Frequently Asked Questions
Typically, the busy time for pool remodelers is, you may not be surprised to learn, when pool owners want to use their pools the most. Instead of remodeling during the colder months so the pool is ready for the swim season, most homeowners are either busy with other home improvement projects or take the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude about the pool.
Although most companies don’t discount during the “off-season” because costs don’t change, you will find better scheduling available.
A pool is made up of several components, just like a house. The walls and floor of the pool are what make up the interior surface. Then there is the tile, coping, fittings (i.e, main drain covers, eyeballs and other fittings), lights, plumbing and equipment. There are also several optional components such as mosaics, water features such as sheer descents (waterfalls) and rock rivers, and adding construction to a pool anywhere from a baja reef bench to adding a spa.
So, when a client requests just a new pool surface, the industry refers to that as pool resurfacing or replastering. A complete remodel would usually include, at least, tile and coping.
The price to replaster a pool depends on two main factors; the size of the pool and the type of finish selected. The interior surface of a pool and spa is the part that, typically, wears out the fastest depending on the surface material. Some materials, such as plaster, will last an average of 8 to 10 years while aggregate finishes can last up to about 25 years and come with a more expensive price tag. A typical pool can range from $4,500 up to $12,000 depending. Our average cost is $15,000 to remodel a pool because we perform hundreds of simple replasters all the way to much larger projects at $25,000 and higher.
Rust stains (or spots, as it is commonly called in the industry) are caused by the metal being too near the surface of a pool. To understand this, you must first understand how a pool in constructed. After the hole is dug, a form of the pool shell must be made from rebar and wire. The rebar is bent into the shape of the eventual shell and tied together with wire. Then the pool shell is formed with shotcrete, a concrete product. In the perfect situation, the shotcrete forms a perfect coverage of between 6″ to 12″ thick, depending on where in the pool, where the rebar and wire is buried in the middle of the shell; not close to the surface and not close to the dirt underneath. If the coverage is not adequate, then the rebar and wire may be too close to the surface and begin to rust from coming into contact with pool water. Very few pool surfaces are completely waterproof and therefore, permit slow seepage outside the shell. This is not a problem if the rebar is properly positioned in the shotcrete or gunite (on older pools).
The only way to properly repair a rust spot is to chip into the pool shell around the rust spot, bend the rebar or remove and/or wire into its proper place, spray with Rustoleum or similar product to prevent further rusting and patch. Unfortunately, finding one rust spot does not mean that other spots won’t appear a month or year later. There is no way to tell except for those currently visible with surface staining.
Acid washing an existing pool surface is usually performed to remove or lessen stains. This is a less expensive alternative to replastering the pool. The problem is that acid (which is Muriatic Acid) can shorten the life of plaster finishes. It does not, however, harm a quart or pebble aggregate finish. Depending on the severity of the staining, an acid wash can be performed in-water. In other words, the pool does not need to be drained – the acid is added to the water and will perform a good cleaning. It is very important that the homeowner not swim in the pool until the acid has been neutralized and the chemicals rebalanced.
Acid washing is a necessary step for the application of a new finish of several types; aggregate, glass and Hydrazzo. It is used to clean the surface haze or cement residue off of a newly plastered pool. This is the final step prior to filling the pool with water.
The answer to this question depends on several factors. How long does the pool owner expect to live in the home? How is the pool used? What, ultimately, is the look of the pool the homeowners prefers? Only with this information, can a “best” type of pool finish be determined. That is because “best” doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive or longest last. Best should mean what is best for the client.
For example, if a homeowner plans to sell their home within a few years, “best” may not mean to spend a lot of money on the pool finish looking for 25 years of longevity. Although this may not be the “best” option for the new home buyer, it may be best for the current owner’s budget. If the homeowner plans to be in the home for many years, then a more expensive option can be less expensive, in the long term, since the pool may not need remodeling for the lifetime of home ownership. A secondary consideration is change in style. It may be that the homeowner feels that styles change and will want to remodel the pool down the road for a new look. In that case, he “best” pool finish may not be the longest lasting or most expensive.
How the pool is used may determine how textured a finish is preferred. For example, a larger aggregate size may be a little rough for small children, chaffing feet and hands. A smaller rock may be better or a non-aggregate finish which is typically smoother.
