6 Best Polymeric Sand Alternatives

When choosing the best material for your hardscaping project, you may often be torn between a couple of popular options.

However, suppose you had your mind set on polymeric sand but cannot find it, or you need a proper replacement. In that case, this guide will provide all the necessary information for adequately substituting this material.

While polymeric sand is an extremely convenient, versatile option, you can use a few replacements to get long-lasting, durable, yet aesthetically pleasing results. 

Stay tuned to learn more about the best polymeric sand alternatives and their specific uses.

The best alternatives to polymeric sand

Polymeric sand is a mixture of sand and special additives that harden when activated with water to form a potent binding agent

It is often used between paving stones or bricks in outdoor hardscaping projects to improve stability and prevent weed growth. Polymeric sand can also be used to repair pavement cracks or fill joints in pool decks and patios. 

While traditional sand can wash away with rain or be displaced by foot traffic, polymeric sand stays firmly in place thanks to its hardened state. This helps to ensure long-lasting durability for hardscaping projects. 

However, it is essential to note that polymeric sand should not be used on surfaces subject to vehicle traffic, as the weight of vehicles can cause them to crack or break apart

Overall, polymeric sand is beneficial for hardscaping projects where stability and weed prevention are desired. It is important to carefully follow application instructions and only use them on suitable surfaces for optimal results.

Polymeric sand is an excellent choice if you want a strong and durable hardscaping project with minimal maintenance. Its ability to harden and prevent weed growth makes it a valuable addition to any outdoor design plan. 

As far as the price is concerned, polymeric sand is more expensive than traditional sand, but its long-lasting effects make it a worthwhile investment.

Without further ado, let’s see which products could be considered a suitable replacement for polymeric sand in your future project.

1. Cement

Cement is a good alternative to polymeric sand in projects where vehicle traffic is present. It can also repair cracks and fill joints, although it may not offer the same weed-preventing qualities as polymeric sand. 

Cement can be more labor-intensive to apply and may require professional assistance, but it offers a sturdy and reliable solution for hardscaping projects. 

Cement is mainly used in larger hardscaping projects, such as driveways and walkways. It is not typically suitable for smaller tasks like filling joints in a patio or pool deck. 

Keep in mind that cement is long-lasting and won’t erode over time,  but it cannot be easily removed or adjusted if necessary. 

It is essential to carefully consider the placement and use of cement in hardscaping projects before proceeding with the application.

Overall, both polymeric sand and cement have their benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to carefully consider which option would work best for your project before deciding.

2. Builder’s sand

Builder’s sand, coarse sand or joint sand, is a construction aggregate typically made from natural sources like riverbanks or quarries. It has larger grains than polymeric sand and contains no binding agents.

It is mainly used for filling in joints between pavers or bricks. Unlike polymeric sand, it does not harden or solidify after being watered, making it easier to adjust or replace if necessary.

Overall, builder’s sand can provide the same stability and drainage as polymeric sand while being a cost-effective and eco-conscious choice.

This makes it a good alternative for those looking for a more eco-friendly option, as it does not contain any potentially harmful chemicals. Additionally, builder’s sand is often more affordable and readily available at most home improvement stores.

Due to its larger grain size, builder’s sand may be less prone to washout or erosion in outdoor applications such as paver patios or walkways. 

However, it will require regular maintenance and reapplication compared to the long-lasting effects of polymeric sand.

Overall, builder’s sand can be a good choice for those who want a more natural and cost-effective option for joint stabilization in their paving projects. 

As always, it is essential to consider and weigh your project’s specific needs and preferences before deciding which type of sand to use.

3. Stone dust

Stone dust, also known as stone screenings or quarry dust, is a finely crushed stone byproduct. 

It can be used as a base for paver and natural stone walkways and patios, providing a stable surface to support the stones.

It is mainly used as a replacement for polymeric sand, which is not the most eco-friendly option. Stone dust does not contain chemical binders, making it a more natural and eco-friendly option.

In addition, stone dust provides better drainage and prevents weed growth more effectively than polymeric sand. It can also be used for leveling purposes and filling in uneven ground.

