Polymeric Sand vs. Regular Sand: Which to Choose for Pavers?

Polymeric Sand vs. Regular Sand: Which to Choose for Pavers?

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Many academics have attempted to define the term “regular sand,” but the term is a misnomer. Regular means normal, but sand occurs in a multitude of forms, depending on where it is found. For instance, dune sand, beach sand, river sand, and pit sand all have different characteristics.

Additionally, not all forms of sand are natural. Sand is often processed to make it suitable for specific uses, especially in the construction industry. This may be as simple as sieving it to size or processing it by adding synthetic materials, which is what happens with polymeric sand.

Polymeric Sand and Regular Sand: The Basics

There are many differences between polymeric and so-called regular sand that affect what we choose for laying pavers. But before we jump into the differences, let’s start by taking a closer look at these two types of material.

What Is Polymeric Sand?

Polymeric sand is a specialist material that was launched in the early 2000s specifically for jointing paving bricks and slabs. Today, it is considered to be the ultimate jointing material for pavers.

Unlike “regular” sand, polymeric sand is a fine sand that is manufactured for use in paving applications. The additives added to the sand create a binding agent when the sand comes into contact with water. This, in turn, locks the pavers in place.

There are other synthetic sand blend options, including types of sand with natural and added silica content. But only polymeric sand enables the joints to expand and contract in extremely hot and cold temperatures. Polymeric sand will also keep insects out and prevent weeds from growing in the paving joints.

What Is Regular Sand?

For the purposes of this discussion, regular sand is any type of sand, except polymeric sand, that may be used for jointing pavers.

What confuses the issue is that many paving companies use regular sand that is calibrated and then mixed with polymer binders that help it lock paving joints together. So, it isn’t natural sand, but it isn’t polymeric sand either.

However, manufactured sand made by crushing rocks isn’t natural either. But it is commonly categorized as regular sand. A primary advantage is that manufactured sand can be washed and sieved to create the perfect aggregate needed for the job.

In the construction industry, various types of regular sand are used for different purposes. For example, we use coarse sand that contains limestone or granite for concrete work. We use finely crushed stone that is often described as a fine aggregate sand for mortar mixes and plastering. Fill sand, which is very fine sand, is used as a base for concrete or to backfill trenches.

The sources of sand used in the construction industry include pit sand that is excavated and river sand, which is found near river banks and streams. The latter is ideal for concrete, masonry, and plaster work. Because river sand tends to have a high silica content, it can be a good choice for jointing paving.

Beach sand, while natural, is not regular sand in the context of construction work. It is very soft and fine, and also contains salt which is not a good idea for building work.

Similarities of Polymeric Sand and Regular Sand

The similarities between polymeric and regular sand are simply that they are both types of sand used in the construction industry. Furthermore, both may be used for jointing paving. But that’s about where the similarities end.

1. Both Are Types of Sand

Both polymeric and regular sand are types of sand that are used in the construction industry.

2. Both May Be Used for Jointing Paving

Polymeric sand and regular sand may both be used for filling the joints of pavers including bricks, paving stones, and natural stone. Ultimately, they both fill the gaps between the paving units.

Differences Between Polymeric Sand and Regular Sand

The differences between polymeric sand and regular sand are more obvious than their similarities. But the main difference is that regular sand doesn’t bind with the pavers.

1. Manmade vs. Natural

Because polymeric sand is manufactured, it’s easy to say that a primary difference between it and regular sand is manmade vs natural. While partly true, this is not entirely valid. As we’ve already said, natural sand is often processed to make it suitable for construction uses. But it is true that regular sand doesn’t have the same kind of additives that polymeric sand has.

2. Uses for Paving

Regular sand is an acceptable material for filling the joints between pavers. It is also ideal for the base required with any paving installation. Polymeric sand, on the other hand, is specifically formulated as a jointing material. It is not suitable for use as bedding.

3. Aesthetics

Most people will agree that polymeric sand has a cleaner look. It is also available in a variety of colors while regular sand is the color of the sand!

Polymeric sand also inhibits weed growth and prevents insects from getting into the joints.

4. Cost

Regular sand is considerably cheaper than polymeric sand.

Polymeric Sand vs Regular Sand: Which of the Two Should You Use for Pavers?

There are many differences between polymeric and any type of so-called regular sand, as described above. However, you can use either type for paving. That said, many professional paving companies maintain that if you want to achieve an A1 finish, you should opt for polymeric sand, even though the costs will be greater.

First off, polymeric sand is designed to improve the interlocking capabilities of paving bricks, slabs, and stones. As such, when used correctly, it is more durable than regular sand. Keep in mind, however, that polymeric sand is only suitable for filling joints that are 1 inch in size or smaller.

Polymeric sand as a jointing material will usually last up to 10 years. Some manufacturers say it will last up to 15 years. Regular sand is more likely to wash out over time, even if it is mixed with cement.

Polymeric sand is considerably more expensive than most types of regular sand. It is also more difficult to use correctly.

If polymeric sand isn’t installed correctly it can fail. But then again, that will happen with any building material. For example, if you use too much water during installation the sand will wash out of the joints. If you don’t use enough, it won’t set properly.

Summary

Polymeric sand hasn’t been around for much more than two decades, but it has already established itself as a superior material to use for jointing. While it’s definitely more expensive, it binds with pavers and prevents weeds from growing in the joints. It dries more quickly than regular sand applications too.

Even though it’s more expensive and must be installed correctly, polymeric sand offers a professional finish that regular sand cannot offer.

How Does Polymeric Sand Compare with Other Materials?

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