Polymeric Sand

Should It Be Used as a Joint Filler or Should You Use Sand?

I receive a lot of questions on my website about polymeric sand and travertine pavers, sand in the joints, filling the travertine holes, etc. I had my own opinions, but I am always open to new ideas and the experiences of landscape contractors.

I contacted Chris at the Travertine Group in Florida. I had spoken with him on the phone many times and he sent me samples of his travertine pavers. I felt they were of excellent quality.

I asked him some questions regarding joint fillers. Chris deferred my questions to a mason named Matt from Old World Stone and Garden. He has worked with him for over 10 years. Please read his answers below, as they are quite insightful. (My thoughts are in italics.)

Do you prefer stone dust as a joint filler or polymeric sand?

My thoughts...As a landscape designer, personally, I am getting away from recommending polymeric filler. I have seen it applied where cracks appear. Also, if you had to re-adjust or replace a paver, the joints would be hard and I would imagine the removal would be more difficult.

My own brick patio heaved unbelievably this past, terrible winter in NJ, and I thought "If I had polymeric filler in the joints, what a mess." I have sand in the joints.

Matt Said....

The pavers are cut so you don't have to fill the joints with sand unlike bluestone. Even if there are some small gaps in the patio, the stone won't need to be grouted. If they are laid with a space to accommodate grout(I`ve never done this with travertine) then something that is dry like sand or stone dust can be used.

When a dry grout is used any foot traffic after a rain or moisture will end up tracking the material on the surface of the patio. Again, I don't grout travertine patios because the tolerances are there to eliminate grout and that's one of the pros for using it...especially around pools. ( He is referring to high quality travertine pavers.)

Any dry grout like sand, stone dust or slag won't stay in the pockets and will wash or blow out even as it is applied.

Polymeric sand is a fairly new product and I have not seen any brand that holds up long term. It has some usefulness for pool patios (like pavers, brick or bluestone) but installing it is tricky and repairs are more difficult...also, it will not stand up to frost heaves. (My thoughts exactly!)

Re-grouting is part of owning a patio in frost prone areas...the only way out is to wet set on a slab then grout like a tile floor...but then there is a substantial cost increase for doing it this way. (In addition, cracking is common in these frost prone, freeze/thaw areas.)

What are your thoughts on using either of these joint materials as it relates to any holes that are in some travertine?

My thoughts...I know minimal holes and good quality is the goal, but I often am asked this by people who have lesser quality travertine pavers. If stone dust or sand is used, does it remain gritty since it enters the holes? If polymeric sand is used, this must then get into the holes and harden. How does that hold up?

Matt Said...

(Regarding filling the holes in travertine pavers.) It is useless to use polymeric sand on travertine to fill holes. It may stick for a short time but the holes and pockets have dirt/dust and slag from fabrication in them and unless you clean it out you will not get a good bond.

Polymeric sand is not meant to function like tile grout at all. Holes and pockets are part of the character of travertine pavers. If the stone is dry set and a customer wanted to fill all the holes in the stone then an exterior gradetile grout could be used..this would be incredibly labor intensive since the joints must not be filled...but it would work.

I thank both Chris from the Travertine Group and Matt from Old World Stone for their time and thoughts.

Related Pages

More about Polymeric Sand - my opinions and recommendations

Installing Travertine - simple instructions

Q&A on Travertine - lots of information

Travertine Sealers - find out if you should and what to use

Travertine Types - honed, filled, tumbled, etc.

Travertine Prices - find out what one of my projects cost

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