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Options for pool finishes are many and varied

By Marcelle Dibrell

Potential pool owners and those looking to renovate an existing pool frequently turn to pool service professionals for recommendations on the best type of pool finishing texture. 

At a glance, it can seem as though the number of finishing techniques that are currently on the market is infinite and the decision to pick among them is not just a little overwhelming.

Of course, there are the three main pool shell types, which include plaster, fiberglass and vinyl. A finishing texture that is growing in popularity for many remodeling firms is the addition of some type of aggregate to the plaster matrix. 

While the choice of finish is initially about aesthetics, there are numerous other factors that come into play.  Service professionals can play a vital role in helping to make a choice that not only is beautiful but long lasting, suitable for personalized use and within the constraints of the pocketbook.

For example, while plaster finishes are the most common because they are extremely durable, attractive, and can be built in any custom design, they are also the most prone to potential staining from metals, and their porous surface provides niches for algae growth.

For those with deeper pockets, adding an aggregate such as colored quartz, glass beads, or pebbles to the plaster can create a visually stunning effect as well as long-term durability, but the expense can be painful.

Drop in fiberglass pools are long lasting and provide the advantage of resistance from metal staining and algae growth, but there are limitations on the sizes and shapes that are available.

And while vinyl-lined pools are also fairly resistant to staining from metals and algae, and the short-term expense is nominal, they are also the most susceptible to damage from animals and horseplay.

In vinyl-lined pools, the solution to damaged liners is frequently liner replacement.  And reinstalling vinyl liners represents an important source of income for many service firms.   

Charges vary by region of the country, but according the Service Industry News 2013 Industry Survey, the average charge for liner replacement is $1,700 in the Northeast to $3,000 in the Southeast. 

Total pool renovation such as re-plastering and remodeling is frequently left to builders and firms that specialize in these areas. 

The last recession, however, saw more and more service firms branching out into these areas to try and capture some of that market.  In addition to offering pool cleaning and equipment repair, such firms expanded their repertoire to total backyard remodeling including resurfacing, deck repair and installation of water features, lighting, rock-scapes and construction of fire-pits.

Technicians sometimes play a role in dissuading consumers on a complete remodel if the existing finish can be revitalized with an acid wash or paint. This is because acid washing and painting plaster pools are totally viable ways to bring surfaces back to a better condition, are appropriate for pool owners on a tighter budget, and at the same time offer a major source of income to many service firms. 

Again, charges vary by region for such services, but the average charge for an acid wash — once again, according to the 2013 Industry Survey — ranges from $400 in the Southwest to $900 in the Southeast.  Painting or repainting plaster pools tends to be more involved and service firms reported charging an average of $1,200 in Northern California, to $4,000 in Florida.

In our last issue of Service industry News, we discussed some of the techniques involved in new pool construction.  In this issue, we will continue the discussion to include acid washing, and vinyl liner installation and care.

Paid subscribers have full access to the complete coverage on pool and spa finishes. Contact our circulation department at 949-916 0292 or email for details.

Alan Smith: Plasterer, politician & humanitarian

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