are automatically filled in.  However, there are limits in which the sand can be resoftened and it will eventually the glue will get washed away.

How important is the polymer to the maintaining the impermeability of your finished landscape?

It is important.  Theuse of polymeric sand increases the durability of the entire surface of the landscaped area.  This minimizes the opportunity for water to seep below the surface of the interlocking pavers and into the sand and/or crushed stone foundation below. Without water beneath the pavement, silt and fines have no ability to migrate from one area to another.  This means a drier foundation which translate to less deformation of the surface under traffic loads. It also means that your backyard patio, walkway or driveway will look perfect longer.

Is all quartz silica and crystalline silica the same for all polymeric sand?

No. Like glue, there are varying degrees of granuality or fineness of the sand.  The finer the sand (smaller the particles) the easier it is for the sand to fill every single nook and cranny and crack.  When the sand can reach these minor cracks, it lessens the chance for weed growth or insect burrows.  This plays a part in minimizing the maintenance that is required to keep your interlocking pavers looking good.

How come there is portland cement in the sand?

Portland cement is one of the key ingredients to help increase the hardness and strength of the sand.  Polymeric sands that solely rely on an adhesive are not as strong as those with BOTH the portland cement and the adhesive.

Can polymeric sand have different colors?

Absolutely.  Most polymeric sand manufacturers offer at least two colors that match 95% of the interlocking pavers on the marketplace today: tan and grey.  We currently carry sand that comes in 5 colors: brown, black, grey, red and buff.

How much does polymeric sand cost?

The price does vary from store to store and from region to region.  You can expect the price to vary between $20 – $40 per 55lb – 50lb bag.  The cost of this product outweighs the cost of having to relay the interlocking pavers every few years.

How to use polymeric sand for the first time?

Because polymeric sand will stick like glue to whatever wet surface it contacts, only apply the product when rain is not in the forecast. These are the steps for pretty much all polymeric sands in the marketplace:

  1. After laying your pavers, sweep the polymeric sand into all joints

  2. Compact or tamp the pavers and sand to make sure that the sand fills all cracks

  3. Sweep in another round of polymeric sand

  4. Compact again to fill in all the cracks

  5. Sweep in, but do not tamp. In this last round, get the polymeric sand as close to the tops of interlocking pavers as possible

  6. Ensure no sand is sitting on the pavers themselves.  You can sweep individual pieces or use a blower (at near parallel angle to the surface). Polymeric sand is hard to remove once wet

  7. Spray water mist over the entire paved or hardscaped area, from high point to low point

  8. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rewet with a light mist

  9. Allow a full 24 hours for complete curing

How to maintain the hardscaping with polymeric sand?

After a long hard winter, you may want to just spread some polymeric sand onto the pavers and sweep it into all the cracks to prevent any weeds and/or any burrows.  Once you’ve done that, remove any excess sand and then wet the surface to activate the polymeric sand.

What are the three things you should always look for in a quality polymeric sand?

  1. Granularity of the sand – the smaller the particle the better it is get into the cracks
  2. Polymer or adhesive – a strong glue is better withstand the environment.
  3. Portland cement – some portland cement increases the hardness and impermeability of the surface

Is there a difference in polymeric sands between what big box stores sell and what specialty retailers sell?

There is good chance that there is a difference.  You would never see a specialty retailer sell what is being sold in a big box.  The reason is that specialty retailers place a greater emphasis on quality as opposed to price. When manufacturers focus on price, there are going to be some sacrifices made to the quality of the ingredients used. This is reflected when you see movement, weeds, or insect burrows in interlocking pavers.