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Glass, pebble, plaster & vinyl...Oh my!

When it comes to finishes, today’s potential pool and spa owners are presented with a dizzying array of options. From the straightforward simplicity of standard white plaster to the brilliant sparkle of glass beads, the choices can be both exciting and overwhelming. 

Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of some of the popular choices today.

Standard white plaster is the classic, go-to choice that remains a favorite for many customers. When installed by a quality contractor and properly maintained, it is a relatively inexpensive reliable product with an expected lifetime of 5 to 10 years before replastering may be necessary. 

On the downside, of the cementitious surfaces, it is the least durable and most susceptible to visible staining. Furthermore, compared to other cementitious finishes, it is softer, and may be more vulnerable to altered appearance and damage due to either poor installation practices or water chemistry.

Dyes or pigments can be added to the mix for added dimension but this may amplify the appearance of mottling or pigment streaks. 

The durability of standard plaster can be improved with certain additives such as pozzalans that have been shown to reduce cracking, mottling and other problems.

Natural quartz can be added to white cement with mineral-based pigments for a stunning pool finish. A quartz finish is more durable than a standard plaster finish with a typical lifespan of 7 to 12 years.

Exposed aggregate pool finishes incorporate stones, pebbles or glass beads into the pool plaster to add resilience and beauty. This finish typically lasts 15 to 20 years. 

Aggregates do not break down nearly as fast as does the marble usually found in white pool plaster. It is available in a dazzling range of colors that can transform the color of the water to match any desire but it is the most expensive of the cementitious surfaces. 

Another drawback is that it is slightly more textured than other surfaces, with some types rough on the feet. 

Tile is the most expensive option, with timeless beauty and durability. The tile is typically made of porcelain, the standard, stone or glass. Porcelain tile can be glazed or textured and even hand-painted. 

Stone tile is more expensive than porcelain, while glass the most expensive, non-porous, and especially durable option.

Vinyl-lined pools are perfect for a prospective pool owner on a budget. If they are maintained, they can be expected to last an average of 6 to 12 years. Custom shapes, colors, and designs are available for today’s customers.

Among the lowest maintenance options are fiberglass pools. These are typically prefabricated drop-in shells. They cost about the same as some plaster pools and tend to be nearly impervious to wear and tear, although they can crack due to earth shifting. 

The main advantage to fiberglass is that its low surface porosity makes it much easier to control algae. The main disadvantage is that they are not available in an unlimited range of sizes and shapes.

Today’s pool finish options can be tailored to meet nearly any consumer criteria, be it color, shape, size, durability, maintenance needs, or budget. With the infinite range of options, it’s a wonder how anyone can make a choice.

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