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How to Lock Paver Joints with Polymer Sand0

I recall a corny old poem about shifting sand, but I always thought the pavers were what shifted in dry-laid walks.  I even listened when the pros said, “Stabilize your dry-laid pavers with sand joints!”  What happens when it’s the sand that shifts?

This fall, a combination of rain and weed pulling had scoured the sand from joints in two sections of our garden walks. The pavers were left high and dry, and we faced another Fix-It-Yourself project.  Rather than using sand again or mixing wheelbarrows of sloppy mortar, we opted for polymer-enhanced sand to replace and lock the joints.

Polymer sand consists of fine sand that is cleaned and screened to a uniform particle consistency and then mixed with chemical binders.  The product is applied dry and then water-activated to bond.  Colored tan or gray, it resists erosion, insects, and weeds.  Polymer sand costs a lot more than plain sand, but it’s more durable for paver joints and has a flexibility that makes it resilient.  This week, I nicked a joint with a sharp garden tool–I simply dampened the gouge and podged it with my finger to fix it. Who knew repair was so easy?

Materials:

  • polymer sand
  • water

Tools:

  • leaf blower
  • trowel
  • broom, dry paint brush, and dust pan
  • garden hose

 Instructions:

1.  Begin the project when the existing paths/pavers are dry and no rain is predicted.  The polymer sand is ultimately activated with water, but everything should stay dry until the joints are filled and the faces of the pavers are perfectly cleaned and ready.

2.  Remove old sand, weeds, and debris from the joints down to the depth of the pavers for a strong joint.  Use a leaf blower to clean leaves, grass clipping and other garden detritus from the entire path.  Embedded foreign objects will weaken the polymer sand bond.

3.  Trowel on the dry polymer sand. If your back can stand it, lift the bag and pour a reasonable quantity along the center of the path.  It’s better to put too little than too much–you can always add.  A trowel lets you control the product better at the path’s edges without risking wasteful overfill.  If you spill polymer sand onto the ground, you’ll need to clean that up, too.

4.  Sweep polymer sand with a broom, gently filling all the joints.  Near the edges, use a dry paint brush.  When the seams are uniformly filled, use the paint brush to dust all excess material from the pavers’ upper surfaces without disturbing the joints. They must be clean before the next step!

5.  Wet the joints and path thoroughly, misting and then flooding gently with a garden hose.  Do not use a stream of water, because it will wash the polymer sand from the seams before it can bind.  Conversely, if you don’t saturate the polymer sand, it will not bond well and will erode with rain.

photos and text by Sandra Simmons

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