All good things must come to an end; nothing lasts forever. Today that sentiment is twofold: we’ve updated our logo and are replacing the sand in our front walkway!
After noticing some weeds starting to take hold in the joints between our pavers and some erosion over the years, it was time for joint replacement with new Polymeric sand.
The bag you see above was left over from when we initially sanded the walkway 11 years ago. We kept it for touchups which we never had to do! It’s incredible that it lasted as long as it did. I’m not sure if that’s the norm, but if you have used Polymeric sand, leave us a comment to let us know what your own experience with longevity has been! Keeping the bag in a tight air-sealed container will help it last (if you don’t keep it air tight it will get clumpy and be unusable).
Don’t Do As We Do!
Hubs used the old product and was almost finished the walkway when he ran out of sand! He had to run out in the middle of the job to find a replacement (the one we originally used was discontinued)!
When Hubs got home with the new product, I immediately disliked it – from the dark colour to its performance (more about that later). Hubs had to remove all the sand and start all over again. Don’t you hate when a product you LOVE is no longer available?
What Is Polymeric Sand and What are the Advantages?
If you’re not familiar with polymeric sand and how it is different from regular sand, polymeric sand is a mix of graded sand and a binder that provides a perfect joint between pavers, allowing the joints to resist erosion, weeds and insects. It’s applied dry then hardens after being activated by water.
Polymeric sand increases the durability of the entire surface of the interlocking pavers. It minimizes the opportunity for water to seep through the surface pavers into the crushed stone below which could heave up your hard work. As long as the walkway is properly graded, it will help direct water away from the foundation of the house. It’s a win-win!
Before you Start
Don’t apply polymeric sand if the surface is wet or damp; the binder will activate making it impossible for the sand to flow into the joints.
Wait to begin the job until the weather forecast is clear of rain for at least a day (this will depend on the product you buy so check the instructions)! If it rains when you’re in the middle of resanding the pavers, polymeric sand will harden on the surface and ruin them! The temperature should be above 0 degrees celsius (32 degrees fahrenheit) during the 48-hour drying period.
Put on appropriate safety gear: a mask and goggles will keep fine particles of sand out of your eyes and lungs! This was me getting up close and personal with the pavers 11 years ago. I laid the patio and did the first sanding back then, so it’s only fair that we swapped and Hubs took the lead this time!
You’ll need a scraper, a stiff broom and a few buckets to separate the old sand from the weeds.
Out with the Old and In with the New
The prep work is the most time consuming: you must have a clean, dry surface and joints. Unfortunately with polymeric sand replacement, you can’t just uproot any weeds and top it up. You have to completely remove all the pre-existing sand in the joints and start fresh.
For this step, Hubs had to get down and dirty with a scraper to remove the old sand between the pavers.
Hubs did all the work by hand. Some sites advise using a pressure washer for this step to help blast away at the sand. However, I don’t think that’s a good idea for a few reasons. First, you run the danger of disturbing your base/shifting your pavers. Secondly, you will have to wait a day while the surface dries before you can reapply your new sand. Remember polymeric sand and moisture don’t mix until after it’s in the joints!
Hubs used a leaf blower to ensure all the debris was clear of the joints. We’ve never tried it, but a wet/dry vac might also be useful in removing the sand after scraping – instead of sweeping up by hand. At the edges, you can see that we’re right down to the high performance bedding underlay:
Here is is, ready to re-sand:
How to Apply
Hubs pours sand starting at the upper right side of the walkway. Concentrate the pouring and sweeping in a limited area before moving onto the next (i.e. don’t spread it out over long distances).
Spread the polymeric sand evenly over the joints, using a broom, ensuring the joints are filled completely.
A smaller broom helps get into narrow spaces, like beside our front step.
Hubs transfers sand from the bag into a bucket first so it’s easier to pour small sections. However, if you have a large area – such as a driveway – you’ll probably want to pre-distribute the bags across the surface and pour directly from the bags as you go.
Sweeping the broom across the pavers at a 45 degree angle will ensure the sand gets deep into the joints.
When all the joints were filled, Hubs removed the excess sand from the surface of the pavers – first with a broom. He switched to the larger broom you see below to cover more area.