If the pool is not being used by young children or, in general, not a consideration, then the next question would be what the required look of the pool is preferred. Does the homeowner wish a strong, vibrant water color to make the pool pop and become the focal point of the backyard or wish to pool to blend in with the current landscaping because there is already a focal point? Or, perhaps, there is a water feature that is dominant, such as a rock formation, and the pool surface should be secondary.
All of the questions must be considered before recommending the “best” pool finish.
It is difficult to compare in-ground spas(gunite) and above-ground (fiberglass) spas even though the, basically, perform the same function.
There are pros and cons to both.
An in-ground spa becomes a part of the property and will be a consideration when the property is appraised in preparation for sale. An above-ground spa will not, but it also can be transported to a new home, if wished.
An above ground spa, typically, offers more jet action (30 to 70 jets) than an in-ground spa (5 to 15 jets) and more contoured seating. However, it will not match the look of the pool, where an in-ground spa can match all the major elements of a gunite spa including the surface finish, tile and coping. The aboveground spa will look more like what it is – an additional piece of equipment sitting in the back or sideyard.
In above-ground or portable spa will cost, on average, between $2,000 to $12,000 while an in-ground spa starts at around $15,000 although can be more cost effective if added at time of the pool construction. An above-ground spa will cost a little less to run than in-ground, but usually not enough of a difference to merit a strong decision-making factor.
Above-ground spas usually have a cover lifter option that allow one person to place and remove the spa cover. This is not usually an easy option for in-ground spa although there are such products.
In summary, there are several points to consider when making a decision from aesthetics to cost to usage. There is not right answer for everyone.
No. Ceramic tile, which is usually used in kitchens, bathrooms and other interior applications, will slowly disintegrate in a pool due to the water chemistry. Natural stone, manufactured stone and porcelain tiles are used in pools. Porcelain tiles are fired during manufacturing at a much higher heat and longer than ceramic and, therefore, is denser and can withstand the constant contact with pool chemicals.
No and it is not meant to last more than about a couple of years. There is no current pool paint product on the market that lasts very long. This is used as a short-term aesthetic solution when the budget is not available to perform a full replaster. Paint is a quick fix to hide stains or to make a dramatic color change. It will not, however, hide holes or divots in the pool plaster. Unless pool paint is understood thoroughly for its shortcomings, it is a typically not a good investment unless you are willing to repaint on an annual basis.
While paint is much less expensive and can be done by an ambitious DIYer homeowner, it is only a short term solution.
The first step in replastering a pool is preparing the existing surface. This can be done is two ways; chipping or bond coating the old finish. Chipping is exactly what it sounds like; a crew will use jackhammers and other equipment to chip away the existing pool finish, place in wheelbarrows, fill up a dump truck and take to a dump site. Bond coating a pool is a viable alternative to chipping ONLY when the existing finish is not delaminating from the pool shell such as when the pool is in relatively good shape and is being give a new finish due to excessive staining or the homeowner wishes a new look. Bond coating is apply a surface material to the existing finish that is appropriate for a new pool finish to be applied. Pool finishes can’t be applied directly on old finishes because they will not get the adhesion they need to prevent delaminating. The cost is not very different between chipping and bond coating since one method requires more manpower and dump fees while the other adds in material expense. The decision as to which method is used is typically left in the hands of the contractor since the warranty does not change.
Most average sized pools can be prepared in a single day.
Depending on what other work is being performed, determines the length of time it will take to complete the remodel. If the client elects to save existing tile, then the entire job, including a required 3-day start-up to clean the filter, brush the pool interior surface and add and balance the chemicals, will take about 1-1/2 weeks. If new tile is being installed, about 2 weeks.
Plaster is made up of two components; cement and sand (crushed marble). The component that has the least longevity is the sand which is relatively soft. Therefore, a plastered pool will last between 8 to 10 years, on average. This can depend on several of issues such as how much attention is spent keeping the pool chemistry balanced, weather conditions, pool exposure to sunlight and others. The most significant factor is the pool chemistry. A poorly maintained pool will experience a much shorter pool finish life span. While the cost to have a professional maintain a pool (approximately $100 a month), the cost of replastering far outweighs that investment.
