How to Install Polymeric Sand In Your Pavers

Ever since I first revealed our new backyard to you, over a year ago, I’ve lamented about the one big mistake we made back there. We used regular sand in between our beautiful pavers (color “Greyed Nickel”) and it continued to wash out of the joints every single time it rained.

Our old stuff in between our pavers

We then had our contractor put more sand in, and boom, it would happen again, leaving us with a big mess on our back patio! This past summer, I vowed that I would fix the issue myself. But this time around, I would install polymeric sand instead of regular sand…

What’s Polymeric Sand?

What is polymeric sand?

Unlike regular sand, polymeric sand is a jointing sand that binds together to form a firm surface. You can kinda think of it like grout between tiles. Once it’s installed correctly and cured, it’s durable and tough and won’t wash out. It also prevents weeds from popping up and ants from burrowing, as they can in regular sand. All in all, it’s so much better than using endless amounts of regular sand in between your pavers and maintaining it, year after year. If the polymeric is done correctly, it will look good for years to come!

How to install polymeric sand

Our contractor talked us out of using polymeric sand when we installed our pavers. I wish we would have used it then. This is your tip if you’re installing a new paver patio – you should use polymeric sand right from the start!

Why The Hold-Up?

Using a vibratory plate compactor for the job

As mentioned, I had this project on my to-do list for the entire summer and I kept putting it off. Why? Well, the specific polymeric sand that I chose calls for using a vibratory plate compactor and I had no idea what it was or how to find one. I just kept pushing it off and pushing it off.

Using a vibratory plate compactor

I recently started working with the brand Sunbelt Rentals, a nationwide tool rental company, and I noticed that they rent vibratory plate compactors. That gave me the push to finally move this project to the top of my to-do list.

Getting Rid Of The Old Stuff

Moss growing in between our pavers

Because we kept putting more and more sand in between our pavers, they were full of all kinds of crap. Different colored sands, dirt, mud, and even moss and bugs. The polymeric sand I chose called for at least 1.5 inches of clear space in between the paver joints. So, that meant that I needed to clear out every single paver joint on our 600 square-foot patio. I knew it would be a long and tedious job.

Plan A – Shop Vac

Using a shop vac to clear out the sand in between the paver

I started with a shop vac to suck up all of the sand. I used this little multi-tool to scrape out the old stuff and then sucked it up with the shop vac. I quickly realized that it would take me weeks to get all of the stuff out of there. While it was effective, it was incredibly slow-moving. In an hour, I did about 10 square feet. Not good.

Plan B – Pressure Washer

Using a pressure washer

I pivoted to plan B…using our pressure washer to force the dirt and old sand out of the cracks. This was effective and much faster than the shop vac route, but it was incredibly messy!

I get filthy whenever I’m power washing, but with this project I was specifically shooting the dirt out of the cracks and up into the air. By the end of the day, our fence, siding, trees, bushes, and I were all covered in dirt, grit, and grime.

Our wet and clean pavers

It wasn’t the best solution, but it got the job done in about four hours of work.

Waiting For The Ideal Conditions

Waiting for our pavers to dry out

Once the pavers were cleared out, they were soaking because of all of the water from the power washer. You need your pavers to be super dry when installing the polymeric sand, so I knew that I would need to wait at least a day to finish this project. The only problem? We had two days of rain in the forecast.

So, I not-so-patiently waited for a nice clear day so my pavers could dry out and I could go ahead and install the polymeric sand. Here’s one big thing to note. You need to check the temperature recommendations for your particular polymeric sand. I almost chose a brand that called for the temps to be over 50 degrees for at least a few days and nights after the application. It gets into the 40s here at night during the fall, so that sand wouldn’t have worked for me. For the one I chose, the temperature just has to be over 32 degrees during the installation.

How to Install Polymeric Sand – The Supplies

The items you need to install polymeric sand

Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand when you install polymeric sand in between your pavers.

