Pool interiors - it's what's inside that counts

Wednesday, 23 April, 2014

Pool interiors - it's what's inside that counts

Pool builders and consumers are presented with many options when having a pool installed and it is important to recognise that some pool interiors may have significant repercussions on the economic life of the structure.

Fred Gray from Laticrete has been a pool interior professional for more than a decade and advises that “some interiors have a relatively short life span and require renovation sooner than the consumer would like; some are porous and susceptible to chemical attacks or staining and require more attention to water chemistry than normal; some can be easily damaged resulting in costly repairs; or some are just plain hard to look after and require a lot more attention than others”.

Generally the sorts of finishes being offered include epoxy paint, pebblecrete, Beadcretes, polyester coatings, vinyl liners, specialty plasters, natural stones, and ceramic and glass tiles.

Epoxy paint is a pool coating system designed to paint over a worn pool surface. The paint will adhere to concrete, pebblecrete or fibreglass and when fully cured provides a hard, smooth, easy-to-clean surface resistant to chalking, pool water chemicals and salt.

Pebblecrete, a surface used in concrete pools, is a mixture of pebbles and cement that is trowelled on and then either water blasted or acid etched to expose much of the pebbles. Pebblecrete surfaces generally age well but may begin to crack after many years. Repairs made to small cracks will extend the life of the finish.

Beadcrete was first invented in the 1990s by a Sydney pool plasterer looking for an alternative pool interior. Beadcrete contains solid, inert, glass spheres that are locked into carefully graded aggregate matrix by polymer-modified cements. This creates a unique 3-dimensional effect. Beadcrete is applied and finished in a similar way to pebblecrete and is stain resistant, long lasting and low maintenance.

Polyester coatings are a rubber-like substance painted onto the surface of a swimming pool. In some cases a polyester coating is just used to repair a cracked area, but it can be used to resurface the entire internal surface of the pool.

Vinyl liners are large sheets of vinyl that form the internal surface of a pool. They are generally used for above-ground pools, they are affordable, non-porous and can be cut to any shape or size.

Vinyl is most commonly used when renovating existing concrete or fibreglass pools; however, many new pools are built especially for a vinyl interior. These pools are generally built out of concrete, brick or using a prefabricated wall panel.

Vinyl liners are generally custom made to order, so can be installed into any shape, size or brand of pool. Years ago they were cut and welded on-site, but with improvements in technology, more often than not they are manufactured in a factory and delivered on-site in one piece, ready to be fitted over the pool shell. The main benefits of a vinyl liner are its flexibility (making it suitable for use in areas where ground movement can cause leaking) and low maintenance requirements (vinyl is equal to fibreglass in the maintenance department).

Specialty plasters, also known as white coat or marcite, are a mixture of white cement, a high-brightness ground calcium carbonate aggregate, water and a pozzolanic additive. The products are easily applied and produce a high-quality finish.

Ceramic and glass tiles have been the popular choice for high-end pool interior finishing for some time. Today, pool tiles can be manufactured in any colour or print, and while expensive in the initial outlay, will provide a pool owner with a cost-effective and high-end product when considering the life span it will allow the pool.

Many products that have been traditionally used for paving around the pool can be used successfully inside the pool. Natural stones such as sandstones, travertines and granites can all be used for benches, steps and spas, but these products need to be fully and carefully sealed. It is important to check that the selected product can be used for this application.

Since its invention in the 1990s, Beadcrete has been commercialised and sold throughout Australia and numerous other countries from the early 2000s. Beadcrete is manufactured under strict quality controls and under exclusive licence in Australia at the Ingleburn NSW Plant of Designer Concrete Coatings Pty Ltd and exported by Designer Concrete Coatings Pty Ltd throughout the world.

The patent owner of Beadcrete, Peter Carden, says, “Beadcrete is suitable for almost all concrete pools, new pools or pool renovations. Beadcrete has also been used in commercial pools and resorts throughout Australia and the world.”

Beadcrete is the original and innovative concrete swimming pool interior surface incorporating patented technology including clear and coloured glass spheres with polymer modified cements. Beadcrete gives consumers an immense colour choice, is low maintenance and is much smoother than other pool finishes available.

“Beadcrete should be installed by a licensed qualified/insured pool interior applicator,” says Carden. “The preparation of the pool shell/substrate prior to installation is one of the keys to a superior surface finish. As with all pool interiors, the normal regular cleaning and maintenance of the pool water chemistry by the pool owner will ensure a long-life pool interior.

“When selecting your pool interior colour, the key factors should be the owner‘s personal preference along with the shape of the pool and the desired theme or effect they are striving to achieve. Location, preferred waterline tiles, landscaping and shading are important considerations. The colour choice may be influenced by whether the pool is in a bright, sunny area or shaded. If the property is waterfront, the colour of the surrounding water is often requested to be matched in the choice of the pool interior colour. We would suggest, if it is possible, for the new customer to view existing pools in their preferred colours.”

Ian Wilson, national sales manager from Beadcrete, says, “Designer Beadcrete offers significant benefits over standard pebble aggregate pool interior finishes. Its seamless construction more easily satisfies pool hygiene requirements and is more readily compatible with use of standard pool maintenance procedures and equipment. The finish is extremely durable and has very low permeability properties that resist water penetration and therefore migratory paths that hatch algae-growth. The finish texture is superiorly smoother than traditional pebble pool interiors and a value-added benefit of very low risk of skin abrasions and therefore swimmer comfort.”

Steve Conley, from WaterBlade Australia, specialises in ‘Eco pool finish’ - a thermally applied durable polymer surface. The product is manufactured in America and has been purpose designed for swimming pool use.

“The product can be used in concrete and fibreglass pools and is an excellent option for commercial application. The Eco pool finish surface is a very smooth finish and has many benefits over traditional pool surfaces. For example, the surface is completely resilient to chemicals. When the surface has been applied, the pool can be filled the next day or weeks after. The surface can be spot repaired without having to resurface the complete pool,” says Conley. 

“As with any pool surface, application must be done in the correct manner in order for the product to reach its full potential. The Eco pool finish requires no maintenance and offers a 10-year warranty on the finished surface.”

Ceramic Solutions supplies high-quality German made tiles and mosaics in a variety of colours and formats. The tile range includes innovative systems for pool edging and wet decks, varying slip-resistance tiles for different requirements from foyer to the wet barefoot zones, as well as patented HT coating for easy cleaning and improved hygiene.

Kathryn Hay, marketing manager of Ceramic Solutions, suggests, “When selecting a tile supplier, choose a supplier that offers credible warranties for their products and choose tile products that are colour-fast and won’t fade in the sun.  Make sure the supplier understands the different slip ratings and applications eg, slip ratings for beach entry pools; some manufacturers will claim the one floor tile covers all slip rating levels - this isn’t true.”

Choosing a quality interior for a commercial pool will ensure longevity for a facility. Municipal pools are designed with a 50-year life; a high-quality interior will prevent chloride and/or salt ingress entering into concrete, which would otherwise corrode the steel reinforcement and cause structural failure.

Hay advises that commercial pools have interior colour rules and regulations and it is important to check these against Australian Standards and any local laws. “This also applies for slip resistance. The colour of the tile/interior changes shade when underwater - dark colours can often appear black. Ceramic Solutions is always happy to provide samples for testing underwater. It is also important to highlight steps using colour within a pool and use edging tiles when tiling to prevent sharp dangerous corners.”

The water maintenance regime will have a big impact on the pool’s interior surface.  Hay suggests that if you are draining your client’s pool, it is the perfect opportunity to clean the floor and walls of the pool using a tile safe cleaner. It is important to note that the minerals that exist within the water can have an impact on the cleanliness of the pool. For instance, the water used in natural springs has a very heavy mineral content and will create a brown tinge on the pool interior over time.  If the colour scheme within a pool is likely to show mineral colours, then tiles will provide a more manageable cleaning solution than other surfaces. 

Gray, who specialises in pool tile adhesives and grouts, believes, “An impervious ceramic- or glass-tiled swimming pool interior with epoxy grout is arguably the most cost-effective finish over the life of the pool structure - which for me is more than many decades. Achieving a good-looking and functional tiled finish in the pool is not difficult and from my discussions with various pool builders, is becoming even more competitive given the rising costs of other pool interiors. The inert nature of impervious tile and epoxy grout - not reacting with the pool water chemistry - and the ease of maintenance - stain proof and easy-to-clean qualities of these tile interiors - [make grout by far one of the best choices, if not the best], although other sorts of tile are still a more than acceptable product.

“Impervious tile and vitreous tile are the most popular choices for swimming pools around the world because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Glass tile, suitable for submerged installations, is very pleasing in appearance but is typically more expensive and requires a higher degree of installation experience and expertise. Stone is also an excellent option but choosing the right stone is important. While many stone types will not experience significant moisture or thermal expansion, some can be affected by pool chemicals and improper mineral balance in the pool water.

“Installation of tile in swimming pools requires the tile to be fully and solidly bonded to the substrate. Simply put, this means that the tile should have 95-100% adhesive coverage not only to the back of the tile but also to the substrate. In submerged installations, 95-100% coverage is essential to the long-term performance of tile or stone. Thoroughly beat all tile or tile assemblies into place with a beating block to obtain maximum contact of bonding mortar on the back of each tile.

“In an effort to reduce costs, some mosaic tile manufacturers haphazardly use inappropriate glues, such as dilute polyvinyl acetate, to mount tile on backing mesh. These glues interfere with contact and bonding between mosaic tiles and the tile adhesive. When immersed in water, these glues can soften and then swell as they absorb water, leading to loss of adhesion. This may occur within several weeks to several years but the result is almost always the same.”

The Pool Tile Company in Brisbane specialises in the supply of pool-safe tiles for both domestic and commercial swimming pools. Their range includes both ceramic and glass mosaics. 

Sheaulei Tan, marketing and administrative executive from The Pool Tile Company, believes that a glass tile mosaic is the ultimate choice for a pool interior. “The benefit of glass mosaics over traditional ceramic mosaics is the large range of colours and effects that are available. Glass mosaics are available with mother-of-pearl, gold, marble and crystal effects for a dazzling end result. Ceramic mosaics are cheaper to buy and install so this needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a tile. There is a definite trend towards ‘blends’ at the moment, where several different colours are mixed together for visual effect. Whilst fully tiling is not affordable for everyone, a great result can still be achieved by tiling the water line and or steps of the swimming pool.”

A pool structure is designed and constructed to have a life spanning many decades. A quality pool interior should be able to match this. When helping your client select a pool interior for their pool, only recommend products from a reputable company, backed with a substantial warranty.

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