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Selecting the Proper Pool Finish or Pool Surface

Pool and spa owners have many reliable and beautiful swimming pool finish options available to them. From the straight forward simplicity of standard white plaster to the rainbow of multi-colored pebble finishes, the choices can be exciting - and also somewhat daunting without reliable information. With so many finish options offered, it is understandable that customers should want to explore the specific benefits and drawbacks inherent in the various surface products.

To help guide you through the process of choosing the best finish for your pool or spa, we'll cover some of the relevant information that you will need to consider in order to make an informed decision.

Perspectives on Finishes

Pool and spa finishes are unique in that they, unlike other masonry products, are constantly submerged in water. This obvious fact means that any pool finish will be exposed to varying water chemistry conditions over time, especially if the pool or spa is not maintained properly.

This constant exposure to pool and spa water, which is treated with a variety of powerful chemicals, creates a dynamic environment where mineral content of the surface and water are constantly interacting. This interaction between water and the surface is unavoidable and in many cases will cause the appearance of the surface to change, either slowly over time, or in some rare instances, far more rapidly.

In many cases these phenomena are purely cosmetic, however, in other more extreme situations, some surfaces will start to deteriorate. The decision you make in the planning stages of the surface installation process will have a significant impact on how well your pool or spa maintains its appearance over time.

Classic White

Standard white plaster is the tried and true pool and spa surface finish. White plaster has been around as long as people have been building swimming pools and it remains a popular choice in spite of the myriad of choices that have come into the market in recent years. Its simple combination of white cement, white marble aggregate and water make for an economical choice that will give you that classic swimming pool look.

Life Expectancy and Warranty: Standard white plaster has a life expectancy of 6-8 years and carries a 2 year warranty.

Strengths: When filled with water, pools and spas surfaced in white plaster create a brilliant, clean, light blue appearance that is very smooth to the touch. A long-time favorite for many customers, it remains the most affordable pool finish product on the market today. Standard white plaster is a reliable product when properly maintained.

Concerns: It's important to know that white plaster is susceptible to all water conditions especially from attacks of improperly maintained or fluctuating chemical conditions. Therefore, it is only reasonable to expect that during the life of the product, it will change in appearance. These changes may be subtle or minor, perhaps slight shading or scaling, or far more dramatic in the form of pronounced staining, etching, or even cracking, in extreme cases.

When selecting standard white plaster it's critical to be fully aware that it is a relatively "soft" finish compared to other options and one that is more susceptible to the effects of water chemistry than some more durable products.

Diamond–Brite: Colored Ceramic Quartz

A highly innovative addition to the palette of surface options has been the use of special colored ceramic aggregate products. These aggregates are basically a very specialized form of ceramic-coated sand that comes in a variety of pre-mixed plaster products. Our recommended quartz product is Diamond-brite by SGM products.

Life Expectancy and Warranty: Diamond-brite has a life expectancy of 7-9 years and carries a 3 year warranty.

Strengths: When combined with white or colored plaster, aggregates afford a broad range of colors, from vivid blues and reds, to more subtle hues such as beige or soft greens as well. It also has the advantage of creating a much more durable surface than standard plaster, and one that is harder and far more resistant to fluctuating chemical conditions.

Concerns: Surfaces using aggregates are more expensive than standard plaster and can also be susceptible to some surface problems, especially in the presence of extreme water chemistry conditions.

River Rok: Exposed Aggregate

Perhaps the ultimate answer to all pool surface concerns comes in the form of pebble surfaces. Pebble surfaces consist of small, smooth river pebbles embedded throughout the applied product. Over the past decade, pebble surfaces have increased dramatically in popularity and come in a broad range of colors and color combinations. Our recommended exposed aggregate product is River Rok by SGM products.

Life Expectancy and Warranty: River Rok has a life expectancy of 8-10 years and carries a 5 year warranty.

Strengths: Pebble surfaces are beautiful, extremely natural in appearance, come in a wide range of colors and they are the most durable surface available. Because the stone material that comprises river pebbles is “chemically inert", it is unlikely to react with swimming pool or spa water and is therefore less impervious to attack or alterations in appearance.

Concerns: Because the surface is comprised of pebbles, it is slightly more textured than the surfaces described above. Exposed aggregate surfaces are, again, more costly and under the most extreme chemical conditions, even pebble surfaces can suffer damage.

The Choice is Yours

Any of the products and surface options listed here can provide years of reliable performance and dazzling beauty in a well-made and well-maintained pool or spa. The key to enjoying that success, and avoiding unexpected frustration, is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, and to make an educated decision.

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