Paving stone installation standards set by the industry have improved dramatically, especially over the last 10 years or so. One of the major components to the improvement is because of the advancement in polymeric joint sand abilities and varieties.
Years ago, polymeric joint sand was more of a niche feature, still with it’s kinks, and to a customer with a more strict budget, often not an option. Instead, play-box sand, concrete sand or limestone dust were used as a filler for the joints in paving stones. While they served the purpose of filling the joints, these options were temporary at best as they’re prone to being washed out through rain and wind, as well as insect penetration. As the material would leave the joints, it allowed dirt to take it’s place, which in turn would eventually allow for weeds to spring up, push the stones apart with their root growth and ultimately lead to a terrible looking surface that required unwanted maintenance or repair.
Polymeric sand today has become the only real viable and intelligent option for someone looking to spend their money right the first time. It’s price point has improved, and so has it’s durability. There are various types that are created with the width of joints in mind for the different paving stone styles. The activation of the sand itself has become much easier with less room for error. There are also different colour options so that you can match your stone colour, or contrast it if you choose.
As far as the fundamental benefits compared to the previous joint fillers, it’s a no-brainer. You will not see polymeric sand wash away with winds or rain. This is because when you activate the sand by applying the proper amount of water the first time, it quickly hardens up acting more like grout, while maintaining the appearance of regular sand. This hardening gives additional strength throughout the paved area, and still allows for flexibility during freeze/thaw cycles. It’s also makes anthills in the middle of your patio a thing of the past due to the difficulty insects have penetrating the hardened sand. Additionally, because there is little to no loss of the sand over time, weeds become a rare occurrence, and can be quickly disposed of with periodic sweeping of the paved area.
If you’re considering a paving stone feature, I strongly urge you to spend the little bit of extra money and get a polymeric sand. The return on the investment will be absolutely worth it
– Rick Dickerson