When you built your swimming pool, it was probably a dream come true for you and your family. Over the years, however, pools are exposed to chemicals, human contact, and the elements and in time, your pool’s finish will degrade or become damaged. When you notice discoloration, rust stains, peeling paint, flaking or cracks in your gunite or fiberglass, it’s time to resurface your pool.
Your pool finish is the first line of defense against structural damage to your pool shell and as such, care and maintenance of your pool’s finish is of great importance for both the esthetics and overall structural integrity of the pool.
In most cases, refinishing your pool may be the answer to such issues. Refinishing – or resurfacing – is the process in which the walls and floor of your pool are refurbished to breathe new life into and protect your investment. No matter if your original finish was plaster, paint, or gel coating, there will come a time within the life of your pool when these surfaces need to be remodeled.
In the following article we offer you tools to identify when it’s time to refinish your pool, different types of finishes that are available to you, and what the process of refinishing will look like in your backyard.
Why Your Pool Needs to be Resurfaced
As previously mentioned, your pool’s finish is the first line of defense against structural damage to your pool shell. As such, refinishing your pool is definitely a long-term maintenance requirement for most pool owners.
The good news is that refinishing your pool may not need to be done for up to a decade after installing your pool. However, regular use and exposure to chemicals and outdoor elements will eventually break down the original surface of your pool, requiring it to be refinished. Depending on the type of finish it may need to be redone in as few as 5-7 years for cementitious based products such as plaster and pebble finishes
Signs it is Time to Have Your Pool Resurfaced
The telltale signs that your pool needs to be refinished may come on gradually, but you really know it’s time to get the job done when you notice any of the following in your pool:
Plaster Flaking or Peeling
This is known in the pool industry as “spalling”. Over time, a plaster finish in your pool will begin peeling along the steps or the floor. What causes this peeling is when calcium hydroxide begins to dissolve because of low pH in the water or low calcium levels. When this begins to happen, refinishing is the only solution. In other cases, if the subsurface of the plaster was not prepared properly and the plaster does not bond adequately, it may be necessary to remove the plaster completely before a new finish is applied. This can be one of the costliest refinishing repairs.
To properly maintain safe swimming conditions in the pool, many chemicals come into play. The interaction of chemicals such as copper, iron, calcium, and salt are often the culprits when it comes to staining the finish of your plaster or pebble pool. While you can acid wash some less-severe stains to put off the task of refinishing for a while, eventually you will need to resurface your pool, especially if the stains are more severe. Rust-looking stains are a symptom of larger underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Remember how smooth the bottom of your plaster pool was that very first time you stepped in? After some time, that will go away due to chemicals interacting with the finish. This may be caused by improper total dissolved solids (TDS) management, common in plaster or pebble finish pools. When this happens, you will definitely feel like you’re walking on sandpaper, tearing up your feet, and ruining your swim. While there may be temporary fixes to get you through, the only way to get back to that smooth finish is through resurfacing.
Those cracks that look like spider webs when you look closely are known as craze cracks. They may also look like a cracked eggshell. When cement is extensively hydrated, craze cracks naturally occur. Existing cracks may enlarge as the cement in the plaster expands and contracts with temperature changes. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of these cracks except through refinishing your pool. Craze cracks may also occur in fiberglass pools due to the expansion and contraction of the shell and its interaction with the gelcoat finish.
Delamination and Blistering
Other common problems with fiberglass pools include delamination and blistering. Both occur when the bond between the gelcoat and the pool shell fails allowing water to permeate the gelcoat finish causing delamination and/or blistering.
Common Types of Pool Finishes
Now that you know it’s time to refinish your pool, it’s also time to decide which type of finish is best for your pool and your budget. Some of the most common types of pool finishes are:
Plaster Pool Finishes
Plaster is the most popular finish because it is also the most affordable. With a mixture of water, marble sand or limestone, and white cement, a plaster finish can be dyed to achieve a specific color scheme in your pool.
While it’s classic and simple, plaster pools are very susceptible to chemical changes in your water chemistry and can become rough to the touch. Also, plaster is very popular with algae which means you’ll need to do weekly maintenance to keep the surface clean and algae free. You can expect a plaster finish to last about 5 – 7 years before you start to see signs a refinish may be in your near future.
The popularity of aggregate finishes has surged through the years and they are seen as the next step up in luxury when it comes to pool finishes (e.g. Diamond Brite, Pebble Tec). These finishes are made from mixing cement with materials such as pebbles, glass beads, or quartz. Aggregate finishes also come in two different types: Exposed and polished. An exposed finish will leave the pebbles or beads exposed more giving your surface a rougher texture. A polished finish, however, is polished flat and has a smooth texture.
Aggregate finishes are known for lasting longer than other finishes like plaster with a quartz finish lasting on average 7 – 12 years and pebbles around 10 – 20 years. However, even aggregate finishes will need to be replaced in the future. Depending on your water quality aggregate finishes may also become hazy due to mineralization of the finish. Aggregate finishes will definitely be a bigger expense to resurface compared to plaster.
Paint finishes may be applied to plaster, pebble finishes and fiberglass. In our experience, paint finishes are the cheapest and least durable pool finish, lasting an average two to three seasons.
Fiberglass Gelcoat Finish
Although fiberglass pool finishes are expected to last 25 – 30 years, the best warranties cover finishes for 15 years from blistering only. Improper transport or installation of the pool shell may create craze cracks. In addition, through mineralization of the gelcoat hazing may also occur. To properly refinish a fiberglass pool with gelcoat the compromised layer must be prepared to receive the new finish. Gelcoats are susceptible to changing weather conditions during installation and as such, an optimal finish may be difficult to achieve in the field.
Thermo-polymer coating (ecoFINISH®)
This type of finish has more of an up-front cost than other options but lasts up to twice as long as plaster or pebble finishes. In fact, ecoFINISH comes with a 10-year warranty, meaning the warranty period is longer than the entire lifespan of most other finishes.
ecoFINISH practically eliminates problems you’ll find in other finishes such as staining, shrinking, and cracking, and since it is chemical resistant and pH neutral it won’t counter-balance the chemicals you add to your swimming pool. This translates into lower maintenance costs due to reduced chemical usage.
With ecoFINISH®, you can customize whatever color you want and multiple colors can be utilized or blended for more a custom look. The color will be uniform throughout the pool as compared to masonry finishes.
Because there is no wet cure time with ecoFINISH®, there is no need to immediately fill a pool with water after finishing (and thus no need to pay for trucked-in water). Also, there is no complicated “hot start” process lasting up to six weeks for Cementous colored finishes (as is typical for plaster or pebble finishes). In fact, the entire refinishing process can be completed in only 2-3 days with ecoFINISH®.
One of the best parts about ecoFINISH® is that even if your pool was initially finished with plaster, epoxy, gel, paint, Diamond Brite, or Pebble Tec it can still be refinished with ecoFINISH®.
For information on this option, please contact JDO Pools & Spas, an authorized ecoFINISH® dealer in Virginia or visit the ecoFINISH® website to search for a dealer in your area.