How To Use Polymeric Sand To Block Weeds In Our Paver Patio

Let’s talk about crack sand. You know we love to save a buck wherever we can. Sometimes to a fault. And as any scrimper knows, sometimes it can bite you in the a-dollar-sign-dollar-sign (a$$). Though I’m not sure we ever expected that we’d wish we had splurged on “the fancy sand”…but that was the case after living with our finished patio for a few weeks.

If you recall, we used some leftover paver sand to fill the cracks between the stones instead of spending the $95 that the stoneyard would’ve charged for a delivery of the polymeric stuff (which has some cement-like qualities to help keep it in place and block weeds a little better).

At first the paver sand looked great in those cracks…

… but after a few weeks and (more importantly) a few rains, I grew increasingly unsatisfied with my crack sanding job (yes, I just very maturely resisted the urge to write “the sand in my crack”). It had washed out in a bunch of places, leaving lots of empty gaps and an inconsistent look that I wasn’t happy with.

So, we bit the bullet, swallowed our pride, and bought a bucket of polymeric sand at Lowe’s for about $30. It technically should have only been enough to cover about 1/3rd of the patio, but since the cracks still had some regular sand packed into the bottom of ’em, I knew it’d go further (not only did one bucket do the trick, we still have lots leftover in case we ever need to redo it). So at least we didn’t end up spending the full $95 that we were originally quoted.

Applying the sand was tedious to say the least. Just as the directions suggested, I used a ziploc bag with the tip snipped off to pour the sand directly into the cracks… of which there were lots. Did I mention it was tedious? And yes I channeled Duff from Ace of Cakes the whole time (minus the weird facial hair).

My initial application was way too heavy – which isn’t ideal because once this stuff gets wet it truly is cement-like. So you want to be sure you put the sand only where you want it to stay for the long haul (as in, not on the face of the pavers).

So section-by-section I swept my heavy-handed sand “icing” until it thinned out into something more subtle (the top half of this pic is done, and I hadn’t started on those bottom cracks).

Then in an extra credit bout of nerdiness, after all of the sand was poured and swept, I went over the whole patio with my electric leaf blower on its lowest setting to be sure I got rid of any excess on the surface of the stones. After that I broke out my hose and misted the entire area per the directions (being sure to get everything wet without going overboard and washing things out).

In retrospect I wish I had blown or swept out a smidge more sand before wetting things down so that the “seams” of sand between the pavers were a tiny bit thinner. Guess I’ll add that to my Lessons Learned list. Right under “Use polymeric sand in the first place.” But it’s really not too bad. Kind of charming in that it-looks-like-it’s-been-here-a-while-way (when the seams are free of sand it looks really dorky-new to us, like too-white sneakers on the first day of school).

Even though we did save about $60 in the long run, I do wish we’d “splurged” for it during the initial patio laying process. It would’ve saved me lots of time (it took about three passes to get the paver sand looking good during my first attempt, whereas the polymeric stuff took only one) and in the long run I’m confident that the “fancy stuff” will do a much better job when it comes to blocking weeds, ant hills, and all that other unwanted stuff over the next few years.

Here’s a shot of the pavers that I snapped yesterday, about a month after putting all the new sand down. We figured we should wait to post about it to see how it stood the test of time (and a few crazy thunderstorms). So far it’s holding up as well as the day I did it. And yes, I’m quite relieved about that. I don’t know that I had another sand application in me if this one didn’t pan out.

Has anyone else learned their lesson the hard way? Or can you think of a time where you wish you had just bucked up and done things right the first time? Basically I’m looking for you guys to make me feel less like I’m the only one who makes these kind of mistakes.

Psst- Want to look back on the entire patio process from beginning to end? Here’s the first post (about planning), the second post (about prepping the area), the third post (about unexpected budget breakage), the fourth post (about further prepping the area), the fifth post (about adding the gravel & sand along with the majority of the pavers), and the big we’re finally done post (complete with a bucketload o’ pics).

