Pool Finishes: Which type is right for your project?
All concrete swimming pools & spas require a waterproof pool finish to be applied and there are many options to choose from. Pool finishes are applied on top of the concrete pool/spa structure and this layer is what makes a swimming pool waterproof. The typical standard type of pool finish is White Marcite Plaster. The most popular & our recommendation is the Mini Pebble Pool Finish. When building a new swimming pool & spa or remodeling an existing one, one of the biggest decisions you will need to make is which type of pool finish to choose.
Consider these 3 factors to help decide which type of pool finish is best for your project:
1. Cost & Budget: Does upgrading from White Plaster fit your projects budget?
2. Looks / Appearance: Which type matches your projects esthetics & provides the color of water you prefer?
3. Longevity: Which type of finish lasts the longest? How does it age? How long before it needs to be replaster?
Marcite plaster is a mix of white Portland cement and marble dust. The two components are mixed together with water and bonding additives, sprayed on the prepared surface and troweled smooth. White plaster is the standard option and is the best balance of budget & longevity. White plaster is the most economical choice, followed closely by light gray & colored plaster. Plaster finishes tend to last on average 10-15 years, however plain plaster is softer than some of the other options making it more vulnerable to staining & etching due to the chemicals used to maintain good water chemistry and so plain plaster can start to show age in only 5-7 years.
Colored Pool Plaster: Pigments & dyes can be added in different amounts to produce various shades from light gray to dark black and can also be added to produce various colors and shades of green, blue, and red. The most popular choices being light gray and blue.
The problem with shades of darker gray and colored plaster is that the color will not be uniform. Variations in hue can occur, and it’s very common for darker shades of gray and for colored plaster pools to develop whitish streaks and a haze/marbling look over time. This is completely normal, but we always encourage clients to view some aged color plastered pools before making a decision to go with colored plaster to ensure this is an acceptable look. However on light gray and white plaster this streaking/marbling/haze is not noticeable.
First a marcite plaster base layer is applied, then a thin top layer of aggregate is “exposed”. This top layer is washed to remove & expose the aggregate (tiny colored pebbles and/or beads, stones, abalone shells).
Mini Pebble Pool Finishes: This is perhaps the best upgrade you can make as it adds both longevity and a better look/appearance to your project. Mini Pebble is by far the best size of aggregate. They are washed/tumbled tiny pebbles which are added to color plaster mix. Adding these small pebbles eliminates all the negative qualities that plain color plaster has, such as the issues mentioned above like hazing/streaking & longevity. This aggregate adds an increased elegant look and also changes the perceived color of the water to whatever color you select. (Tahoe Blue & Tropical Blue are most popular choices) The aggregate gives the plaster both increased strength & longevity, as well as resistance to staining due to chemicals & water chemistry. Mini Pebble Pool Finishes last 20-25 years and tend to look new well into 15-20 years of age. Mini Pebble Finishes come in a variety of colors and shades.
Pebble finishes can come in different sizes although any larger sized aggregate options are rougher on feet and any smaller finer sized aggregate will not provide added strength/longevity to the soft plain plaster. Small smooth glass beads can be used as an aggregate instead of pebbles, however the cost for this type of finish does not fit most peoples budget and can often be better utilized somewhere else in your project. Although, both Beads and Abalone Shells can be added to any Mini Pebble Pool Finish to add a shimmery, shinney, reflective look and we would recommend this option instead.
Tile Pool Finish
Tile has been used for thousands of years in baths, fountains, and swimming pools. Tile applied to an entire pool, especially using glass tile, is very expensive and is out of budget for most pool owners. Another option is to just add trim tile on the steps or around a spa, or tile mosaics of mermaids or sea life to a plaster finish. Complete tiled pool & spas are primarily used only on high-end pool or fountain projects, and it can add 50 percent to the cost of pool construction. It adds several weeks to complete, but the results are breathtaking. Small 1 inch tiles are a popular choice as they can bend around curves in the pool wall and floor better than larger tiles. A pool with more square or angular surfaces is easier to tile than one with a lot of floor curves and coves. Tile surfaces are durable and easy to keep clean, although grout is susceptible to staining and can be a home for algae if not kept clean.
When to Replaster
Pool plaster can last many years before the erosive effects of water and chemicals begin the degrade the surface. The surface eventually becomes rough and stains are more difficult to remove. Plaster is the waterproof coating that is spread on top of the concrete, gunite or shotcrete, shell of your pool. It is meant to degrade very slowly, although corrosive water will affect its appearance and surface softness. Plaster is not “structural,” but it is the waterproof layer between the pool water and the shell of the pool. Most plastered pools are made of concrete and concrete is porous and will “weep” water through it. Applying the plaster coating on top keeps the cement beneath, and any reinforcement steel (rebar) protected from the effects of water. Plaster is the waterproofing layer that is important to the integrity of an inground pool structure. When replastering it is important that all the old plaster is removed so that the concrete shell can be inspected and then have new plaster reapplied to protect it fully. Aesthetic reasons to replaster is due to the look and feel of your pool plaster. Acid washing can remove stains, but this can only be done so much. Pool plaster is a natural product, and preventing stains can almost be impossible. I have often been one to suggest a dose of tolerance with regard to pool stains, but some pool owners are very particular about the look of the pool “especially at night, with the lights on,” they say. Over time, any plaster pool will become stained and become rough. When it becomes very rough, the kids end up with “pool toe,” and etched surfaces catch dirt and form a nice home for algae to grow.
If you have any questions regarding your pool finish choices and want an impartial opinion, leave a reply below, or call us at 951-278-2044.
Anthony Durber Bay Water Pool & Spas