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Paving Sand vs Play Sand – What is the Difference?

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The use of the correct type of sand is a very important part of any paver installation. Its function is to hold the pavers firm in place, preventing wobbliness and the growing of weeds between each paver. But does any sand work? What is the difference between paving sand vs play sand?

Does it really matter? I mean, is all sand, right? Not really. Paver sand can contain traces of tremolite and silica, so it is a very big no to be used in sandboxes.

We talk about the compositions of both types of sand and what are the different applications of each one. But first, let’s talk about what is sand in the first place.

Paver sand being applied

Paving Sand vs Play Sand – What is Sand?

Sand is, basically, some type of mineral crushed into microscopic pieces due to the weathering process that a mineral goes through, like wind, sea waves, or rain.

So there are actually a lot of different types of sand, and they are not the same. The composition of a specific type of sand will depend on the original mineral from which it came.

The most common type of sand comes from quartz. It is considered to be the “natural” sand. Quartz particles do not dissolve in water and do not decompose as easily as other minerals.

Beaches that have a particular white and fine sand can be found at places without rich nearby sources of quartz. In those places, the sand is composed of calcium that comes from the shells and skeletons of marine organisms.

There are tons of other examples of different kinds of sand, both in texture and in color. But the explanation is always the same: they are like that because they are, essentially, very tiny particles of a local mineral that presents those characteristics.

Different types of sand
Different types of sand

So What is the Difference?

Now that you know what sand is broadly speaking, is easy to imagine what is the main difference between paver sand and play sand.

The play sand goes through a filtering process to get rid of any minerals that can be harmful to humans, while the paver sand does not worry about that. But both of them can still be altered, either chemically or mechanically.

Play sand, for example, undergoes several treatment processes to get rid of hazardous materials, mainly ferrous oxide. It is also turned fine and rounded when going through a literal washing process.

Paver sand also goes through some treatments, but instead of removing substances, you are actually adding new ones. Most of these substances are polymers that add coarseness to the sand.

Different Types of “Paver Sand”

“Paver sand” is actually an incorrect term.

Any sand you choose to add to your installation becomes paver sand, but there’s not actually any type of sand with that specific name. What most people call “paver sand” is actually polymeric sand.

Polymeric sand is a particular type of sand that, when mixed with water, creates a binding agent extremely powerful that binds the sand particles together.

This is the favorite type of sand when it comes to paver installation because it produces very strong joints between pavers, and that’s why is also called “joint sand”.

So, in the end, paver sand is nothing more than all-purpose sand mixed with specific water-activated bonding agents, but mostly polymers and silica.

Paving Sand vs Play Sand – Importance of Choosing Correctly

You never want to choose the wrong kind of sand.

Play sand is designed to be used “up-close”, as in sandboxes for kids or in some forms of paintings and crafts. It is important that the sand used for these things is as natural and harmless as possible.

Using regular sand in these situations can cause real problems for the health. Especially when it comes to the use in sandboxes when regular sand can be ingested or get in contact with the eyes.

On the other hand, using play sand in the installation of pavers can cause a lot of headaches. For once, they will not make the job correctly and you will probably have to re-sand your paver patio sooner than you planned for.

Play sand will also not prevent weeds from growing between the grout lines of the pavers. Weeds can cause real damage to your pavers and, if they take deep roots, can compromise the entire installation.

So it is very important that you choose the right kind of sand for the job you want to do.

Kid playing on sandbox

When in Doubt, Call a Professional

If you’re not sure what kind of sand to use on your hardscape project, you can always ask a professional for help.

If you happen to be around Sarasota, in FL, the best professionals on the field can be found at JS Brick. For more than 20 years that have been providing the best work in the installation and maintenance of pavers.

Get in contact right now through the number +1 941 586 9140 for a free estimate on your hardscape project.