We have been in the outdoor living arena for some 25 years. More than half our lives have been spent creating some of the finest outdoor spaces in Southern California and abroad. I would be remised if at some point we did not talk about the surface or to be exact, the plaster in your swimming pool and spa. So that’s my topic for today.
So you may ask why do we need to water proof the interior of a swimming pool? To start let’s be clear. Concrete is somewhat porous. Even the best applied material will “wick” or leak some water. I wont get into the pourisity of concrete right now but another day we will explore it I’m sure. To continue, Swimming pools / spas will leak without some water proofing applied to their interior. In this article we are going to speak about standard white and colored plaster surfaces. In a following article we will discuss exposed aggregate or commonly “Pebble” surfaces.
Standard plaster has a rich history. Dating back more than a thousand years. Plaster was used much as it is today to retain water in storage vessels and to line the interior of pools and spas used for recreation. In its simplest form the components for plaster are the same now as then, White or grey cement power, Aggregate and Water. With such a bountiful history why would you use anything else? The simplest explanation to describe why is the word “Style”. While standard plaster is stylish in the right setting, we do not live in a standard world. What would your Tuscany inspired outdoor living area look like with a beautiful white pool? I think you can understand my point. A darker pool would seem more authentic to the enviroment. The fact is we live in a wonderfully complicated world where everything you see has options. Approximately 30 years ago swimming pool plaster companies had a renaissance of sorts introducing color to their standard white mixtures. This trend caught on and to this day the colored or dark surface is dominate in the pool and spa industry.
If you have decided to proceed with plaster, your options are tremendous. Especially when we are talking about the aggregate and color used in the mixture. The standard and most affordable aggregate that has wide spread usage is crushed marble. While crushed marble is more afforadable than the rest it does have a drawback. Crushed marble dissolves over time in aggressive water. Which can be a problem is swimming pools and especially spas where it encounters the most amount of heat and chemicals. A better option is to specify that your plaster contractor uses a quartz aggregate. Quartz is diamond like in its hardness which is more resistent to harsh chemicals thus prolonging the surface life of the plaster. Color for plaster surfaces have a broad range as well. Colored pools look beautiful when filled with water, conditioned and properly filter. Colored plaster is commonly called out by articects in their project to give the enviroment a authentic and warm feel. This has lead to many residential projects following the trend. The most affordable color additive is made by “LiquiBlak“. Dont let the name fool you, they do have more than black. Their black dye however is the most commonly used colorant due to a wide range of effects you can acheive with it. With a small amount of black dye added to the plaster matrix, you can acheived all shades of grey in the light and medium pallets. Looking for the true lagoon feel then adding more black colorant will give you that look. When water is added and the reflection of the sky is brought in to factor you get a fanstastic effect that is enjoyed by many who see it. A word of warning here again. Plaster color is also affected by harsh chemicals. Consult your contractor on what should be expected over time. Most of the highend colors are produced by the Pebble Tec company. Pebble Tec has introduced “Pebble Fina” into it’s product line and has been getting some attention. Pebble Fina offers a premixed plaster that is available in 12 different colors and the aggerate is a propirety blend of silicas. To achieve better results, Only “authorized” applicators and builders can sell, promote and install Pebble Tec products. They have taken this step to control the quality of their finishes and warranties. Our company Simplypools and spas have endorsed Pebble Tec for 10 years and we pride ourselves on the ability to sell and market their products. Our we bias…YES. Pebble Tec’s products are researched and back by an established company. In the plaster business this is a rare.
Our belief is steadfast on pool and spa plaster. It’s a beautiful hand troweled surface and should only be installed by true artisans trained and familiar with wet cured surfaces. If you have a stucco contractor that says he can do this work, BEWARE! Swimming pool / spa plaster finishers are a rare breed. Before entering a swimming pool a new prospect will have to spend at least one year on the mixer getting familiar with the components that make up the finished product. It is only then that the foreman will start to introduce the basic fundamentals of finishing plaster with trowels. Apprentices start on the floor of the pool working their way to the walls and then on to the steps. It is only then after mastering these techniques that the apprentice will enter the tight quarters of a spa. Which is the proving ground for great finishers. I must say the best finishers come from areas where the most pools are built or remodeled. California and Arizona have lead this march due to the incredible weather and abundant work. Additionally standards in appearance are much higher in these states. I have had the distinct fortune to work across borders, building and remodeling swimming pools in different countries as far away as the Turks and Cacios islands. These clients tend to be very wealthy and demand only the best. It was standard practice to call in the troops from my home state of California when superior quality was in demand.
The last surfaces too discuss are the Pebble and Beadcrete options which I will write about on my next blog. Look for that soon.