If you are locking pavers down into place, polymeric sand is a fantastic product to consider. It is mixed with water and brushed in between favored joints. It then dries into a monolithic and rock-hard substance. This is an extremely long-lasting material, and it really keeps those pavers down, sometimes for up to 15 years.
That said, it’s not always the best substance to use, and there are other options that might be more suitable for your application. Today, we want to take a quick look at six polymeric sand alternatives that you may want to use instead.
One alternative you have to polymeric sand is the good old-fashioned mortar. Unlike polymeric sand which consists mainly of sand and binders, mortar consists mainly of cement, lime, and sand.
One of the biggest differences here is going to be with the application process. With polymeric sand, you first lay down the pavers, then mix it with water while simultaneously brushing it down into the joints, packing the pavers as you go.
However, with mortar, you actually apply it to the joints as you are laying the pavers down one by one. The application process is longer with mortar, although it’s also much longer-lasting.
Mortar may last up to two to three times as long as polymeric sand. Also keep in mind that mortar is structurally sound, whereas polymeric sand is not. Mortar is also going to remain waterproof for longer.
On the other hand, polymeric sand is easier to maintain once maintenance is required. Polymeric sand also comes in many more colors than mortar does. Polymeric sand also remains more flexible than mortar does.
Another alternative you have to polymeric sand is grout, which is fairly similar to mortar, with the main difference being that it does not have added lime. Grout tends to dry harder and is slightly less flexible than mortar.
However, grout is also thinner than mortar, which means that it is easily applied to very small joints. Applying large amounts of polymeric sand to very small joints can be a challenge because it is quite thick. Grout on the other hand is thin enough to apply in between very narrow joints.
Grout is certainly going to be cheaper than polymeric sand, although it will also crack relatively quickly. This is due to the fact that grout is not very flexible at all. Although grout is waterproof, once it cracks, it won’t be anymore.
Most types of grout will also not be overly weather resistant. If you are locking down pavers in a covered area, such as a patio with an overhang, then grout is fine to use. However, generally speaking, regular grout is not going to be the first material of choice to put pavers into place.
3. Regular Sand
The next alternative to polymeric sand is regular sand. Now the main difference here is of course that polymeric sand contains a wide variety of additives, particularly binders. Therefore, when mixed with water, polymeric sand will harden. Regular sand contains no such additives and will therefore not harden.
Of course, if your goal is to lock the pavers into place, then regular sand just won’t do the trick. Sure, it will work for a year or two, but regular sand washes away and blows out with the wind. It, therefore, needs to be reapplied fairly often, every couple of years. However, reapplying regular sand and maintaining it is much easier than doing so with polymeric sand.
Regular sand also does not bind to the pavers like polymeric sand does, so the pavers will be able to move more. If you live somewhere with uneven ground, due to its great flexibility, sand may be the better option.
Although, with this being said, polymeric sand is much longer-lasting. This substance, when properly applied, can last up to 10 years or even 15 years.
Do keep in mind that regular sand will, however, allow water to flow through it, which is good if you live in an area where it rains a lot. Polymeric sand, unless it cracks, will not allow water to flow through with it. The other difference here is that regular sand is much more affordable than polymeric sand.
4. Joint Sealing Stabilizer
The next alternative you have at your disposal is known as joint sealing stabilizer or joint stabilizing sealer. This substance is generally a clear acrylic liquid that is applied to both the pavers and the sand in between pavers, which then hardens.
Unlike polymeric sand which consists of sand, silica, quartz, and binders, and is then mixed with water and hardens, joint sealing stabilizer is its own acrylic liquid that hardens as it dries. With a joint stabilizing sealer, you first put the sand in between the joints, and then spray the sealer over top.
Unlike polymeric sand, this sealer is also applied to the pavers themselves. Now, joint stabilizing sealer is not going to last nearly as long as polymeric sand. However, joint stabilizing sealer is also much easier to apply and maintain.
There is also the fact that while polymeric sand does a better job at locking joints into place, joint stabilizing sealer helps to protect the pavers from fading, stains, and grease. Joint stabilizing sealer is also best used for smaller joints, whereas polymeric sand can handle larger joints.
One of the best alternatives to polymeric sand is EnviroSand. This is a specific brand of sand that features natural and organic adhesives and binders. It is therefore much safer and more eco-friendly than silica-based polymeric sand. What you need to know about this type of sand is that it is far more expensive than polymeric sand.
Moreover, polymeric sand lasts for up to 15 years, whereas EnviroSand will require maintenance after about three years. However, EnviroSand is much easier to maintain. The reason for this is that it does not form a rock-hard substance. While it does get rather hard, when it gets wet, it forms a gel-like substance, which is somewhat doughy.
This actually allows you to apply new EnviroSand over the old sand, get it wet, and both the old and the new sand will adhere together just as if it was all freshly applied. EnviroSand does also have better weed resistance, increased flexibility, and is better in terms of water permeability than polymeric sand is.
6. Easy Joint
The sixth alternative you have at your disposal is Easy Joint. It’s another product often used to seal the joints in between pavers. This is sand that is coated in a chemical formula. When water is added, the curing process begins. Here, it is actually oxygen that causes it to cure.
One of the biggest benefits is that Easy Joint can be applied in the rain. It will not harden in the rain, although rain would also not negatively affect it. Another big benefit of Easy Joint is that it is water permeable, which polymeric sand is not.
It is, therefore, the better product to use if you live somewhere where it rains a lot. Easy Joint is also easier to apply and lasts much longer. Realistically, Easy Joint is the better product, although it will also cost up to three times more.
As you can see, there are plenty of viable alternatives to polymeric sand out there. Which of these substances you use to lock pavers into place really depends on what your exact needs are.