Concrete pool construction — 3. Concrete finishes

Today’s array of interior finishes can make it tough to figure out which one is best for you.

The quick answer

There are more choices in concrete finishes today than ever before, and they are all available in an assortment of colours and textures:

  • smooth plaster (under trade names such as Marbelite or Armourcoat)
  • smooth plaster infused with fragments of quartz, seashells and/or glass beads (such as ArmorQuartz)
  • exposed aggregates like natural rock, seashells and/or glass beads (such as PebbleTec or DiamondBrite)

The best choice for you will depend on the cost weighed against the aesthetics, surface feel and durability. The cost range is significant and so are the benefits.

Still here? Great! Read on to learn more about concrete finishes.

Mcc 053 blog.jpg
Smooth plaster has been the traditional interior finish on concrete pools for decades. It is available in a wide range of colours and can now be upgraded to include reflective aggregate fragments. This pool features Armourcoat smooth plaster in Azure Blue.

If you’re installing or refinishing a concrete pool, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to decide on the interior finish. There’s a lot more to choose from now than there was even a decade ago.

In the early years, concrete pools had painted interiors, but today many pool companies, including Betz, no longer paint pools because of their relatively short five-to-ten-year lifespan.

Smooth plaster has become the traditional standby finish and is available in an array of pleasing colours. To jazz up a smooth finish, you can choose blends that include quartz crystals, seashell fragments or glass beads. The newest trend today is exposed aggregate finishes like natural rock, seashells, glass beads or some combination of these elements.

Exposed aggregate gives a stunning, modern look to any size pool or water feature. Instead of lying flat like a traditional solid-colour pool finish, an aggregate adds movement and intensity to the overall look of a pool. Although plaster finishes come in different colours, they just can’t compete with the sheer variety of colour aggregate finishes emit. The multi-hued aggregates generate a lot of reflective colour, particularly in sunlight, turning your pool into a glittering tapestry of colour and texture.

Exposed Aggregate blog.jpg
When viewed up close, exposed aggregate finishes look like a collection of water washed pebbles strewn along the shore. When viewed from a distance they take on a softer hue with tones that suggest nature rather than a constructed environment.

Aside from their beauty, aggregates are natural products and won’t deteriorate like artificial products do. In time, smooth plaster will require refinishing. The chemistry in pool water, especially when out of balance, etches into the surface, reveals hairline cracks and eventually will feel like sandpaper. Plaster finishes with a solid colour are somewhat susceptible to staining and mottling, which can give them a blotchy look, especially in dark pools. Conversely, aggregate is a permanent finish that will retain its smooth consistent appearance.

One of the biggest misconceptions about aggregates is that they’re rough on your feet. In fact, although they may look rougher, aggregates are actually very smooth on your feet. You can test this with your whole palm, rather than just your fingertips, to get the feeling. Aggregates not only feel good underfoot, they’re also non-slip and stain resistant.

Another advantage of exposed aggregate is that it can be used above water. Because plaster cannot extend above the water, tiles have typically been used along the waterline. In the early years, waterline tiles were often decorative and in contrasting colours. With the focus today on simplicity, waterline tiles tend to match the colour of the interior or be a dark non-descript colour, such as charcoal grey, so the eye is not drawn to them. Exposed aggregate can extend right up to the coping, but it may be harder to keep clean than waterline tiles that have a smooth surface.

Smi 08 blog.jpg

This pool combines sleek modern design with free form natural elements. The interior finish is PebbleTec exposed aggregate in Moonlight Grey. The natural stone coping is bordered by the charcoal grey waterline tile. The swatch below shows the blend of pebbles that makes up this pleasing colour.

Moonlight_Grey blog.jpg

As far as affordability goes, smooth plaster is the most affordable finish. Or, it can be upgraded with the addition of light-reflecting aggregate components. Maintaining proper water balance is important for keeping plaster in good repair. To keep a plaster finish attractive and the colour in fashion it should be redone every 15 or 20 years, which factors into its overall cost.

With a cost somewhat higher than plaster, you can get some great exposed aggregate finishes like PebbleTec, DiamondBrite and PebbleSheen. The even higher-end BeadCrete utilizes glass bead aggregate to create a three-dimensional reflective effect and has a stain-resistant surface. Whether you’re deciding on seashells, glass beads, natural rocks or a combination of these, the possibilities are unlimited.

The most expensive option today is tiling. That’s because tiling is tricky and extremely labour intensive. However, for those who can afford tile, a Betz Dry Gunite pool shell with its uniform straight surfaces, will make it much easier for the tilesetter to keep the tile and grout lines straight.

Car 03 crop blog.jpg
When you have a massive backyard like this one and insist on nothing but the best, an exposed aggregate finish is a must. The pool features a light green PebbleSheen interior with matching waterline tile adjoining the coping of custom-cast acid etched concrete.

The final finishing element that marries the colour of the pool interior with the colour of the deck is the coping that surrounds the pool. Depending on the desired look, it can be a contrasting or a complementary colour. The choice of materials is vast, ranging the full gamut of natural stone, to architectural stamped concrete, to the plethora of concrete-based composites. Most of the manufactured products are intended to mimic natural stone.

The finishing of the coping is another important consideration. It can range from a traditional chipped edge look to a dimensional look of bullnose or square-edged coping. Textures range from natural pebble top to fully manicured smooth finishes. Both natural stone and manufactured copings are available in a variety of colours: from black, pink and white granite to grey, peach and beige limestone.

Unlike other companies, Betz is not locked into a specific range of products. We don’t limit ourselves to a catalogue. With all the selection that’s out there, we can find and install whatever kind of finish you want.

Pebble-Tec blog.jpg
The choice of exposed aggregate finishes is ever-growing, with new colours and ingredient options continuously being added. This swatch from PebbleTec shows the wide variety of colours and textures offered in their basic lineup.

Want even more information on concrete finishes? Feel free to get in touch.

Surfing the Internet is a good start. But your single most important step for pool information is to contact a certified pool professional to make sure you get the custom advice you need.

Luff_08 blog.jpg
Marc Luff
Betz Pools

We'd love to hear from you! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Houzz, YouTube and Pinterest.