Our pavers have a textured surface so extra care was taken to ensure no polymeric sand was left on top. That’s why Hubs also uses a hand brush:
The manufacturer recommends using a plate compactor to vibrate the sand down into the joints. We didn’t do this step because the surface of our pavers are textured and we didn’t want to damage them. Our walkway is also very small and we didn’t find skipping this step to really make much of a difference to the endurance of the joints (at least when we initially sanded them). That’s something to discuss with your local retailer when you buy the polymeric sand. Most big box stores rent compactors.
Inspect the pavers to make sure the sand in the crevices is at least 1/8″ below the top of the pavers.
Before wetting the surface, hubs used a leaf blower to get the last visible bit of sand so there was no residue remaining. Keep the blower at a good distance so you don’t empty the joints you just filled! This extra step will prevent product residue from activating with water and permanently hazing the surface of the pavers.
Here is our walkway, ready to wet and set! You’ll notice the sand is darker than the picture immediately above (this is Hubs second – and hopefully last – attempt with the new sand)!
Wetting the Joints
Set the spray nozzle to ‘shower’. Hubs tests it out on the lawn first before starting. Once you start, you can’t stop in the middle; wet the entire project without interruption.
Ensure that the wetting of one section is finished before another section is started. Starting from the bottom of the slope, shower each section for 30 seconds.
Repeat the process on the same section again until the joints are fully saturated. Avoid excess flooding of the surface which could cause unwanted runoff! Move onto the next section and repeat until done.
Hubs brought out the leaf blower once again to blow any excess water off and into the joints. This also helps prevent a possible haze.
This time he started at the top and worked his way toward the bottom to draw water down the natural slope of the walkway.
Check for Saturation
Insert a screwdriver or key into a joint to verify that the water has penetrated at least 1 1/2″ inches deep – much like putting a toothpick into a cake to check for doneness.
Hubs checked this on the perimeter of the walkway where there was plenty of room to get the screwdriver in.
Hubs was satisfied that the water had saturated deeply enough, so he patted the sand back in place.
Technology has improved over the last decade. The product we used this time becomes water resistant after only 90 minutes, whereas previously there couldn’t be rain in the forecast for several days after completion.
The Bottom Line – Do Your Homework When Purchasing Polymeric Sand
Other than becoming water resistant after only 90 minutes, I can’t say I’m impressed with the new product (Techniseal). I think it pales in comparison to the original Unilock brand we used with respect to colour and durability. Next time we’re in the market for Polymeric sand, we won’t likely use Techniseal again – we’ll plan ahead and do our homework this time. Although we prepped it correctly, the following year (this year) we’ve noticed ant hills which was never a problem with the Unilock product.
Watch the Video
If you’ve never seen a man dance with a broom, you’re in for a treat! Watch as Hub re-sands the walkway! Follow us on YouTube for upcoming home and garden DIYs.
Purchase a product recommended by the manufacturer of your walkway pavers. In all honesty, I wish we had taken more time to research the product first. It never seems to works out well when you jump into a project spur of the moment!
If your stockyard already carries the product your paver manufacturer recommends, see if you can look at the actual colour before purchasing. Stockyards will have samples of stone you can look at before purchasing, but I’m not sure if that applies to sand too! If it does, take advantage of that to make sure you’re happy with the colour. We weren’t, but again we were in the middle of the job and had to finish!
Our pavers are Unilock. I sent Unilock’s customer service an e-mail a few weeks ago asking for their recommendation for next time. They suggested G2 Supersand. Holy cow; did they add gold dust to the formula? It’s almost $90 on Amazon! Although pricey, the technology is even better than ever: incredibly it claims to be dust free, you don’t need a blower and only one watering! It’s also guaranteed for 15 years with residential use.
Another Do-Over in Our Future?
I have a feeling we’ll be redoing our walkway again sooner rather, so we will definitely consider the SuperSand recommended by Unilock if the price at the stone yard is more reasonable. As great as the technology is, I don’t know if we can justify spending $90! Remember, our original product lasted over 11 years and was dirt cheap. On the bright side, if we do use it next time, you can look forward to a much briefer DIY post given all the great time saving benefits listed on the bag!
Anyway, before you go to the effort of replacing polymeric sand, do your own research and chase after the best product and price for your own application.
If you missed the original post showing you how we transformed our walkway with paving stones, check it out here.