Polymeric Sand vs. Mortar: Which to Choose?

Polymeric Sand vs. Mortar: Which to Choose?

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If you are planning on building something with pavers, such as a driveway, patio, or walkway, you need a good way to deal with those joints. Those pavers need to be properly sealed together so that water cannot run in between the joints.

Two main things that you might use for this purpose include polymeric sand and mortar. However, these two materials aren’t the same thing. Let’s figure out what they both are, what their primary uses are, and which one to use for specific applications.

Polymeric Sand and Mortar: The Basics

Before we start talking about similarities and differences, let’s first determine what both of these materials are.

What Is Polymeric Sand?

Although not synthetic per se, polymeric sand is a type of man-made sand composed of a variety of components. It consists of regular crushed stone or very fine sand, combined with silica and quartz, as well as other binding chemicals, which can be organic or also synthetic.

This is a very special type of sand that can come in a variety of colors but is usually white, beige, gray, or light black. This type of sand acts much like cement or mortar does in the sense that it works as a binder.

The various binding agents which may be included in polymeric sand, once water is added to them, create a chemical reaction, which then causes it to start hardening, drying, and curing. Polymeric sand may also contain cement as one of the main binders.

Polymeric sand is generally used for filling the joints between pavers for driveways, walkways, and patios. That said, you really don’t hear of polymeric sand being used for much else.

What Is Mortar?

We then have mortar, which is another substance often used in construction. Mortar is a composite material made out of Portland cement, very fine sand, and lime. This is a very common building material used to join together various types of masonry, such as brick, cinder blocks, and stone.

Mortar is used to build structurally sound buildings, such as when joining bricks together to create walls. Just like with polymeric sand, when water is added to mortar, it will then begin to harden, dry, and cure.

Similarities of Polymeric Sand and Mortar

Now that we know what both polymeric sand and mortar are, let’s determine what makes them similar.

1. Some Similar Substances

Although their general composition is different, both polymeric sand and mortar do contain some of the same elements. For instance, polymeric sand is of course mainly sand, whereas mortar also uses sand as an aggregate. Moreover, polymeric sand may also contain Portland cement, which is the main ingredient in mortar.

2. The Chemical Reaction

Both mortar and polymeric sand create a chemical reaction when water is mixed with them. They are designed to harden, cure, and dry. They both become rock solid once they are fully cured.

3. They’re Waterproof

Another similarity shared by both mortar and polymeric sand is that once they are dried and cured, they are 100% completely waterproof. Of course, they will start to break down over time, but they are waterproof for the first few years after application. On that note, both are also often used outdoors as they are more or less 100% weatherproof.

4. Pest and Mold Resistance

Both of these materials really don’t have any problems withstanding pests and mold.

5. They May Be Used for Similar Applications

Although mortar is used for many more purposes than polymeric sand, they may both be used for locking pavers down into place.

Differences Between Polymeric Sand and Mortar

Now that we know what makes these substances similar, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. Overall Composition

The overall composition of these two things is very different. Polymeric sand is made mainly out of sand, silica, quartz, and other materials, whereas mortar is made primarily out of cement, lime, and sand.

2. Durability

Although polymeric sand is very durable, mortar is simply more so. Mortar is absolutely the stronger and longer-lasting of the two.

3. Structural Soundness

One of the main differences between these two is that mortar is absolutely strong enough to be structurally sound. This is why you can use it to join bricks and other pieces of masonry when building very large structures. Polymeric sand, on the other hand, is not structurally sound. It cannot be used for any such weight-bearing application.

4. Length of Waterproofing

Although both mortar and polymeric sand are waterproof, mortar will remain intact and waterproof for much longer than polymeric sand, for at least a few years.

5. Longevity and Maintenance Needs

As mentioned above, mortar will last much longer than polymeric sand. However, when it does come time to maintain things, especially in terms of pavers, polymeric sand is the much easier one to work with.

6. Flexibility

One reason why some people like polymeric sand is because it does remain somewhat flexible when hardened, which is not the case with mortar. This allows pavers and paver joints to move along with the ground.

7. General Applications

Polymeric sand is really only used to join pavers, whereas mortar can also be used for structural purposes when joining various pieces of brick and masonry.

Polymeric Sand vs. Mortar: Which of the Two Should You Use?

If you are joining pavers and filling the gaps in between them, then polymeric sand is the better of the two. This is especially the case due to its flexibility and the fact that it comes in different colors. However, if you want something that is far more structurally sound and durable, and can also be used for joining masonry, then it is mortar that you need.

Which One Should You Use for Joining Pavers?

Although mortar is a decent option to go with, it doesn’t look all that nice, which is one of the main reasons most people would recommend using polymeric sand for joining pavers.


Now that you know exactly what these substances are, as well as what makes them different, you can make an informed decision as to which one to use for specific projects.

How Does Polymeric Sand Compare with Other Materials?

Read the articles below to see how polymeric sand compares with: