Making a splash

Sunday, 09 September, 2012

Making a splash

The interior and exterior surfaces of a pool are the most important element of a swimming pool project from a client's perspective - the finished item that is visible to all and must look right as it can be very difficult and costly to change once in place.

When it's time for your clients to consider their interior and exterior pool surfaces, the good news is there are myriad options available for both. For interiors you could opt for a pebble finish with or without glass bead, oxide grout or oxide-coloured (or dyed) stone, micro pebbles (1mm-3mm) or regular pebbles (3mm-5mm), fibreglass and vinyl liners, Quartzon, paint, full tiling using a glass or ceramic product, or in some cases even the exterior paving inside the pool. For exteriors, there's the choice of a stylish timber deck, paving using natural stone, concrete, brick, tile, polished concrete or concrete in some other form, or even a lovely, lush, green lawn.

Exterior pool surfaces

The trend in paving around pools has been towards larger paving units - 600mm x 900mm, 600mm x 600mm and greater - and to natural products, such as rumbled part-filled travertines, flame-finished basalts, and shot-sawn, light-coloured local and overseas sandstone, basalt, granite, travertine, quartzite, onyx, slate and limestone. Alternatively, the always-popular textured finish of artificial concrete aggregates can look great on contemporary projects.

Paving comes in both natural and applied finishes that can affect the appearance, staining ability, hardiness and slip resistance of the product, and ultimately how the product can be used.

Local sandstone looks more beautiful with age as the colour mellows and the surface wears to a smooth patina. Each piece of travertine from Europe has a distinctive history, with individual lines, colours and markings serving as a reminder that no two are ever the same. Indian sandstones and limestones often contain fossils that add extra interest in the finished product. Unlike comparable man-made products, stone will age like the things around us but never date.

And while all natural stone paving products tend to be self-cleaning and self-bleaching where open to the elements, stone that is denser and heavier such as granite and basalt is more often the most stain-resistant, perfect for use externally around barbecues and entertainment areas.

Travertines and limestones are often lighter in colour and work well but can be potentially slippery if not treated, while coarse-grained products such as Australian sandstones have a great slip resistance for use outside in wet areas such as around a swimming pool.

If selecting hard flooring for a poolside area, ideally look to the style of the home and choose something that is complementary or has already been used elsewhere around the home. The goal of the poolside area is to have it flow on from and fuse seamlessly with the indoor areas of the home.

All paving, natural or artificial, can have natural or applied finishes. When using stone in poolside paved areas use a more textured finish to reduce slippage, so choose acid-wash, Trojanedge, flamed, sandblasted, natural-cut or sawn stone finishes. Finishes such as polished, honed or brushed stone look beautiful, have a more forgiving feel underfoot and definitely have their place, but may be slippery around a swimming pool.

A Total Concept (ATC) believes the hottest colours for this coming summer season in stone paving will be grey shades for Sydney and Queensland and blond shades for Victoria and the west. And when combined with the chic and trendy large-format pieces of 900mm x 900mm, the stone unifies and creates classical synergy throughout a poolside area or outdoor room. The company has been doing a lot with chunky square edges to form shadowlines around swimming pools for a floating effect, creating entertaining and relaxation areas around pools with paving alternatives such as railway sleepers and artificial lawn.


Timber decking can look good on contemporary projects, lasts well, is relatively cost-effective for elevated pools on steep sites, and gives a 'soft' appearance. Be sure to use a reliable hardwood for longevity, or go for pinewood for a 'cheap and cheerful' look. Larger-section timber decking (150mm x 35mm) looks lovely, but remember that all timber requires ongoing maintenance.

It is really important to ensure any timber used as coping or edging into the pool is suitable for the intended use.

Genuine secondhand hardwood railway sleepers are an excellent cost-effective alternative to paving and decking. Laid in the dimensions of the railway sleepers of 2400mm x 2400mm, and then sanded and polished on the upper surface to make sitting areas, they can appeal in tropical 'fusion-style' gardens, but are probably best not incorporated into formal areas.


Concrete is becoming a viable option around the swimming pool. It can be polished to create paving behind pool coping, and then formed and polished to create the coping's 'bullnose'. Alternatively, it can be made as a pre-cast paving unit for coping, poured with oxide and aggregate. Used in this way it is becoming a product offering more than the traditional use as simply a base material.


Lawn is the most cost-effective soft alternative and is aesthetically an excellent option. However, it does have a major drawback because it cannot be used in wet weather and requires constant maintenance. Artificial lawns are more regularly used as soft-fall areas around a pool and have the added benefit of being easily cleaned and kept looking brand-new with bleach and water.

Interior pool surfaces

There have been great developments in interior pool finishes over the past decade, with modern surfaces providing insulation qualities. Some can be applied over sound old finishes, and the development of more stable oxides and dyes has meant that the range of colours has dramatically increased from that previously available.

ATC has been doing a lot with some unusual-coloured micrograin interiors combined with external paving inside swimming pools and spas. It has been successfully used both to fully pave spas and also to pave the wading and step areas of the pools. A lot of imagination has gone into producing a unique high-quality product more cost-efficiently.

Resurfacing the interior of a pool is often the most effective way of getting value for money. Changing the pool's colour has a huge effect on not only the pool and poolside paved area but often the entire garden.

Surfaces such as oxide and dye-coloured pebble finishes have increased in reliability and popularity, and are preferable to some of the older more traditional finishes with high maintenance requirements. If you'd like to rejuvenate your pool, changing from a dull, tired interior to a bright turquoise or aqua can instantly liven up a project.

The trend for interior pool finishes is towards pebble with or without glass bead, oxide grout or oxide-coloured (or dyed) stones, the use of micro-pebbles (1-3mm), or in some cases even the use of exterior paving inside the pool. Quartzon, paint and full tiling using a glass or ceramic product are still very popular.

The current trend in colours for general pool interiors is toward lighter hues such as green, blue and white, simulating the sky, to create a more expansive feel to a project. This may be a reflection of current pool sizes shrinking to make smaller pools and spaces appear bigger, in order to increase the sense of space. Darker colours such as black are more popular on contemporary projects and create great reflections as well as make the pool a feature in itself.

Many products that have been traditionally used for paving around the pool can be used successfully inside the pool. 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.

Fully tiling a swimming pool remains the optimum interior finish. A huge range of colours is available. If installed correctly very little can go wrong with the product, and ongoing maintenance and care are simple. Costs for this product remain high, but cheaper tile imports and different types of tiles can give good cost savings from traditional suppliers.

From a builder's perspective, each component of a swimming pool, including the concrete, steel, excavation, equipment and plumbing, has equal importance to the construction, but it is important to remember that from a client's perspective a pool's interior and exterior surfaces are the finished items that are always visible and what the client remembers. Selecting the finish carefully minimises callback and ongoing maintenance.

Related Articles

How to build rapport in the first 90 seconds

Making a good impression during your first face-to-face encounter is more likely to win you the...

Letter to the Editor RE: 'Multiple pools on one set of equipment'

While in most cases to connect three pools to one pump and filter may not be the best thing to...

Let's be clear

Queensland-based Allan Cockerell has been offering specialist consulting engineering services...

  • All content Copyright © 2020 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd