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Patio Pavers in Denver—Are There Downsides to Using Polymeric Sand?

ProCoat - October 9, 2016

For decades, patio pavers in Denver were installed exclusively using variegated sand intended to “lock” into the joints of the installation. Whether called concrete or “torpedo” sand, this washed and screened sand was the gold standard of joint substrates for patio pavers in Denver.

No matter how suitable to the task, especially for its drainage properties once swept in, torpedo sand developed another legacy—as a habitat for ants, weeds, and for being susceptible to washouts.

patio paver installationAt the turn of the century, the classic torpedo sand finally saw a competitor, so called polymeric sand, which depends upon a polymer dust additive that hardens when wetted. Of course, as with most innovations, polymeric sand was, and remains, a more expensive option compared to torpedo sand. It can be said that the first downside of polymeric sand is its higher cost.

However, if properly installed, polymeric sand does slay the three classical drawbacks of torpedo sand. Most insects and weeds are not capable of penetrating well installed polymeric sand. Also properly activated polymeric products do tend to stay put when not subjected to catastrophic water flows. Most will even hold up to moderate strength power washing. Polymeric sand will cost more, but most end users see lesser maintenance as something worth paying for up front. You’ll never miss those callbacks for dealing with washouts either.

Polymeric sand for patio paversPolymeric sand also saves time. Rather than painstakingly sweeping it in to ensure proper lock in, polymeric sand is vibrated in. It is depending upon the additive as the binder, not the differing particle sizes of traditional torpedo sand being forced into the joint. Ease of installation is never a drawback for either you or the end user. That said, since polymeric sand is not forced into the joint, it is absolutely critical that you get its installation correct the first time. An insufficiently bonded joint will be prone to subsiding with alarming ease.

Finally, you have to be a careful shopper when buying polymeric sand. When you buy plain torpedo sand, sand is all you get. When additives are involved things get proprietary. It’s said that some polymeric sand producers cut corners on the additive by throwing in trace amounts of cement. Of course cement as a sand additive will bind when wet, but it can also stain pavers and/or leave a haze around the joints that mimics efflorescence, creating an ongoing aesthetic problem.

Education of homeowners as well as contractors on what to look for in a polymeric sand and the do’s and don’ts of proper application are critical to the success and longevity of a project. For more information on patio pavers in Denver, contact ProCoat Systems today.

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