The Day We Switched Polymeric Sand

Hi everyone, this is Jeff Pozniak writing today’s note about the death of a polymeric sand. For those of you who don’t know, polymeric sand is a coarse, dried sand that has had polymers added to it that when activated with water, harden up and seal off paver joints (the seams between each paver). Polymeric sand was first introduced to the hardscaping industry about a dozen years ago, and we at Stonehenge started using it as soon as it was available in this market. It took the already low-maintenance brick paver patios we were installing down to nearly zero maintenance. The hardened joints resisted weeds, ants couldn’t tear it up to set up their ant cities, storm water couldn’t wash it out. It was a great product.

UPDATE: we literally receive hundreds of emails and calls every single year from across the United States and Canada about polymeric sand.  We’re a small design/build landscape firm and just don’t have the time to answer all of your questions.  So instead, I’ve written a guide to installing and troubleshooting polymeric sand.  You can find more about it on the landscape forum site we run, or you can buy it now.Installing and Troubleshooting Polymeric Sand

We were such early adopters of this new technology that suppliers would have our larger local competitors contact us to get first-hand knowledge of how the sand worked, tricks to its installation, etc.

Time went by, and soon most every brick paver installer was using polymeric sand (as they should), and there grew to be competitors in the poly sand marketplace, a marketplace that used to be populated by only one company: TechniSeal.

If you’ve been grocery shopping lately, you can see firsthand what happens when an old, established business starts trying to fend off competitors and expand their shrinking market share. Take Oreo cookies, for example. Times were that you went to the store and bought Oreos. As in, the ONE kind of Oreo cookie you could call Oreo. After awhile, they diversified and added “Double Stuff” to the product mix, and that’s how Oreo stood, likely for decades. If you go to the cookie aisle now? You can get Double Stuff. You can get Oreos with a vanilla cookie on one side, chocolate on the other. You can get mint filling. Pink (strawberry?) filling. Chocolate filling. You can get their new Triple-Double; a chocolate and a white filling in between three chocolate cookies.

TechniSeal must have taken pages from Oreo’s playbook, because once there began to be competitors to their once near-monopoly? Eating into their market share? They started changing things. They would say the change was for the better, in every seminar and trade show where a rep would appear.

Until a few years ago, I never noticed a difference. The changes must have been subtle at first but grew more pronounced over time – their big “improvement”? Like Envirobond, a “green” competitor to Techniseal, the sand would re-soften when it was re-wetted; the benefit being any cracks that may have occurred in the sand or in movement of pavers would be re-sealed by this state-altering sand. Sounds great, right?

techniseal poly sand washout

Well, a good many of the problems that the original poly sand solved, involving water moving joint sand away from it’s intended spot between your pavers, were now problems again. We had a very patient, understanding client in downtown Appleton that asked us to replace the silica sand between the clay pavers of her front walkways with polymeric sand. We did, in one of our last projects to use TechniSeal brand polymeric sand. There was a very light rain the next day, and the New and Improved polymeric sand with it’s ability to re-soften, left the joints of the walkway and went into the grass and driveway. Apologizing profusely, we returned, cleaned things up and re-applied new sand. Maybe it was a bad batch, after all. A rep had indicated that maybe we weren’t installing it correctly, so we re-watched YouTube videos of the recommended installation methods and did exactly as were told. And again, we had ten years’ experience with this brand of polymeric sand, with never a problem until the last season or two.  These weren’t novices using this sand.

Several iterations later with our Appleton client and we gave up. Each time we applied TechniSeal’s sand, a rain would occur between one and seven days later and wash out parts of the sand. It happened on a much larger scale project too, where rain 72 hours post-installation left the sand joints between the pavers literally swelling, bubbling and gooey.

There’s a benefit to hiring a company that has ties deep within the industry and throughout the country. We’re a small company, but our work and our words are known by thousands of contractors nationwide and by all major manufacturers of hardscape tools and products. How? Through my industry website, Through my work on that site I’ve met many of luminaries of the industry. Had lunch with them. Shared stories.

Why does this matter to you, a prospective client here in little old Appleton or Neenah? When I wrote the article about my experience with TechniSeal’s poly sand, I heard from their competitors. Competitors who were anxious to have me try their brand.  What other company in the Fox Valley could have their words resonate so loudly among manufacturers across the country?

After trying a few brands, I found a brand that works perfectly. Works the way I expect polymer sand to work, and without washouts or client callbacks.

polysweepThe polymeric sand we use is PolySweep by SEK. It performs. It’s consistent and reliable. I’ve had a chance to sit down, face to face with developers of the sand in their Chicago headquarters, walk through their testing facility, and they are as dedicated to a quality product as I am.

I don’t know if you need to grill every landscape contractor about the brand of polymeric sand they use in their paver patios, and make your decision of who to hire based on sand choice alone. But know that at Stonehenge we take every part of the work we do seriously and are always striving to provide you with the best projects possible.