Whether you’re installing a walkway or backyard patio, if you’re planning a paver project, it’s a good idea to begin thinking about the sand you’ll be using. The most popular option for projects like these is polymeric sand.
Unlike regular sand, which washes out during heavy rains, polymeric sand contains additives that bind the sand particles together to lock pavers in their place.
While the concept is simple enough, choosing quality polymeric sand isn’t quite as easy. In this handy, comprehensive guide, you’ll learn all about this special sand and three of the best options on the market today.
Best Polymeric Sand in 2019
|20-80 sq. ft||Natural, Titanium|
|1, 13, 45|
|Sakrete Of North America||56 sq. ft||Gray, Brown||50|
|Alliance Gator Super Sand||20-80 sq. ft||Slate Gray||50|
* Coverage is approximate and depends on joint size, paver size, new vs. old paver installation
1. Dominator Polymeric Sand – Best Overall Polymeric Sand
Dominator is designed for professionals who demand excellence and know a thing or two about paver installation. This premium polymeric sand is a flexible, durable, and self-healing solution for joint stabilization.
Cutting-Edge Formula and Performance
Providing both looks and performance, it’s the first haze-free polymeric sand to hit the market and features SOLID-FLEX technology, allowing it to stabilize joints while flexing and self-healing for greater durability.
That’s right; unlike other products, the proprietary formula of cutting-edge polymers in Dominator provide both stability and flexibility. It’s able to stand strong in the harshest of conditions and flex when needed to ensure long-lasting joint stabilization.
This high-quality joint stabilizing sand also comes in several appealing colors, including Titanium, Taupe, Natural, Carmel, and Charcoal. Don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one or two color options? This joint sand might be for you.
Applying Dominator Polymeric Sand is easy too. Just choose a dry, rain-free day and the detailed instructions will guide you step by step through the process.
That being said, nothing is perfect. While haze-free, some cleanup is needed after applying this sand. However, it sweeps easily into the joints and also rinses easily, which cuts down on the application time.
It’s also one of the pricier options. Nonetheless, considering its strong, cohesive polymers and long-lasting performance, Dominator Polymeric Sand makes a strong case for being the best overall poly sand being made today.
2. Sakrete Paver Set – Best Polymeric Sand for the Money
If you’re on a tight budget or like getting a good value, Sakrete Polymeric Sand might be the solution for you. As the next step up from regular sand or stone dust fill, this affordable polymeric sand contains a mixture of sand and special polymer additives designed for filling paver joints.
While its polymers aren’t quite as cohesive as Dominator and other more expensive brands, it’s engineered to resist rain, snow, ice, and wind without washing away. Under normal, non-extreme conditions, it does a solid job of staying in place.
Thanks to the comprehensive instructions, Sakrete Polymeric Sand is also easy to apply and get in place. It’s also easy to mist in, but due to its use of less or less effective polymer additives, curing can be an issue. In fact, you’ll need at least a few days of clear, dry weather to avoid washing out.
More color options would also be nice. However, at such a great price, it’s hard to nit-pick. Plus, it’s available in gray, which is by far the most popular poly sand color and widely used by most contracting professionals.
Great Bang for the Buck
At 50 pounds and offering a coverage area of 56 feet, Sakrete Polymer Sand is a great value in comparison to many of today’s more advanced, pricier options. It works nearly as well but cost a fraction of the price, making it popular budget-friendly polymer sand for a variety of paver projects.
3. Alliance Gator Polymeric “Super” Sand – Best Polymeric Sand for Instant Results
Alliance Gator Polymeric “Super” Sand has a tough name to live up to, but it dies exactly that. Ideal for everything from patios and pool decks to driveways and footpaths, this premium joint stabilizing sand is a favorite amongst in-the-know contractors for a variety of reasons.
First of all, it contains a unique combination of calibrated sand and polymer binders. It also features advanced haze-free technology to keep pavers looking great and provide a clean finished appearance.
“Super” Sand is also designed for easy application. Simply install it as you would with regular joint sand, mist it with some water, and let it set. That’s all there is to it.
Sets Fast and Results That Last
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Alliance Gator Polymeric “Super” Sand is its fast-setting design. Unlike many other polymeric sands that take hours to set and cure, this advanced formula sets within an hour at above freezing temperatures.
Of course, dry weather always helps, but when put to the test alongside other quality joint stabilizing sands in the same exact conditions, “Super” Sand set noticeably faster.
In addition to setting fast, it’s also created to last. Thanks to its ability to flex and self-heal, it’s surprisingly durable and able to keep weeds at bay and resist cracking for years.
Although it’s only available in Slate Gray, for many users, the “Super” qualities of this premium polymeric sand more than make up for its lack of color options.
Some things aren’t exactly household names but prove quite useful for various projects. Polymeric sand is one of those things.
Still unsure what polymeric sand is, what it does, and what it’s all about? Let’s delve deeper into this unique paver sand alternative to learn what it’s all about.
What is Polymeric Sand?
