Swimming Pool Tip #85

How to Get your Swimming Pool Refinished . . . Successfully!

You've heard the horror stories about friends or neighbors having their swimming pool's interior refinished? No?

Well, I have, more times then I care to remember.

I've been asked, dozens of times, "what's the BEST swimming pool surface?" Should I get plaster? Marcite? fiberglass? Or Diamond Brite or Pebbletec or epoxy or DuraBond or ArmorCoat or ColorQuartz or FibreTech or . . . ?

The answer -- or at least part of it -- is amazingly simple.

The BEST pool surface is the one that is well applied to your swimming pool, by a competent and dedicated swimming pool contractor!

The quality of the contractor and his work is more important than the surface you select: a poor pool contractor can ruin the best material; a great contractor can salvage all but the worst materials.

The reason is simple.

Swimming pool refinishing depends on one factor more than any other: prep work, prep work, and more prep work. Most prep work is mind numbing and labor intensive; usually there are no good shortcuts. You either do it the right way, or you don't.

Because failure to prep properly doesn't show up until the contractor is paid up and long gone, it's a terrible temptation for swimming pool contractors. This temptation is made worse by price shopping. Good pool contractors have to walk away from work constantly, because they know their prices will be higher than that of shoddy competitors who will skimp on the prep.

So, if your pool needs resurfacing, invite several contractors to recommend ways to repair your pool. Tell them you aren't price shopping, but that you are comparing options from multiple contractors, and that price matters.

Tell them what your top budget amount is. If you can't afford to spend more than $2000, they need to know that. In most parts of the country, you can't obtain a good quality plaster job on your pool for that -- and a good patch and paint job is much better than a poor plaster job. With a realistic beginning neither of you will waste time exploring options that you can't pursue.

Ask them to explain what makes their work better than average. And . . . ask them for references on jobs they completed more than 2 years ago. Even poor pool patch jobs look good for a year or two!

And, if no one suggests that wonderful finish you saw on your cousin's pool, 900 miles away, DON'T YOU SUGGEST IT EITHER! The LAST thing you want, is a contractor trying a new technique, for the very first time, on YOUR swimming pool. Let him learn how on someone else's pool! Folks, I've been lucky: I've tried lots of new techniques out on my customer's pools, and most of them have worked. But that's NOT typical.

Finally: here are my thoughts about the surfaces themselves.

I don't know anything -- good or bad -- about the pebble or exposed aggregate finishes.

Epoxy paint, coupled with epoxy patching materials, can fix up a badly damaged finish, if it is done well. The prep requirements are demanding, and will absolutely come back to bite you if you ignore them. However, I have found that properly applied Zeron paint with Gunzite primer (tm Kelley Technical) consistently will give 4 - 6 years of service between coats. Customers who have used other paints (on their own -- I have been unwilling to sell other materials) have not been pleased with the results. The water base epoxies (from any company) are much less effective than the solvent based materials.

Rubber paint, I absolutely despise, no matter who makes it. I've had to service too many swimming pools with blistered encrusted accumulations of rubber base pool paint. It's possible that it can be done well, but apparently at best it lasts two years before a recoat becomes mandatory. Of course, there may be contractor in your area who can do better: but let him show you a couple of 3 year old paint jobs.

The limited experience I've had with acrylic painted pools has been even worse then with rubber base.

Replastering, with a full new coat, can restore your swimming pool to a like-new condition, but only if the old surface is properly prepared. Doing so is a LOT of work! In many cases, this means removing virtually all of the old material. Replastering is skilled work, both in the judgement required, and the skill to effectively apply a good finish. There is a shortage of skilled plasterer's in many parts of the country, but if you want plaster, you must have a good contractor. Check out your contractor's references. Again, look at work that is at least 2 or 3 years old.

My experience with fiberglass is limited, but not good. Delamination is a problem. Many companies are now providing excessively long, but highly restricted warranties. Be wary of out-of-town contractors. Getting them to come back has been a problem for many. Don't be impressed by warranties beyond 5 years: a 25 year warranty from 100 year old company might mean something. A 25 year warranty from a 10 year old company? I don't think so! Again, check local work. (Note: complete, manufactured, fiberglass pools have a MUCH better track record than do fiberglass refinishing techniques.)

Replacing liners or repairing collapsed walls on vinyl pools is another topic for another page.

Good luck and good swimming!

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