When adding dye to pool plasters a certain amount of mottling will occur. This has nothing to do with the application, necessarily; it is the nature of the product and how it is impacted by curing times, how much dye is added and weather onditions during the application. Mottling can range from light to very severe and is not predictable from pool to pool While most finishes mottle, except Hydrazzo, it is far less apparent in a pebble finish.
Quartz is a much harder compound than sand, which is the main ingredient in pool plaster. On the hardness scale, called the MOHS scale, while crushed marble falls at number 3, where you can scratch the surface with a penny, Quartz comes in at number 7, which is hard enough to scratch a glass window and about 1,000 times harder than sand.
Therefore, Quartz lasts about twice as long as plaster, about 15 years on average, and is for the homeowner planning on staying in the home that long or more, is usually a good investment. The longevity doubles, but the cost is only about 50% more.
Yes, larger aggregate (pebbles) finishes are a textured finish. The industry refers to it as textured. This is usually not a problem for adults but can be uncomfortable for young or tender feet and hands until they get used to it. It depends on how the pool is being used, also. A pool where sports are being played or lots of active games, a larger aggregate finish may not be optimal, though it will give the swimmers very good traction.
A smaller aggregate may be a better option where it can provide the strong vibrant colors wishes, good traction, superior longevity and yet be less rough on the skin.
Always consider the potential usage of the pool when making a decision.
Upgrading to a pebble finish offers superior longevity as compared to many other finishes. It also, for the most part, eliminates most of the blotchiness that comes with plaster or quartz finishes when color (other than white) is preferred. When adding dye to pool plasters a certain amount of mottling will occur. This has nothing to do with the application, necessarily; it is the nature of the product and how it is impacted by curing times, how much dye is added and weather conditions during the application.
Quality pebble finishes, such as Pebble Tec, can last 25 years and more. Although you may pay a higher price for this superior finish, if you plan to stay in the home long-term, it pencils out to be a much better investment and will save money.
Pebble Tec products have additives for a more durable and uniform finish.
In addition, Pebble Tec uses naturally tumbled stones. Many competitors machine crush the stones and this leads to sharp edges which can snag bathing suits or cut skin.
Finally, Pebble Tec screens the pebbles three different times in order to produce the most consistent pebble size possible for consistency. If you prefer a smaller pebble, for example, Pebble Tec’s product called Pebble Sheen will be within an acceptable range of size throughout the finish between 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 mm size.
Pool owners are fortunate these days to have so many choices in pool finishes and colors. Adding a finish to a pool has become a designer consideration and, in some cases, can actually be custom-colored to match whatever the client desires. This is far different than not too many years ago.
Let’s take a look at some of the many of the pool finishes available today.
Most pool finishes are applied by hand trowels. Also, the workers must be able to safely walk in a pool while applying the finish and not leave footprints. This is why they wear specially made shoes with, essentially, nails on the bottom – to get better traction. Therefore, there will be unevenness in the application. It is the nature of the product and how it is necessarily applied.
Usually, during daylight hours, this is not very unnoticeable. However, at night pool lights shining across the pool floor highlights minor imperfections. This is usual and customary.
This is why, sometimes, it is recommended to raise pool lights further from the surface if they installed too deep. The optimal level for a pool light is 18″ below the pool surface.
A newly finished pool and spa must typically be filled within 24 hours. If a pool or spa fills too slowly, this can cause what is known in the industry as crazing; small hairline cracks that are especially obvious in a colored pool. (Crazing can also be caused by hot weather, wind or other factors and appear despite filling the pool quickly.) If the pool is large, water pressure is low or the provided hose is partially clogged, these can be causes for slow filling. The homeowner may have to provide a secondary source of water.
Another point to remember is to never, no matter what, stop the water filling a pool at any point except when the level has reached halfway up the tile line. If the water is stopped and started, this may leave a very large and noticeable ring around the pool finish which cannot be removed. Most contracts will clearly state this potential issue and that this mistake will void warranties.
This is called scale which are calcium deposits and can have several causes. Scale is caused by unbalanced water chemistry, high pH, high alkalinity, high calcium hardness and temperature. There are several products on the market to help remove scale.
Approved drain covers can interfere with the proper functioning of several models of pool cleaners due to their high profile. More expensive flat drain covers are available, if you desire. As an alternative, a change in pool cleaner with higher wheel base can help avoid this problem.
