Concrete, Tile, Stone, or Pavers? Which type of decking is the right option for your backyard.
Learn the most common types of pool decking and their differences. However first let’s address the obvious question: What is pool decking?
What is a Pool Deck? What is Backyard Decking?
The pool deck is the deck around the pool which you walk on. Backyard decking or "decking" in general, is the decking you walk on in your backyard or side yard. Wood might be the first material that comes to mind when you hear the word "deck" or "decking", however concrete decking is the most popular material used for pool decking and backyard decking. There are a variety of materials which can be used to create pool decking such as: concrete, tile, stone, pavers, or even artificial turf. There are several factors to consider when deciding which types of decking to include in your projects design, the two biggest being budget and aesthetics. The deck around the pool is a multifunctional space that serves to entertain and inspire tranquility, but also contributes to pool safety and cleanliness. Also being a slip-resistant area with enough space between grass and planters with adequate drainage to reduce the amount of dirt and leaves that may find their way into a pool. The cost for decking is usually based on total square footage of the deck areas, so the size of the area is directly proportional to the cost. As well as different types of decking have different costs per square foot. When beginning the design process its good to start thinking about things like: walkways around the pool & spa, any entertainment areas for table and/or chairs, and side yard walkways.
Concrete decking is poured 3 to 4 inches thick and comes in a variety of colors, finishes, and textures. Unfortunately the main negative characteristic of concrete is that since it is a wet mixed natural material, it may develop cracks as it shrinks and cures during the drying process. No one can guarantee their concrete will not develop cracks, and you should not believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Although when installed by experienced professional craftsmen, we do everything possible to try and avoid and prevent cracking from occurring.
Standard Concrete: Standard light gray poured concrete is the most popular choice of decking. Certain types of architecture like Mid-century modern and contemporary look great with the clean uncomplicated lines and even surface of standard poured & finished concrete. Cost: Typically standard gray concrete is the most economical choice of all the decking options
Integral Color Concrete: Comes in a various shades and colors that you can chose from. The color pigments are thoroughly mixed into the wet concrete mix to provide color through the entire slab. Color concrete provides an elegant aesthetic that can match any design and architecture. Cost: Only a few dollars more per square foot than standard gray concrete.
Stamped Textured Concrete: Stamped concrete is also an option for those who want the bespoke look of stone, but want a less expensive option. Can use integral colored concrete and the texture provides great slip resistant texture when wet. Cost: Only a few dollars more per square foot than integral color concrete.
Pavers are small pieces of material that are not uniform in size, but fit together in a pattern to create a striking looking area. Pavers are made to interlock without grout, this makes them water-permeable and a great choice for pool decking. They come in many different materials, sizes, shapes, patterns, and colors. Pavers can be install with a poured concrete base underneath the pavers (best option for longevity but is expensive due to the added cost of adding the cost of concrete decking plus the cost of pavers). However pavers can be installed with only a sand base underneath (most economical option but may require upkeep due to the occasional paver shifting out of place as the sand & soil underneath them shift/settle due to rain).
Concrete Pavers: Concrete pavers are manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be made to look like stone or brick. The sheer variety of sizes, colors, and textures means that concrete pavers look good with nearly any type of architecture or shape of pool. Cost: If installed with only sand base underneath the pavers, they are a smart choice for buyers who want something with a classier look than poured concrete but whose budget may not allow for the higher cost of natural stone pavers.
Travertine Pavers: Travertine pavers come in many different sizes, patterns, and colors. They are often distinguished by their pitted holes and wavy patterns that resemble those of marble. The different size pavers create unique decorative tiling patterns. Travertine provides a classic look of sophistication & elegance, as well as durability and resistance to many different types of weather. Matches many custom “natural” backyard features like waterfalls, rocks, and/or stone. The material slip resistant and stays cooler to the touch than many other options. No cracks and looks like new for 15-20 years, definitely an investment in longevity. Cost: Travertine pavers are the premium decking option and are usually installed with a concrete base underneath. The cost of the pavers plus the concrete base tends to be too high for most project's budget, although aesthetically the elegant look & longevity they provide is well worth every penny.
Artistic Pavers: Artistic pavers can be manufactured with a variety of looks and finishes such as stone, coral, seashell, and tumbled finishes to mimic the look of many types of natural rock for a fraction of the cost. Besides their pleasing appearance and overall aesthetic versatility, artistic pavers have a huge durability advantage over concrete as they rarely develop cracks. Cost: Artistic pavers are generally more expensive than basic concrete up front, but their durability spreads that extra investment across a longer time period.
Tile: Porcelain, Marble, Stone, Terracotta - tile surfaces that get wet could create a dangerous scenario for anyone who walks near the pool. Some tile is graded for slip resistance and has a non slip coating applied. Can be used in specific areas to provide contrast and accent color and/or pattern. Cost: Expensive option and does require a concrete base to be installed underneath.
Composite Tile: Also known as synthetic tile decking, this is a durable alternative to natural wood designed to endure harsh weather conditions without the maintenance and weathering issues.
There’s many different types of material options for swimming pool decks.
Artificial Turf: If you love the look of green freshly manicured lawn but would like to avoid the mowing, synthetic grass might be the best material for your poolside deck. It adds a nice green color to contrast the blue water and provides a soft place to walk on.
Wood: A classic choice for an in-ground pool with a deck around it, this can be especially stylish depending on the wood type. Even the best wood materials will require seasonal maintenance—sanding, sealing, staining, and a good scrub-down with the power washer at least once or twice per year.
Stone: Like wood, there are lots of stone options depending on your taste, whether it’s sandstone or granite.
Pool Decking Considerations by Yard Type
Before making a decision on which type(s) of decking, its best to take the type of ground your property has into consideration – namely, the type of soil or unique characteristics of your backyard. All backyards are not the same, every property should be reviewed by your builder to obtain accurate clues as to the type of soil, sand, clay, or rocks which lie below the surface. Understanding the unique constraints of the type of land your pool and decking will sit on will help determine the degree of support your pool and decking will need and ensure its stability. This is why you should always consult with a reputable professional pool builder because we have working knowledge of the types of soil and terrain in your area and how to best mitigate any issues that may impact your project.
Peat Soil: due to its ability to hold moisture it may not offer the most supportive foundation for your pool and deck. This can negatively impact the longevity of your pool and cause it to crack or over-settle. Your pool builder should be able to offer solutions to make your yard more pool-friendly if peat is a factor.
Loam Soil: can be more supportive as it may include sand or clay in its composition which can provide better drainage and less shifting. However, you’ll still need an expert to evaluate just how much clay or silt is in your loamy soil. If it’s not properly balanced, it may require some extra TLC in order to support your pool and decking.
Silt Soil: feels smooth and retains water, making it a less-than-optimal starting point for a pool and decking installation. Its moisture-retaining properties cause silt to expand, which can press against a foundation and cause pressure on your pool and/or decking material.
Clay: offers poor drainage and load-bearing capabilities due to its expansive nature. Clay will definitely require some additional planning and knowledge needed during construction to ensure support for a pool and decking.
Sand: If you live in the desert or a coastal area, your backyard may be on the sandy side. This is great news if you’re planning on installing a pool. However, while sand generally offers good drainage, loosely compacted sand may prove problematic in terms of load bearing capabilities.
Gravel: Gravel’s rocky, pebble-like texture provides the best drainage and makes it ideal for installing a pool or decking due to its ability to handle heavy loads.
Rock: While gravel can be a super supportive material for adding a pool, uneven and rocky terrain may require some degree of leveling and excavation to ensure your pool and decking sit on even ground.