Clear The Surface

Get your surface really clean before you install polymeric sand

I quickly realized why this project is usually tackled in late spring or summer…the freakin’ leaves. You want your paver surface to be clean and clear before you install the sand, but because it’s fall here in Chicago, the leaves kept on dropping! I used our blower to get them all off the surface, but the little ones got stuck in the paver gaps. For those, I used tweezers to pluck them out before putting the sand down.

Spread Your Sand

How to install polymeric sand

Finally, it was time for the fun part…the sand. I dumped my bag and got to work sweeping it into the joints. I thought this would only take about 15 minutes, but it took about an hour and a half to get the entire patio covered.

Pour your polymeric sand onto the surface

I ended up using five 50 pound bags of this polymeric sand, which I found at a local landscaping supply center.

use a dust pan and brush on the edges

For the edges of the patio, I found it easiest to use a small dustpan and brush to sweep the sand into the cracks. The large broom would push it into the landscaping, so I needed something with a bit more finesse.

Vibrate Your Sand

How to install polymeric sand with a vibratory plate compactor

Now, time for the new-to-me tool. I’m not gonna lie, I was slightly terrified of this tool when I first saw it because it’s big and super heavy. You should have seen Finn and me getting it out of our trunk. Whoa, baby! Essentially, you start it like a lawnmower, and once it’s going it starts vibrating and moving on its own. When it’s off, it’s almost impossible to budge because it’s so heavy. But once it’s on, you can push it and move it around your patio.

How to use a vibratory plate compactor to install polymeric sand

I wore glasses, gloves, and eyewear with this and I wish I would have put a mask on too because it was very dusty. You’ll want to go over the entire patio one to two times in various directions. Essentially, it vibrates the sand into all of the little cracks so it really gets down in there. Not all polymeric sands call for use of this tool, but the brand I used did and I wanted to make sure I did it the right way.

The compactor ended up being easy to use for the project and I was done with it in about 20 minutes. The hardest part? Loading it back into the car!

Sweep Off Excess

Sweep off the excess

Once the sand was vibrated into all of the slots, I swept off the excess and created a little pile that I vacuumed up with the shop vac. You don’t want any sand on the surface of your pavers, because if it gets wet, it will be stuck right there on top. As for the cracks, the sand should be about 1/8 inch below the surface so it never comes in contact with foot traffic.

Activate With Water

Activate it with water

With the sand exactly where I wanted it, I grabbed the hose and set it to the “shower” mode. The polymeric sand that I used recommends showering 30 square feet for 30 seconds, until the water starts to pool and the sand repels it. I did this over our entire patio until it was all wet. I then used our blower to move any puddles of water to the grass so they wouldn’t sit on the surface.

How to install polymeric sand on pavers

Once it’s activated, the surface is “rain safe” in 15 minutes.

Our New Backyard

HOw to install polymeric sand on your backyard patio
Our back patio with our new polymeric sand in our pavers

Lanterns // Solar Lights // DIY Tabletop Fire Bowl // Tiki Torches // String Lights // Outdoor Smart Plug // Battery-Operated Candles // Garage Door Color, Benjamin Moore “Blue Note” // Pavers (color “Greyed Nickel”) // Composite Decking (color “Pecan”) // Black Contemporary Railings // Outdoor Dining Table & Chairs // Umbrella // Umbrella Base // Grill // Outdoor Sonos Speakers // Outdoor Sconces // Lounge Chairs // Side Table // Planters  // Outdoor TV // Chaise // Sectional // Coffee Table // Palm Print Pillows // Striped Pillows // My Favorite Hose // Storage Box

After one day, the product was pretty hard and already looked great. It will take a few weeks for it to fully cure and be super hard and durable, but I already love it!

How to install polymeric sand on your back patio pavers

It was a lot of effort with the prep and renting of the machinery, but I am really happy I tackled this project myself.

Our new polymeric sand in between our backyard stone pavers

I’ll be sure to report back next spring as to how it holds up over the wintertime. Hopefully, it’s still looking beautiful next year!

How’s It Looking One Year Later?

How's the polymeric sand holding up one year later?

I shared a blog post after one year of use. Come see how it’s looking one year later in this blog post!


how to install polymeric sand in your backyard pavers

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.