When it comes to beautiful hardscape projects like patios and walkways, it’s hard to beat the high-end look of pavers. But, over time, water can get underneath the pavers, and weeds and grass can grow through the cracks. This can leave your carefully laid pavers looking messy and uneven. To keep pavers in place, you need polymeric sand.
Polymeric sand is a material used to fill the paver joints, which are the empty spaces between each paver. It’s sometimes called jointing sand, paver sand, or hardscape sand. Coated with a water-activated polymer, the grains of polymeric sand stick together when dampened, producing a seal that looks like grout and makes a stronger joint than standard filler sand. The result is a longer-lasting paver installation.
Below, find picks for the best polymeric sand in a range of categories.
- BEST OVERALL: DOMINATOR Natural Joint Stabilizing for Pavers
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Sakrete Paver Set Joint Sand
- UPGRADE PICK: Alliance Gator Maxx G2 Intelligent Polymeric Sand
- BEST FOR SMALL PROJECTS: DOMINATOR Joint Stabilizing for Pavers
- ALSO CONSIDER: Buddingco Polymeric Sand
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Polymeric Sand
Polymeric sand can take a paver project’s look from amateur to professional. Here’s what you need to know when shopping for the best polymeric sand.
Before starting a patio paver project, understand that polymeric sand is used for joints (the spaces between pavers) that are 1 inch or smaller. The polymeric sand drops into these cracks easily and provides the protection necessary to resist water, grass, weeds, and insects.
For paver projects or fieldstone patios with larger joints, polymeric dust might be the way to go. While it might seem strange that a finer material would be better for a larger gap, the dust creates a stronger barrier once it settles and does a better job of sealing out the elements.
Polymer or Adhesive
Polymeric sand is coated with an additive that makes the grains stick together when it gets wet.
The most common adhesive, or polymer, used in polymeric sand is silica. The silica forms a flexible hold between the individual grains of sand and the pavers. When the ground shifts due to water or weed roots, the silica flexes and keeps pavers in place. Depending on the manufacturer, polymeric sand can be a blend of chemical binders and glues as well as silica.
Some polymeric sand manufacturers mix Portland cement into their sand recipes. While these sands are still high-quality and durable, they sometimes create hazing around the pavers. Hazing is a white or light gray film that can form around the joints. The haze left by cement isn’t just an aesthetic concern; it can affect the quality of paver sealers.
If you don’t want hazing, it’s best to avoid polymeric sands with added cement. Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market with low-haze recipes and cement-free mixtures from which to choose.
Polymeric sand comes in different colors that will match or complement your pavers. Dry pigments are mixed into the sand to produce greens, whites, browns, blacks, tans, and grays. This added touch can go a long way toward making a basic patio or walkway stand out more than dull old beige sand or gray concrete. Just as colored grout can make tile pop inside, colored polymeric sand can add a designer touch to your paver project outside. Choose the color that goes best with your pavers.
Another benefit of polymeric sand is it dries for foot and vehicle traffic quickly. Unlike concrete and cement, life can go back to normal soon after applying sand to the joints of a paver project. Most polymeric sands are ready for foot traffic after 24 hours. If it’s a driveway, wait 48 hours before parking a vehicle on it. Note, these drying times assume you’ve got sunny weather. Check the forecast before installing polymeric sand; if it rains before the polymeric sand dries, it will wash out to the top of the pavers, and you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Regardless of the brand or manufacturer, the process for applying polymeric sand is similar. The steps for application are:
- Ensure all pavers are in place. Use a hand or plate tamper to compact them so they’re stable and even.
- Work in small areas, pouring out a bag of polymeric sand over 16 square feet.
- Using a wide push broom, spread the polymeric sand out until it fills the joints around the pavers evenly. The sand should come to within ⅛-inch of the top of the paver. If the pavers have beveled edges, fill to the bottom of the bevel.
