Sand! The kryptonite to permeable pavement. It settles into the joints of pavers and clogs the whole drainage system. Unfortunately in Minnesota, a lot of sand and salt is used on roads, driveways, and sidewalks when they ice over in the winter. So is that it? Don't install permeable pavers? Winter wins again? The answer is no. Permeable pavement is still a viable option in Northern regions, but certain maintenance procedures are required.
Why Is Sand Bad For Permeable Pavement?
Permeable pavers have small spaces (joints) between each individual block paver that allows water to drain through. These joints are normally filled with mortar or polymeric sand to fill in all of the gaps. Those gaps are essential to the overall function of the pavement. When sand or other debris fills those gaps, it becomes clogged. Water can no longer flow through the spaces and into the subgrade. Click here for more info on How Do Permeable Pavers Work.
What To Do In Winter
The obvious answer is don't use sand on your permeable paver driveway. Just use salt. Sand is used on pavement to add grit for traction for pedestrians and vehicles. Salt however is used to help melt the ice that forms on surfaces. De-icing salt is okay to use on permeable pavers. In theory, permeable surfaces should require less winter maintenance because the melted ice will drain through the open joints rather than refreeze on the surface. Normal salt use and shoveling should do the trick when snow arrives in winter.
Snowplow blades can also pose an issue for block pavers during winter. The blade can catch on the paver edge and cause damage. This is only a threat on driveways since a normal shovel for sidewalks or patios wouldn't create enough force to cause severe damage. This is something to consider when installing a permeable driveway or hiring a snowplow service.
How to Maintain Permeable Pavement
By avoiding large amounts of sand or debris, your permeable paver patio will have a much longer lifespan. However, if sand is swept in or leaves break down into the paver joints, they can become clogged. Occasionally sweeping, leaf blowing, or even vacuuming will help clear out any debris blocking the flow of water. You just want to make sure that you aren't also removing the small rocks between pavers. If those small pebbles eventually become dislodged, you can simply sweep more back in.