Residential pool owners do NOT have to split the main drains in either the pool or spa. Commercial pools are required by law to do this, but not homeowners. The risk, though, is real especially in a spa. A single drain system can be very dangerous to children as well as adults in a spa. A person can be sucked to the drain and held in place to drown or, if seated on the drain, can be disemboweled.
This is much less likely in a pool, since the drains are deeper under water, but it is still possible.
When splitting a drain, either two drains on the floor of the spa or one on the floor and one on the wall, the risk of getting stuck is virtually eliminated. If a person were to get too close to the cover and momentarily be “stuck”, the other drain would simply take over, releasing the person.
Even though it is not law, It is our company policy to split spa drains and as a safety precaution. This is to protect you and your family from potential injury.
Pool and spa lights, once installed, are not designed to be out of water. The gaskets crack and the light will probably no longer function once the pool is refilled with water. That is why we always recommend replacing lights. Although a gasket can be replaced most remodelers will not perform this because there is no way of knowing how long the light may last even after this repair.
Many remodeling companies have struggled with this issue and have tried alternatives to save the existing light, such as placing the light in a water-filled bucket on top of the coping. The problem has been shown that this then becomes a trip hazard and potentially more expensive than simply replacing the light, no to mention to possible bodily harm which may occur.
Rebound is mostly sand instead of the sand/cement mix required to achieve proper pool shell strength. When gunite was shot under high pressure to form the shell of a pool, some material, mostly sand, bounces off the wall. This should be discarded, but some builders used the material to form steps or benches. They then coated the steps or benches with a thin layer of gunite. Over the years, this shell will fall apart making it impossible to replaster. The rebound must be replaced. Typically, there is no way to know if the rebound exists until the finish is removed.
Soft water means low minerals and low calcium in the water. If you have too low of calcium, the water is aggressive. Aggressive water damages pool finishes from the moment the pool is filled.
Those in “hard water” areas of the U.S. know what’s it’s like to have gritty scale from water hardness at the bottom of a swimming pool. So the idea of filling swimming pools and hot tubs with soft water sounds great.
Water described as “hard” usually has a high mineral content—generally calcium and magnesium. As more and more of these minerals dissolve in water, the mineral content levels increase, making the water harder. Excessively hard water can leave a coating of white, gray, or brownish deposits on pool walls and floor.
When pool water is too hard, a chelating agent can be added to render the calcium inactive and make the water “softer”. The agent actually bonds with the calcium ion, keeping it in solution and preventing it from plating out as scale (calcium carbonate).
“[Scale] is a combination of carbonate ions and calcium ions. “Hard” water can have high levels of calcium and magnesium. If these levels are too high, the water becomes saturated and will throw off excess particles (scale) out of solution which then seek to deposit themselves on almost any surface inside the pool. They can be attracted to ladders, lights and deposit themselves as very small crystalline clumps – all over the pool surfaces. Calcium Carbonate scale shows up as a “white-ish,” crystallized rough nodule.” (PoolCenter.com)
Yes, hard water can cause grief—so if you have a home water softener (and especially convenient if you’ve had a soft water exterior hose bib added) soft may seem like the obvious solutions. But hold on…
Soft Water Must be—Harder!
In the home, there are many benefits of soft water—from spot-free dishes to brighter laundry. But in a pool, some calcium hardness is a necessity.
The trouble in filling a swimming pool with softened water is that “soft water” may seek to balance itself by leeching calcium directly from pool walls—causing the pool’s plaster or tile grout to dissolve, corrode and eventually crumble. And anyone who’s had a pool replastered knows that it’s a huge expense.
“If the Calcium Hardness levels are too low, the water is under-saturated…[and] will become aggressive as it attempts to obtain the calcium it needs. Such “soft-water” will actually corrode surfaces inside the pool which contain calcium (like pool plaster) and other minerals to maintain its hardness demand.”
In addition, everything metal in the pool area such as heaters and railings can also gradually corrode from the soft water. This problem can be exacerbated if a pool owner allows the pool’s pH level to plummet and stay low for an extended period of time.
So while swimming in soft water may feel great, the soft water can greatly damage the pool.
Those who have successfully maintained pools with soft water generally increase their water hardness by adding calcium chloride or calcium chloride dehydrate found at pool supply store. Basically, all that wonderful soft water is now harder.
So, what is the right solution? Regular Water Testing is the Key