Pool Renovation Basics – Interior Finishes

Plaster is a term sometimes used generically to describe any cementitious interior finish of a swimming pool. The three primary types are basic or marcite plaster, quartz, and pebble. Plasters have two common ingredients - white portland cement and water. The differences come in the other ingredients

  • Plaster uses marble sand
  • Quartz uses quartz sand plus colored quartz pieces in various sizes
  • Pebble uses very small pebbles in a variety of colors

The method in which the products are applied is the same - the ingredients are combined using a truck mounted mixer, once thoroughly mixed it is poured into a hopper connected to a pump with a hose. The combined material is pumped through the hose to a nozzle where pressurized air is introduced. The nozzleman moves around the pool distributing the material which is then troweled smooth by the rest of the plaster crew. The finishing process is another area where the products differ:

    • Plaster is troweled to a smooth finish, filling with water begins on the same day
      • The finish should feel completely smooth
    • Quartz is troweled to a smooth finish, and then one of two processes can be used to remove the top cream layer and expose the colored quartz - wipe with wet sponges or mist with water. The surface is left overnight until an acid wash is performed the following day to remove the milky film left from the exposure process. Filling begins after the acid wash procedure on the second day
      • The finish will have a very fine texture, almost imperceptible
      • A secondary process can also be performed on Quartz finishes - a heavy polishing with specialized machines which exposes more of the quartz pieces. If this process is going to be done, typically a special mixture which includes larger quartz pieces as well as tumbled glass is used. The finished product is extremely smooth with highly visible substrate.
    • Pebble is troweled to a smooth finish, and then the top cream layer is removed using a water misting process to expose the pebbles. The surface is left overnight and an acid wash and light polishing process is performed the following day to remove the milky film left from the exposure process and clean the pebbles
      • The finish will have a slight texture and is designed to mirror a pebble-bottomed stream
      • Filling begins after the acid wash procedure on the second day
      • Pebble surfaces can also be subjected to a heavy polishing to expose the pebbles even further than the acid wash process

Which surface is right for your pool? Contact our Renovation Department to learn more about these surfaces as well as discuss water color, a topic in next month’s newsletter.

Pool Renovation Basics - One at a Time or All at Once?

There are many updates that can be done to a pool during a renovation. These include resurfacing, tile, coping, and deck, adding or updating water or fire features, equipment, and even a sun shelf or a spa. With some of these items, it is best and in some cases required to do at the same time, while others can be done in an additional phase.

To help understand where each of these renovation items fall, it is best to break a renovation into three categories - “Coping In”, “Outside the Coping”, and Equipment.

For the first two categories, coping is defined as the 12” (typical size) band of stone, brick, or concrete on the top of the pool wall which separates the pool from the deck and frames the pool. In some cases, pools will have a cantilever deck, typically concrete, which extends from the pool edge out three (3) feet, more in sitting areas, to provide a single and cohesive appearance around the pool.

“Coping In” category of renovations includes replacement of coping, tile, pool finish, and anything that touches these items, such as adding a sun shelf. When the time comes to resurface a pool, all items in this category should be considered. Tile is one example which should not be done as a stand-alone project. When tile is initially installed during the construction of the pool, the bottom edge of the tile is sealed when the plaster is installed. If tile is replaced without resurfacing the pool, the removal process is more difficult as extreme care must be taken to not damage the pool finish below or the coping above, it is likely the pool will need to be drained to remove debris, and the bottom edge of the tile will now need to be sealed with grout, all of which lead to a more expensive project. During a “Coping In” project, the tile is removed during the surface preparation stage, the new tile is installed prior to the plaster application, and the plaster seals the bottom edge of the tile leaving a clean and finished appearance. All done during a single draining of the pool and without the additional challenges and costs.

The “Outside the coping” category generally refers to the pool deck, whether it be concrete, stone, brick, or wood. Also, items such as outdoor kitchens, fire features, and furniture fall within this category. There are times when coping replacement tries to creep into this category, however here is a reason not to allow that to happen. Coping is installed with a bed of mortar (think permanent) below the stone/brick. When removing coping and the mortar bed, the likelihood of tile being damaged is rather high. Even with great care during the removal process, large tools need to be used and the mortar is likely in contact with the top portion of the tile creating extreme challenges. Add in the rare 90s tile that is likely no longer available, and a few broken tiles later and the project expands to include replacing all the tile. As with the earlier example, the pool will likely need to be drained to clean debris from the pool. Keep coping replacement out of this renovation category and instead, focus on enhancing the out of the pool experience with an outdoor kitchen for entertaining or a firepit for those cold nights, both of which extend the utilization of your outdoor living space beyond the pool season.

Equipment - pool equipment is usually located at the equipment pad, away from the pool with the exception of lights. Therefore, in most cases, equipment can be serviced and even replaced without draining water from the pool. Even lights, if installed correctly can be replaced with water in the pool. If it's time to add some color to your pool with color-changing LED lighting, do it when you are ready, don’t wait until your pool needs a major renovation. Want to control your equipment from your smartphone or even your Apple watch, add or upgrade your pool automation system. Although, these projects can be done while the pool is empty and undergoing renovation, it is not necessary to wait, do it when you are ready!

There are a few projects that may fall into two categories such as adding a spa. Depending on the design of the spa, the pool structure may be modified as part of the design and fall into “Coping In”, while in others the spa can be a totally separate vessel that falls into “Outside the Coping”. Copper water, fire or water/fire combination pots are another project that may straddle these defined categories. Several factors dictate when these projects can be done including whether water and gas lines are currently in place, and does new equipment need to be added to allow proper function.

If you have a renovation project in your head and want to know if it’s possible, contact our renovation department to schedule a meeting to discuss!

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