The interior surface is a swimming pool’s largest and most important aesthetic feature. Surfaces are responsible for the pool’s appearance and also for bather comfort. A “healthy” surface will give you years of visual enjoyment and tactile pleasure when you’re in the water, and on top of that, it helps the pool remain watertight.
Whether it’s an exposed aggregate surface, white or colored plaster or even tile, we ask a lot of the material that lines our pools. Pool surfaces are made to withstand the rigors of constant exposure to water, the universal solvent, and the wear and tear that comes with use. That’s a big part of why water’s mineral balance and proper sanitation are so important, as well as routine cleaning.
A well-maintained pool will extend the life of the surface while improper maintenance can dramatically shorten it. There are a number of problems that can afflict a surface, especially plaster. Common issues include metal staining, calcium scale, etching, mottling, and algae.
Ironically, in a plastered pool, by far the most common surface material, the chemical compound that makes the surface both smooth and beautiful, is also the most susceptible to chemical degradation. It’s called calcium hydroxide, which forms the “cream” coat. It’s a highly soluble compound when exposed to aggressive water chemistry and will deteriorate over time when exposed to constantly fluctuating chemical conditions.
This is why it’s so important to repair the surface once it starts to show signs of wear. Oftentimes, a degraded surface will not only look shabby with inconsistent color and stains but also become rough to the touch. When plaster goes bad, you’ll feel a texture that’s akin to sandpaper. When it gets bad enough, it can even cause minor abrasions and significant discomfort.
Also, when the cycle of decay sets in, the roughened surface becomes more porous and thus more susceptible to algae blooms and staining. It’s a nasty domino effect that can transform a beautiful body of water into an eyesore.
As is true of other types of pool repairs, fixing the surface is a minor task when it’s done early on, but if you leave the damaged areas untreated over a period of years, you could wind up with a hefty repair job that might involve removing the entire surface and replacing it, a costly undertaking that can run into the thousands.
Because interior surfaces are constantly exposed to water, it’s close to inevitable that you will need some repair work at some point, but how extensive the repair depends almost entirely on when you have the work done. Yes, proper water chemistry and cleaning are big helps in forestalling repairs, but at some point, even the best maintained pool will need some surface work. It’s the nature of structures that contain water.
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About the Author
Steve Kenny is an aquatic designer, builder, and service technician with more than 25 years of experience. Based in Long Island, New York, he specializes in designing, building, and maintaining commercial and residential pools and spas that feature the highest possible water quality.
He is a passionate advocate of creating a new class of aquatic professionals devoted to the science, methods, and art of ensuring pristine water conditions. Steve was formally trained in the culinary arts and has a passion for fine dining. He is an accomplished photographer and sailing enthusiast. He is also a passionate advocate of the benefits of hydrotherapy.
A devoted family man, Steve lives in East Hampton with his bride of 20 years and their three children.