Polymeric sand is a material used to fill the seams or joints between brick, stone, and concrete pavers. It’s comprised of fine sand and special polymer additives, which bind the sand particles together when wet to improve the stability and durability of a paved surface, such as a patio or walkway.
The ingredients in polymeric sand differ from one manufacturer to the next, but most generally contain crystalline silica or quartz. In fact, up to 80 percent or more of many polymeric sands contain these or another polymer component.
All polymeric sands, however, are water-activated. When water is applied, the polymers between the sand particles begin binding them together. This is what makes it so effective.
Why Use Polymeric Sand?
Ordinary sand was used to fill in the joints between pavers for centuries. Unfortunately, plain old sand washes out and needs constant upkeep and replacing.
Polymeric sand changed the game. Utilizing advanced polymer materials, it’s superior to ordinary sand in a number of ways, including:
- Improved durability – The polymers help lock pavers together for long-lasting strength and durability.
- Fewer wash outs – Regular sand is prone to washing out after heavy rains, which can jeopardize the foundation of any paver project. Polymeric sand, on the other hand, doesn’t wash out and stays locked in place.
- Fewer weeds – Weeds are incredibly resilient and can sprout up virtually anywhere. While polymeric sand can’t guarantee a weed will never sprout up in your patio or walkway, it will definitely help.
- No more ants – It’s almost impossible for ants to crawl into and make a home in between pavers bound with polymeric sand.
- A variety of colors to choose from – Unlike regular sand, polymeric sand comes in a variety of colors and shades to complement an array of pavers, stones, and outdoor designs.
How to Apply Polymeric Sand
The application of polymeric sand is the same as any other paver joint stabilization sand. Before you begin, check the forecast and pick a day, or a few days for that matter, with dry, sunny conditions.
Once you’ve done so and the day arrives, sweep the polymeric sand between the pavers and into the joints. Then, compact the sand and the pavers.
Some professionals recommend doing this process twice and topping off the joints with a third sweep of sand in order to avoid the slightest chance of weeds finding a way through.
When the sand has been swept in nice and tightly into the paver joints, use a blower or broom to make sure none is left on any of the pavers prior to wetting.
This brings us to the final step: wetting the polymeric sand so it can set. However, before discussing this last step, it’s important to note that manufacturers have begun making changes to their installation instructions in the past five years as newer formulas have been introduced. So, carefully read and follow the instructions.
That being said, in most cases, you should begin at the highest point of the paver surface and gently spray a mist of water over the paved area as you work your way toward its lowest part. The sand and the pavers should be lightly soaked, not drenched.
Ultimately, you should spray all of the poly sand particles off of the pavers without washing it out of the joints. For this reason, the mist setting on a sprayer nozzle is usually best.
The mist will activate the polymers and begin to harden the sand. Most polymeric sand manufacturers recommend letting the sand set and cure for 15 minutes or so and then giving the paved area another light mist.
Depending on the polymeric sand you choose, it will take 24-72 hours to fully activate and harden. However, if the project is located in a sunny area, you should be able to walk on it in as little as 30 minutes without the sand sticking to your shoes.
Can polymeric sand be added on top of existing joint sand?
In order for polymeric sand to harden and set properly between stones or pavers, it must fill the entire joint from bottom to top. Simply adding polymeric sand on top of existing sand will not make the joints impermeable to weeds, ants, and wash outs or erosion.
If you’re renovating a patio or walkway with poly sand, all of the existing sand between the pavers should be cleaned out and removed with a hose or pressure washer. The area should then be allowed to dry before the new poly sand is applied.
Is polymeric sand safe?
According to the MSDS of many manufacturers, breathing masks should be worn when using their poly sand products. While there is no concrete data on whether or not the polymers in polymeric sand are harmful, the inhalation of silica over a prolonged period can lead to inflamed and scarred lung tissue, a condition known as silicosis.
When left unchecked, silicosis can also lead to lung fibrosis and an increased risk of developing tuberculosis. Although silica can be found in many other products in addition to polymeric sand, it’s best to follow manufacturer recommendations and utilize some sort of breathing protection while using this form of the binding agent.
What is the ideal temperature for applying polymeric sand?
Most poly sand manufacturers recommend a minimum ambient temperature just above freezing when applying their products. However, some suggest an even higher minimum temperature of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit for better binding and results.
Is polymeric sand okay to use around pools?
Yes, it can be used in pool areas. However, organic “enviro” sands have a tendency of re-softening when they get, which makes them more susceptible to wash outs. Not only will the sand wash right into your pool, but you’ll need to constantly re-apply.
The Bottom Line
If you have a paver project, polymeric sand will become your new best friend. In addition to sealing and seamlessly tying your patio or walkway pavers together to form a cohesive look, poly sand will stabilize the joints, keep weeds at bay, and more.
As you can see, there are some excellent yet very different products on the market to choose from. One may be right for your neighbor, but not right for you.
Are you on a tight budget? Do you like instant results? Would you prefer overall performance and long-lasting results? Each of the polymeric sands above is great in their own way, but your answers to these questions will help you determine the best one for your paver project. Happy paving!