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The best paving sand typically is coarse and durable, creating friction against installed bricks or pavers to prevent them from moving or cracking. This type of sand may be purchased from local home improvement stores, local quarries, or through Internet retailers. It is generally easy to install in new or existing patios and paved surfaces that may require surface repair work.
To construct a patio or walkway, pavers are placed on a base layer of gravel and sand. These layers serve to form a flat base on which to place the pavers so that weight is not unevenly distributed across their surfaces, which can cause them to break or crack. Paving sand is then spread across the surface of the finished area and swept into the exposed joints between each brick. This process is usually followed by tamping, which can be done with a hand or electric tamping machine. The sand should be compacted together as tightly as possible so that pavers do not wiggle or come loose from the complete project.
Polymeric paving sand is designed specifically for use with pavers used for high traffic areas that are surrounded by natural landscaping. This sand is a blend of masonry sand and a polymeric component. The resulting compound may be installed by sweeping into the paver joints and compacted by a tamper. An additional step in which the entire work area is soaked with water is required, however, to activate the polymeric ingredient. Once soaked and allowed to dry, the resulting product becomes hard and impermeable to weathering or insect penetration.
Masonry sand alone generally is not suitable for use as a paving sand. This type of sand consists of very small granules, creating a very fine substance. When used between the joints of pavers it can erode quickly during inclement weather. Insects can also bore into this mixture easily, undermining the interlocking foundation of the patio and gradually weakening the joint supports.
Concrete sand is a less expensive paving sand alternative to the polymeric blend. It is extremely gritty and coarse and may be used in both the base and the joints of the patio or walkway areas. This material is the most commonly used type of sand in most municipal paving jobs, such as streets, sidewalks, and sewer lines. It may be purchased in bulk truck loads, unlike polymeric sand, which must be purchased in individually packaged bags. Concrete sand does not form a hardened surface, between the joints, however, and may need to be replaced after several years due to weathering.