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. Kristin says

    Looks good!

    Everyone learns lessons like this. We just tend to forget that, in other cases, everything turned out great at the first try :-) . We just bought a new couch (A “Karl” in the same dark grey as yours, but a far smaller version of it) and had to paint the living room as the old wall colors didn’t go with the sofa. We just learned lots of lessons about where paint can drip on (especially when we painted the vaulted ceiling…) and how hard it is to remove when it is fully dried. And that you should, perhaps, check your floor for paint drips earlier. Haha!

    By the way, I think you added a “t” to your “polymeric” sand throughout your post :-) .

  2. Shanna says

    We used the magic paver lock sand when we did our patio last summer and had to reapply it last fall and then again this spring. What we found out the hard way was if there was any amount of water between the pavers the sand would hang up and then over time and use it would drop down and leave a void. I wish that we would have used just regular sand instead. We have giant pavers edging the whole patio so there is not worry about the edge pavers losing their sand. Oh well, live and learn. Your patio is beautiful. Be sure to keep that bucket of stuff good and dry so you can use it again next spring. ;) It really will turn concrete like if it gets wet, also found that out the hard way.

  3. says

    We have one sore subject in the house and that’s our fireplace mantle.

    We didn’t want to spend $300 on a mantle that actually fit the existing mounting stones, so we went with an $80 one from Lowes. We thought, all we have to do is chisel the mounting stones to be about an inch smaller and it’ll slide on like butter. Seemed like a perfect plan! Until… we chiseled and the mounting stones completely cracked and FELL OFF. :(

    Almost 3 years later and we still can’t get the mantle mounted without the stones. We’ve spent maybe $150 on different screws and glues, you name it, we’ve tried it! Wish we would have just coughed up the $300 for the right mantle!

  4. says

    I’m almost finished remodeling our basement and I’ve had to do just about everything twice, including framing walls, installing doors, and even painting. Luckily I had an expert do the rough-in plumbing. I’ve even had to go through the permit process twice, thinking I could get by with just a plumbing permit originally. Next time I remodel a basement (which will be, um, NEVER) I’m sure it will be easier.

  5. says

    We totally feel your pain on this one John. After spending countless hours stripping old paint and replastering cracked walls, we selected a less expensive brand of paint in a flat finish for our intricate harlequin paint treatment in our downstairs hallway. (Seen in the link below.)

    http://www.oldtownhome.com/2011/6/10/How-To-Create-a-Harlequin-Paint-Treatment-Diamonds-are-a-Girls-Best-Friend/index.aspx

    Over time the walls have incurred some scuff marks, and the cheap paint won’t wipe clean. To make matters worse, the touch ups we’ve done don’t match the original color because it’s faded substantially. I kick myself almost daily for not sucking it up and spending a little extra to get a paint that would have held up better over time.

  6. Ana Silva says

    Trust me, I have made several of those mistakes in my DIY/ home improvement days. I have learned a little bit but I think it is always bound to happen. One thing I have learned to not skimp on is big house projects like who refinishes your floor for example.

  7. Rebekah says

    I read and re-read, is it polymeric or polymetric? I know I am a DIY’er but I don’t want to sound like one when I go asking for this at the store :)

  8. says

    This project leaves me forever impressed by your tenacious attitude towards DIY, and makes me dream of the day my neighbour finds your blog, sees this demo and pulls is finger out for the first time in 10yrs and decides to do something about the disaster that is his (annoyingly I have to share it but can’t touch it) driveway…….phew, good job John, as always!

  9. says

    What a bummer! And that title reminds me of this funny thing my cousin says whenever anyone is bending over and they have a plumber butt going on, “crack kills!”

  10. Alana says

    My husband and I learned from the previous owners’ shortcuts and mistakes on their own DIY projects. Now that are house is over 20 years old and things need up dating, we run into the previous owners’ short cuts all the time. (i.e. cutting a hole in the drywall under the stairs and leaving a support stud cut in half and “unsupported”) we took several trips to Home Depot to fix that one ourselves. I’ve never seen so many “wing it” jobs in one house.

  11. Kevin M says

    I did the same thing after adding to our small patio last year. I need to go back over it like you did – thanks for the tips!

  12. Tracey says

    I’m hating myself right now for a.) being so anal-retentive as to edit your post and b.) for actually pointing this out, but it’s “polymeric” not “polymetric” sand. Just wanted to give a heads up in case someone goes to Lowe’s asking for it and the employee is like, “huh?” I’ve totally had that happen before where you’re like, SO close to the correct word, but they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. Sometimes I think they do that just to make you feel like an idiot… Heh.

    The patio looks amazing!!! I’m totally jels! We have an old wonky one covered in moss that’s not remotely level and no $$ to fix it. For now, I’m living vicariously on yours… ;D

    • says

      Tracey, don’t hate yourself. I was hoping someone else would point it out, because I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up. :)

      Isn’t it funny how the addition of one letter makes the word seem like it means “lots of meters” rather than “like a polymer”?

  13. says

    I feel your pain John. I refinished 1200 sq ft of hardwood flooring (meaning *I* sanded, stained, and polyed) and the poly didn’t cure right in two of the rooms. Which means I’m doing the whole dang project over again. I could just leave it but I’m not that person. It has to be done over so it’s done right. /sigh

  14. Amanda says

    We’re halfway finished with our paver project-the pool and other fun summer adventures keep getting in our way. But, I’m excited to be learning from your process and now very happy that we went with the polymeric sand from the beginning. Though I have been a little anxious that it was going to get rained on and turn into a big hard rock (ours is in a bag).

    By the way, it’s polymeric sand right? Not polymetric? Just thought I’d check for all of other folks like me who’d read your post and freak out at Lowes because they only had polymeric sand and no polymetric :)