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Do I Even Need Sand Beneath My Pavers?
The short answer to this question is: Yes. You shouldn’t install a patio, driveway, walkway or other hardscape using pavers without polymeric sand. Adding sand creates a base that helps keep your pavers stable and in place.
What happens if you don’t add sand to the paver installation? Well, over time, the pavers will start to sink and shift. This makes the surface area appear messy and uneven. The sand helps to:
- Keep the pavers where they belong
- Prevent the pavers from breaking or chipping
- Stop the pavers from moving around and causing someone to trip over them
Polymeric sand is an effective product for installing a walkway, pathway, deck, patio or other hardscape that’s stable and firmly “planted” in the ground. Yes, there are other ways to do it. But this is the way professionals get the job done.
How Many Inches Of Sand Do I Need For Pavers?
The correct amount of sand to use when installing pavers is less than one inch. It’s important to use just the right amount of sand for creating the patio’s base. Ensure that the surface is smooth and flawless when the project is complete.
What Happens When You Use More Than One Inch of Sand Under Pavers?
These are issues you can cause if the layer of sand under your pavers is too thick:
- The joints in between the pavers may not be even
- Waves may begin to form throughout the patio before the installation is even complete
- As you press the pavers down into the sand, the area may end up misaligned, giving your patio a sloppy look
Benefits of Using Only One Inch of Sand Under Pavers
These are just some of the advantages to using no more than one inch of sand when installing pavers:
Keeps Pavers from Sinking
Adding a 1-inch layer of polymeric sand helps the pavers stay firmly in place after sinking a bit during the settling process. When compacting the pavers in place using a mallet or plate compactor, a 2-inch or more layer of sand will cause the bricks to sink unevenly as they settle.
Stops Pavers from Unlocking
When the sand is too thick, the pavers may fail to lock in place due to the uneven surface causing burrows and peaks. As the plate compactor does its thing, or you pound on them with a mallet, the pavers go deeper into the sand. This causes excess sand to creep outside the edges onto the pavers themselves. Some of it may even slowly begin to fill in the joints between the bricks.
This causes the pavers to unlock from where you installed them and carelessly sit on the surface of the sand. Even if you install paver edge restraints, the excess sand will wear down, causing the pavers to misalign or chip over time.
Creates a Flat Surface
Using just one inch of sand to fill the joints between the pavers creates a continuous, flat surface. When it’s too thick, the surface won’t be unified, creating uneven joints. The sand will erode away over time, causing them to bump into each other and chip. A one-inch layer of sand adds just the right amount of cushioning in between the pavers.
A Trick to Pouring Paver Sand Correctly
Even though you’ve chosen to do a DIY paver installation project, you still want your hardscape to look professionally installed. One way to do this is to use 1-inch-diameter PVC piping or electrical conduit to create a 1-inch bed of sand.
Here are the steps to using this method:
- Position two pipes parallel to each other with the dug out (excavated) area
- Use the tubes to help you determine the height of the sand depth as you spread the material
- Remove the tubes and from the area and fill in where they were with sand
- Lay your pavers
What Are the Best Materials to Use to Install Your Paver Base?
Not sure which material you should use for your paver base? Well, you want a stable, firm foundation for the concrete bed liners so they remain where you place them for the long haul. These are some of the base materials commonly used:
- Compacted Soil – This is not necessarily a long-term solution. Using this method increases the chances of the stones sinking or shifting unless the soil is grass-free, weed-free and compacted correctly. Therefore, a compacted soil base will probably only last you one season.
- Crushed Stone – This is an excellent option for patios, decks and other hardscapes that will get lots of wear and tear. For the best results, make sure you use crushed stone specifically designed for installing pavers.
- Stone Dust – Although many DIY paver installers tend to use this method, professionals warn against it. Because of its fine texture, it’s really hard to properly compact sand dust. This leads to sinking and shifting over time.
- Polymeric Sand – Another reason sand is such a choice material for a paver base is that water easily seeps through it. Using polymeric sand as your base is helpful in areas where water tends to build up.
Using Recycled Concrete Aggregate for Your Patio Base
Also known as RCA, recycled concrete aggregate is an effective alternative to using crushed stone or other paver base materials. It is taken from the ground as a virgin aggregate before the manufacture breaks it into pieces and puts it on the market.
Manufacturers use the RCA process to create gravel by breaking down the concrete in the material instead of mining the aggregate. The mining process requires using an array of heavy equipment and excavation material to dig up the land. Then, the material must be processed before it can be used.
Virgin material requires mining, while recycled aggregate does not, making the latter much less impactful on the environment. The process uses less energy to create the materials because no mining is needed, creating a smaller environmental footprint. This is important because such products aren’t being dumped in landfills.
The Cost of Recycled Concrete Aggregate
When it comes to comparing virgin vs recycled aggregate, the most cost-effective choice is recycled. Why? Well, for one thing, cutting mining out of the material production process means less labor. Cheaper production equals lower prices for consumers.
This means that in most cases, you can get more recycled material than the virgin stuff for a lower price. For example, virgin CA6 is 15% heavier in weight than recycled CA6. Therefore, you get about 15% more in volume per ton used. For consumers, this means lower costs overall.