Although using pavers to embellish your outdoor area is a great choice for its beauty and simplicity, there are a few details of the paver installation and maintenance process that can be confusing to homeowners. We believe choosing sand for paver joints to be one of them.
How many types of joint sand are there? Do they need replacing? How will my choice impact future maintenance? Can I stop weed from growing if I choose the right sand? Should I refill my existing sand, or change it?
In this article, we will tackle all of those questions in order to help you make the right call when choosing sand for your paver project.
The Importance of Joint Sand in Paver Projects
One of the reasons this can get confusing is that sand is a very important product in paver projects and it’s got two applications.
We use sand to create the bedding in which your pavers will lay, where it will work as a “cushion” to distribute loads, and maintain leveling.
On the other hand, sand for paver joints is used in order to keep the interlocking pattern, ensuring pavers won’t move, stop water from washing away the base layer, keep insects out and prevent weeds from growing in between pavers.
While sand is used for both of these applications, not the same type of sand is ideal for both.
Base layer sand should be coarse and granular so that when compacted (which will happen all the time) the edges will grind together, “locking” the layer of sand and thus helping to avoid erosion and movement.
However, when choosing sand for paver joints your main concern is that it performs as a film, stopping water to flow down and weeds to go through. Most importantly you expect joint sand not to wash away with the wind and the rains, so you won’t have to keep refilling it. With that goal, finer sands will perform better.
Now that you have a better notion of what you’re looking for and why it’s important, let’s review the types of sand commonly used for paver joint applications.
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Types of Sand for Paver Joints
All types of sand can be used in between pavers, nevertheless, the fact is they will not all perform the same. So, in our quest to find which sand is best for paver joints, let’s go through the 3 main types being used.
Washed Concrete Sand
Washed concrete sand is composed of larger particles and it’s recommended and commonly used on the base layers. Some contractors may choose to use it as well as joint sand in order to save in costs, or simply to avoid working with two different materials.
Although one can claim washed concrete sand helps to achieve a better interlock between the pavers, its larger particles are harder to sweep and compact into joints, as a result, it not only doesn’t seal properly, it’s also washed away easily.
Commonly seen as the regular sand to use on paver joints. Its finer particles create a tighter, less permeable layer that won’t be washed away that easily.
Nevertheless, you will still have to check your paver regularly to identify when it’s time to refill it. Some binding products have been created in order to ensure Mason’s Sand remains in place for longer, and that’s something you should definitely check out if you choose to go with it.
Polymeric sand is a product specially developed for paver joints. In order to ensure the creation of a less permeable, compact and not washable sand layer, the material is created in such a way it hardens when wet for the first time.
That said, during application, polymeric sand looks almost the same as normal sand (except that you can buy it colored too). However, after it completely fills your paver joints and it’s properly wet, it will harden and hopefully stay there for much longer than any other sand.
It goes without saying that polymeric sand is also more expensive, will it pay off with time?
Is Polymeric Sand Really Worth It?
Not all contractors love polymeric sand, even though it promises the best results. The main reason for that is that many brands are available and low-quality products will not perform as promised. It’s also to be noted that improper installation will be the cause of poor performance, and might even stain pavers.
However, high-quality polymeric sand installed properly will ensure your pavers look great for a long time, and you won’t have to think about replacing it at every storm. The material is so durable it can actually be power washed if proper care is taken.
Lastly, it’s important to mention that some refilling is still advisable, especially after hard winters. Keeping an eye in your pavers when you go through them every day is no big deal, and you should be able to notice when your sand starts to wear away a little.
Can I Refill Normal Sand With Polymeric Sand?
No, that won’t be a good idea, the polymeric sand would simply not perform as it should. If your pavers joints are filled with normal sand you should complete them from time to time with normal sand as well.
If you’d like to enjoy the benefits of using polymeric sand, you will actually have to completely remove the remaining sand of your paver joints, and then fill it with polymeric sand.
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Trust a Professional Contractor to Help You In Paver Projects
Although nothing stops you from doing it all yourself, trusting a good contractor will ensure your installation goes perfectly and your pavers last for longer.
JSBrick has been providing paver supply, installation and maintenance services for 20 years, servicing Sarasota and all surrounding cities. Don’t hesitate and call us if you need help with your project.
You can, but they won’t do the job right. First, they would not contribute to the stability of the interlocked system. Second, they will wash away easier, which can compromise the structure and cause damage to your installation.
Polymeric sand is still the best choice available.
If you absolutely can’t use polymeric sand, for one reason or another, the best replacement for it is mason’s sand, also called builder’s sand.
Its particles are much finer and can perform the function better than regular sand would.
It depends on the kind of sand you use. If you go with polymeric sand, a simple controlled wetting with a garden hose already activates the sand and keeps it in place.
As for regular or mason’s sand, they will never actually harden as much as polymeric sand would by simply adding water. These sands usually set only when you apply the sealer on the installation, one more reason why you should not skip this part.
Yes, but it should be handled with extreme care. Start with the lowest possible pressure setting and from a safe distance from the pavers. If at any point you see sand coming out, stop immediately.
After applying and wetting the polymeric sand, you should wait 24 hours before allowing foot traffic and 48 before vehicular traffic.