Comments

  1. says

    The only thing I can think of recently is a really rubbish example… I bought a cheapy recipe book cover for my must-have recipe exercise book, and when it arrived from the internet it was so rubbish that I had to go out and buy a new one anyway (the posher one was barely any extra). The good thing was I now use the cheaper one as a ‘splash guard’ when I’m cooking with the book (I’m a pretty messy cook).
    It’s so hard to know though! Because some cheap things ARE ok. That’s one of the reasons I like buying second hand – things were better made and so you can still get quality for cheap.

  2. Kim says

    If that is your only mistake, you guys did GREAT, even if it was a pain. We have some old brick that was layed in our backyard without anything at all. The bricks are cool, but such a mess all uneven and weedy. Too hot to tackle now, and not looking forward to all the work. Do you think we could use the same process and sand you used with the pavers?

  3. says

    Do you think this would stop weeds from growing in the cracks in my driveway? Or is that a no no because they have to be able to shift during freeze/thaw??

    • says

      Hmm, I’m not sure if it’s made for the cracks in asphalt. Maybe go to Lowe’s and read the container to see what it says? Or ask a pro (or five) there what they think?

      xo,
      s

    • Tia says

      Kate – there is special sealant for driveways. You’ll want to make sure you use the right stuff!

  4. Shannon says

    My husband just built the Parson’s Desk from Ana White’s plans (http://ana-white.com/2011/05/parson-tower-desk). It looks awesome. Well, it looked awesome. We put a coat of primer and then 3 coats of semi-gloss white paint on it. Then we decided to polyurethane it to give it a real gloss. NOT SO AWESOME. Because polyurethane is meant for stain! Rookie mistake! We looked at each other and wondered how we could be so stupid! Sanded it down last night and am going to repaint today. :) Live and learn (the hard way)!

    • says

      Oh man, that totally happened to us a while back. If it helps, we have had great luck with Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Protective Finish in “Clear Gloss” (applied thinly and evenly it shouldn’t yellow like some others do. And we love SafeCoat Acrylacq even better if you can get your mitts on it (it’s low VOC and non-toxic, we got ours at a local green building store).

      xo,
      s

  5. says

    Glad it worked out for you guys! Sometimes boo-boos can be major $$$. $30 and the job is done…I say it’s a bargain!

  6. says

    I have a feeling I am going to I wish I would know about this stuff last fall as we putting in a new sidewalk with pavers. Our problem is the ground will be settling for a couple years below it since we had to dig up the front of our house last summer due to a foundation leak.

    I will keep paver set on my radar.

  7. Brandan WH says

    I didn’t think it looked that bad with the “holes” but I can see how that can get annoying after a while. Great job. I’ll keep these tips in my back pocket as husband and I will be udpating our patio (fingers crossed) before the summer’s over.

  8. says

    Shortcuts never really pay (in the long run). You won’t believe the stories people tell about what the Previous Owners of their historic homes used for “quick and cheap fixes” (paint sticks, duct tape, card board, etc. in the weirdest places).

    Every once in a while I feel like skipping a step in the whole painting trim process but the reminder of what happens when you don’t do it properly is all over the place (that’s why I am painting every piece of trim in our house). So, yeah, it sucks to have to pay more or do another step but in the end you’ll know that you did it and you did it correctly and it.will.last :o) and you won’t have to do it again next year!

    And that’s priceless :o)

  9. Pip says

    Reminds me of when we lifted, shifted and relaid pavers from the back to the front of our place. And relaid again. We were trying to save on traffic rated paving stones for the driveway. Tedious! Polymetric sand looks great btw!

  10. says

    Aw it’s always worth trying out the cheapo option first! Imagine if everytime you did something you went for the pricier version straight away, it would cost a fortune. The money you save trying out cheaper ways more than covers the odd occasion where you have to do something twice.