- Using a hand or plate tamper, tamp the sand into place. Look over the joints again to ensure there’s adequate sand between each joint. Add sand where needed.
- Set a garden hose nozzle to “shower” and soak the surface. Only add as much water as will soak into the sand. This activates the adhesives that bond the grains. Be careful not to add too much water, as it can separate the adhesive and cause a milky haze.
- Allow the surface to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Our Top Picks
Based on the above shopping considerations, here are picks for some of the best polymeric sands in a range of categories.
Whether it’s a patio, driveway, walkway, Dominator’s Joint Stabilizing polymeric sand is worth a look. This product comes in a 45-pound bucket that can cover up 80 square feet of paver surface, depending on the size of the joints. DOMINATORS’s poly sand comes in several colors including natural hue, titanium, charcoal, taupe, and carmel.
DOMINATOR polymeric sand features the company’s Solid-Flex formula, made from a fine sand and free of cement. This allows the sand to flex while remaining durable and water resistant. Should any cracks appear over the course of a winter, Solid-Flex self heals, keeping ants, grass, weeds, and other paver-busters from taking advantage.
Paver projects are expensive. For those looking to save a bit of money on the sand to lock them in place, Sakrete’s Paver Set might be the product to go with. This 40-pound bucket of sand provides up to 45 square feet of coverage for joints ¼-inch wide on 2-inch thick pavers. This formula also works for joints as wide as 1½ inches, which is rare for a polymeric sand.
Part of what makes this product so affordable is its formula contains Portland cement, and while that can cause hazing, it will lock pavers in place securely. This formula also resists water erosion, insects, and weed growth. This product is available in tan or gray.
Alliance Gator Maxx G2 Intelligent Polymeric Sand is a brand pros trust. But, with its easy installation process, it works just as well for DIYers. This 50-pound bag of polymeric sand covers up to 85 square feet. It works on tight joints as well as joints as wide as 4 inches. This polymeric sand comes in black and beige.
The G2 Intelligent Polymeric sand features a no-dust, haze-free formula that’s strong, durable, and easy to install. The formula is also rain safe in as little as 15 minutes, allowing you to apply it to a patio, walkway, or driveway on less-than-ideal days.
If you’re making a repair or working on a small patio or walkway, Dominator’s 13-pound jug of polymeric sand might be just the ticket. This bucket has enough coverage for up to 32 feet of small joints, and the screw-on lid lets you store unused portions for later use with no worries it will dry out.
This product contains Dominator’s Solid-Flex formula, which allows the poly sand to stay pliable while not breaking down. Should cracks occur, Dominator self-heals, stopping ants and weeds from pushing through the cracks. It comes in titanium, charcoal, natural, taupe, and carmel.
Buddingco’s Polymeric Sand is worth considering for any paver installation, including patios, walkways, driveways, pathways, and parking spaces. One bucket of this polymeric sand can offer up to 40 square feet of coverage, depending on the joint width.
Buddingco’s formula is suitable for joints up to 1½ inches, which is about average for a polymeric sand. However, it’s able to set in temperatures as low as 32 degrees, which allows you to get a jump on some of your outdoor projects in the early seasons or seal driveways in the winter.
FAQs About Polymeric Sand
Still have questions about polymeric sand? Here are answers to commonly asked questions.
Q. What is the difference between jointing sand and polymeric sand?
Both sands lock pavers in place, but polymeric sand has water-activated additives and adhesives that create a stronger bond.
Q. How does polymeric sand work?
Polymeric sand is a mixture of sand, adhesive, and sometimes Portland cement. Once pushed into the joints, water activates the adhesive, making the grains of sand bond together, as well as to the pavers, to create a durable surface.
Q. Can water drain through a polymeric sand?
Polymeric sand will allow a small amount of water to drain, but most water will run off a properly installed paver surface with polymeric sand.
Q. How long does polymeric sand last?
Polymeric sand can last up to 10 years before replacement is necessary. However, certain manufacturers claim some products can last up to 15 years.