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).


  1. says

    You should feel like a paving pro. Your patio in comparison to our DIY version is in much better shape (read: level). We also have weeds and ant hills. Dang! We enjoy the heck out of the patio anyway. A few ants and weeds never hurt anyone.

  2. says

    After all the talk about sand and cracks, I just about choked on my oatmeal when I read this line, “After that I broke out my hose and misted the entire area…” Nothing starts a Thursday off right than feeling like a third-grader again!

  3. says

    Well, there’s nothing like a little crack sand to chap your butt :o) (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Rest easy, you’re definitely not the only one who has learned his lesson the hard way – it has happened to us more times than I can count. In fact, I would say that lessons learned the hard way are the ones that really stick with ya.

  4. says

    Oh, I know the feeling. When we remodeled our bathroom, we were smart enough to use higher quality materials, but I wish we would have extended the shower tile to the ceiling: I’m blaming is on being pregnant and in a hurry to have a functioning shower again, but we didn’t even think to extend the tile until we remodeled our master bathroom. And the tile isn’t falling apart, so it’s not changing anytime soon. Boo.

  5. says

    All my “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moments have happened with finishing…painting, staining, polyurethane sealing, etc…I always think, “Oh, really?!?! Do I REALLY need to sand it with 3 different grits of sandpaper first? I think 1 quick pass will do, thank you”…and everytime, the paint/stain/poly wins…Maybe next time I’ll learn…

  6. says

    I DIYed the Moooi Random light awhile back, just using crochet thread and water-downed glue and corn starch. It has started to sag a little bit in some places and I am STILL holding my breath until I re-do it. I know I have to. I am just trying to find a better, stronger product to use. I heard good things about Stiffy Fabric Stiffener, but GAH, I am still trying to humble myself and get it done.

    Chris Loves Julia

    • Stella says

      I DIYed that same pendant using fabric stiffener and crochet thread and it worked great. Once it was completely dry I sprayed it with a very thin coat of polyurethane for extra strength. I live in South Florida and wasn’t sure how long it would last with the added humidity factor, but a year later it’s as strong as ever.

  7. Ted says

    Learned lesson the hard way…check.

    A year after we moved into our new house, the builder came back out to repair “nail pops”. In new construction after about a year, some of the nails will push back out slightly as the new wood contracts and shrinks. The builder had a clause that they would come out a year after settlement and repair these once. So, in our master bathroom, we had about two dozen…they hammered the nails back in, then spackled the holes and sanded. Great. So, it was my job to go back and repaint the sanded drywall (normally my wife handles painting for a reason). The builder had also left us one quart samples of the standard builder off-white that they had used throughout the house, one of flat and one of semi-gloss. So me thinks, it’s a bathroom with a shower, high traffic, high humidity, should be semi-gloss, right? And without checking either the walls or with my wife (did I mention she’s the painter and I’m the builder and I normally don’t do paint?) I paint over all of the nail pop patches. Looks great…until the paint dries. Then as soon as there is any light, you can immediately tell that the walls were painted with flat and my patches are nice and shiny semi-gloss. *sigh* And the problem is that you can’t just paint flat over semi-gloss…it doesn’t adhere as well and you get an uneven coating and it wears off faster. You need to sand it down and then repaint. Fast forward 3 more years and we’re still living with the blue painter’s tape “measles” that mark each of the nail pops…and a few weeks ago, I finally got around to cleaning up my mess. I spent a few hours over two days sanding down the semi-gloss…then washing the spots clean, then painting two coats of cheap builder off-white. We thought about painting the whole bathroom, but it’s a huge room and we’re in the middle of some other projects around the house and I just wanted the “measles” gone.

  8. Katharine says

    Yeah… when we first moved in to our first house, and were total DIY newbies, the kitchen floor looked awful, so we just bought some stick-down tiles and slapped ’em right on top of the old floor. That lasted… oh, a few months, before they started peeling up. We ended up tearing everything out and doing a proper ceramic tile job with the right backerboard and correct number of screws and all the stuff that takes forever and costs a lot. But it was worth it. Going the cheapo route is really not a good idea when it comes to tiling. (If we’d prepped as recommended the first time, and bought higher-quality stick-down tiles, it would have worked better than what we did.)

  9. says

    Oooh, boy. I’m the queen of learning (or not learning?) things the hard way. I touched up my red front door and decided to take the red onto the interior side too, but didn’t bother priming and just figured I’d do 5 coats or something. Oops. Oil-based paint underneath… now I have to sand the whole thing down and start over. So you’re in excellent company. ;)

  10. Stacy says

    I am confused – is it polymetric or polymeric? And will it ever break down and wash away? Regardless, it looks great from here and I am very impressed with the patience with the ziploc bag technique!

    • says

      Sorry it’s polymeric – no T. It’s not supposed to wash away for years (I think the container said just reapply it every 3 years because it’s like cement so it sticks around for a while).


  11. says

    It is so wonderful that you learned and fixed the mistake, it was a great lesson for all. It is also good to know that I am not the only one who messes up “small” home projects only to have to return to them the next weekend. Live and learn, I guess! Thanks for sharing!

  12. says

    who would have thought that the kind of sand would have made a difference? i would have probably done the same thing you guys did – so don’t feel alone :)

    ps – not to get all grammatical on you but john keeps calling it polymeTric sand in the post and it is clearly polymeric sand according to the bucket… just throwin that out there. you can throw it back! :) (unless of course it could be called both… which is highly possible since i was grossly undereducated on the existence of polymeric/polymetric sand before this little paver patio experience)

  13. Amy says

    My husband built a double Adirondack chair about 5-6 years ago. He stained and poly-ed it (even using Marine-grade poly) even though I voted for paint, like another outdoor chair we had.

    Well, we forgot to cover it one winter and the weather destroyed the chair. The previously painted chair? Still looks great after about 7 years.

    So guess what we’re doing this summer? Taking apart the double chair, sanding it and giving it three coats of oil-based exterior paint. D’oh!

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