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Polymeric Sand Problems (and How to Fix Them!)

Working on your first paver joint project isn’t easy, especially if you’re installing polymeric sand to the joints.

So getting any help you can from someone who’s made all the common mistakes is a must.

If you’re looking for an easy read but one that covers all subjects related to polymeric sand problems, I’m glad you’re here!

In this article, I’ve listed problems I faced when I DIY-ed a bit of my hardscaping.

After years of watching videos, calling friends, and talking to guys at my local stone and building materials supply shop, I gradually understood what I was doing wrong.

And trust me, there are a few things that can go wrong:

From uneven and unlevel pavers to easily erodable joints that fill with weeds.

Yep, these things can actually be avoided. Stick around to see how!

But let’s start with the basics:

What is polymeric sand?

Polymeric sand is a material used to fill the spaces between natural stones or paver joints.

polymeric sand problems hdr

It’s also called jointing sand, paver sand, or hardscape sand.

Used since the early 2000s, polymeric sand quickly became a preferred option for filling paver joints.

It was a durable product that was easy to use. It could also prevent insect infestations and weed growth.

But the product, whose market is expected to reach $85 million by 2025, does not come without its fair share of problems.

Common Polymeric Sand Problems

  • Poor drainage
  • Uneven pavers
  • Hardened poly sand on pavers
  • Poly sand erosion
  • Moss and weed growth
  • Insects

If you’ve worked with polymeric sand before, then you might have come across at least one of these issues.

While the reasons may be different, the solution is always the same.

Before we get to the solution, let’s understand the reasons behind polymeric sand problems.

Causes of Common Polymeric Sand Problems

scooping sand over new pavers

1. Not Clearing the Residue

That white you see on top of pavers?

That’s a common result of leftover polymeric sand reacting with water. This happens when proper installation procedures aren’t followed.

The problem becomes worse when a sealer is applied on top of the pavers, locking the haze in place.

Once the sealer is applied, there is no other option but to strip it off and reapply after cleaning the poly haze.

Can you seal over polymeric sand?

Yes, you can seal over polymeric sand so long as you allow the sand to dry for 24 hours.

Not cleaning the residue can result in hardened polymeric sand in places where it shouldn’t be.

Removing hardened polymeric sand from your pavers is no joke. It is time-consuming, and I wouldn’t want to work on it any longer than I have to.

But does polymeric sand harden?

Yes, polymeric sand hardens once it is activated and dried.

If your polymeric sand does not harden, it could be because of stagnant water between the joints.

2. Not Keeping the Surface Clean After Installation

grass weed growing in sand between pavers

Improper installation or maintenance are the main reasons why insects, moss, or weeds may be finding their way into your paver joints.

These paver locking sand problems can easily be prevented by doing a thorough installation job and cleaning your paver joints regularly.

3. Filling the Base Layer with Inappropriate Products

Are you filling the base of your paver joints with regular sand and then adding polymeric sand on top?

I was guilty of this!

Unfortunately, this cost-effective method is more disastrous for your pocket.

You will end up wasting all your efforts and have to reapply the poly sand.

The wrong sand isn’t the only reason for an uneven paver.

Here are some other things you need to look out for:

  • Using the wrong tools
  • Using the wrong sand type
  • Not allowing the poly sand to settle

If you don’t apply the right sand, don’t water it enough, or overwater it, these will all lead your poly sand to sit incorrectly, which leads to an uneven paver.

This was a common problem I found when I was working on my DIY project.

The problem is different for everyone, but for me, it was because I hadn’t compacted the sand particles into the joints properly.

Like most other poly sand problems, this one can also be solved by following the procedure carefully.

4. Polymeric Sand Erosion

polymetric sand erosion ex

Erosion of poly sand is also caused by improper installation, but it isn’t due to actually doing anything wrong.

You may have forgotten to consider an important element during installation: the weather forecast.

Rain, humidity, and any type of moisture can quickly erase all of your hard work.

These are some of the most common polymeric sand problems you are likely to encounter.

Now, let’s look at ways to prevent these problems.