Overall, using stone dust as a substitute for polymeric sand can benefit the environment and your outdoor space.

Unlike polymeric sand, which must be dry before application and cured with water activation, stone dust can be easily applied in wet conditions and does not require any curing time. 

Stone dust is also very affordable and widely available, making it a popular choice among homeowners and contractors. However, it may not always be the best option for paving projects.

Stone dust does not have the durability or strength of polymeric sand. It also tends to wash away more quickly in the rain or when exposed to moisture, causing potential settling issues in your paving stones.

4. Clear-drying adhesive

If you are looking for an alternative to traditional polymeric sand, consider using a clear-drying adhesive. This product securely binds pavers together and allows for natural movement while providing a solid and long-lasting bond.

It is an excellent choice for high-traffic areas or areas with potential exposure to moisture, ensuring that your paving project stays in place for years to come. 

Clear-drying adhesive is often used for commercial projects but is also available for homeowners and DIY enthusiasts.

However, the potential downside of a clear-drying adhesive for paving stones is that it may be harder to find and potentially more expensive than polymeric sand or stone dust. Make sure to research and weigh the pros and cons before deciding on your project.

5. Plain sand

Plain sand, also known as joint or construction sand, is commonly used in landscaping and building projects. It is often used as a base for paving stones, bricks, or other masonry structures to provide stability and support.

While it may not have the added binding agents in polymeric sand, plain sand can still be an effective option for filling joints between pavers. It allows for appropriate drainage and can resist erosion better than polymeric options. 

Additionally, it is typically more cost-effective and does not require specialized installation techniques. Using plain sand instead of polymeric alternatives can result in a more natural appearance and a more straightforward maintenance routine for outdoor surfaces.

The advantages of plain sand are that it is widely available, very affordable, and does not require specialized installation techniques. 

Plain sand allows for appropriate drainage and can resist erosion better than polymeric options, resulting in a more natural appearance and simpler maintenance routine for outdoor surfaces. 

Overall, using plain sand as a replacement for polymeric sand can be a cost-effective and effortless solution for completing landscaping projects.

On the other hand, it does not offer color choices. It is prone to erosion over time and may need to be replenished more frequently. 

It is also not recommended for use in areas with heavy vehicular traffic, as the lack of binding agents can cause it to shift and become unstable. In these cases, polymeric sand may be a better option.

6. Joint stabilizing sealer

Yet another popular substitute for polymeric sand is a joint stabilizing sealer. This product, applied with a brush or sprayer, fills in the gaps between pavers and hardens to prevent weeds and insect infestations. It also helps to inhibit sand erosion and stabilize the surface overall.

Some pros of using a joint stabilizing sealer include its ease of application, long-lasting effects, and resistance to extreme weather conditions. 

Joint stabilizing sealer is also used for regular maintenance, as it can be applied over time to refresh the stabilizing effects. 

However, it is essential to note that this alternative may darken or change the appearance of the pavers, so it is best suited for more natural-looking surfaces rather than brightly colored or patterned designs.

Overall, the joint stabilizing sealer may not provide the same strength and durability as polymeric sand, but it can still be a viable option for those looking for an alternative. It is also typically less expensive and easier to apply.

Since this alternative can darken the appearance of light-colored pavers, it may require more frequent reapplication compared to polymeric sand in the long run.  

Ultimately, deciding which product to use should be based on personal preference and consideration of project needs.

How to choose a polymeric sand alternative

When choosing the best polymeric sand alternative for your project, the main factor is durability, as polymeric sand sets high expectations.

Cement is undoubtedly the most long-lasting alternative, but remember that it can be challenging to apply.

Builder’s sand and stone dust are both eco-friendly, widely available, and affordable options that are also beginner friendly.

Clear-drying adhesive and joint stabilizing sealer can be suitable replacements, especially if you want a more natural-looking substitute, but they must be reapplied regularly.

Finally, we could say that plain sand is the most convenient alternative to polymeric sand as it is easy to work with, affordable, and highly versatile. 

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