How To Fix Common Polymeric Sand Problems

sweeping sand onto paver joints

1. Clear your Space

Remove any debris, dust, or dirt around your workspace that may get in your way and result in an uneven surface.

2. Use the Right Tools

Having all the essential tools within reach can make your task simple.

using rubber mallet to position pavers

Here is a list to help you prepare for a DIY polymeric sand installation:

  • Broom
  • Shovel
  • Hose (and water source)
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Plate compactor
  • Blower

3. Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions Carefully

plolymetric sand instructions

Example of polymetric sand bag instructions from Home Depot

Using the same installation procedure for two different products might be causing errors in your installation.

Every polymeric sand product is different in its make and will have a different installation process.

Every manufacturer has specific, detailed instructions that must be followed to prevent mistakes during installation.

I find looking over the manual or instructions on the bag before getting started is an easy yet effective way to prevent most problems.

You may want to read it before the project begins and keep it within reach throughout the installation.

With time, you will gain a much better understanding of basic tips and tricks on how to apply polymeric sand.

4. Check the Weather Conditions and Moisture Levels

Moisture in the environment can be potentially very damaging to your pavers.

Make sure to check weather forecasts before scheduling a polymeric sand installation project.

The ideal temperature on the day of installation should be 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

The skies should be clear for an hour after installation if you have a drainage base.

If you have a non-drainage base, make sure the forecast has clear skies for 24 hours after installation.

Once you set the schedule, confirm the paver joints are dry before filing them with polymeric sand.

5. Follow the Watering Instructions

hosing down new pavers

So you’ve done everything right, and all that’s left is watering the polymeric sand.

This step doesn’t seem to be too difficult, right? 

But wait…

In my experience, watering polymeric sand is actually the most challenging part.

Even the slightest mistake can throw your efforts off because polymeric sand repels water once it hardens, but is also re-activated with water.

It took me a while to understand the importance of following the instructions that are included on your bags of sand.

Be wise and do the same!

6. Clear the Residue

This needs to be done twice. Once after filling the joints with poly sand but before watering it.

The second time, after the sand has settled. You can use a blower to remove the leftover residue or water.

7. Remove Haze

You can buy a polymeric sand haze removal solution along with your choice of polymeric sand. Products from the same manufacturer will work together well.

Make sure you follow the instructions and dilute the solution correctly.

You can spray the mixed solution on the haze and rinse it off as per instructions.

Polymeric Sand Problems: Unexpected Rain

rain washing away paver sand

Even after getting a clear sky forecast, you may get an unexpected rain.

If the rain washes away your sand, there’s little you can do other than start again.

If the sand didn’t wash away, then there’s hope for your paver joints as long as you leave your polymeric sand to dry for the next 24 hours.

Polymeric sand is made of ingredients such as sand and adhesives.

When you water polymeric sand, the adhesives and sand are activated and bind to the paver joints.

Polymeric sand before and after spraying water changes in texture.

If you do not water the sand well, it can leave crevices between the sand and joints.

If you want a more solid and durable binder, cement is an option to explore.

Are you working on a hardscaping project? Learn some basics from this guide. 


How do you remove polymeric sand from pavers?

If you’ve already sprayed water and have a hardened layer sitting on top of your paver, your next question might be, ‘How to remove polymeric sand from pavers?’

Just heat some water and pour it over the hardened part as you scrub it. Use a nylon brush to do the scrubbing.

Can polymeric sand be reapplied?

It depends.

You can apply polymeric sand over existing polymeric sand, but only after removing an inch of the previous layer.

Make sure to wait a day to allow the cleared joints to dry before applying the new layer.

How long does polymeric sand last?

A good quality polymeric sand product installed correctly can last up to 15 years.

How long will it take for polymeric sand to set?

Polymeric sand will take 24 hours to set.

You can allow pedestrians to move across it after 24 hours and allow vehicles across after 48 hours.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to polymeric sand problems, after much practice, I can say I’ve been there and done that.

The best part is I feel confident on any paver projects (including walkways, pool decks, patios and backyard kitchen areas!).

I hope this guide helps you say the same too!

Let us know how your project turns out after following this guide.

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