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Choosing the Right Finish for Your New Swimming Pool or Spa

There are a quite a few choices available in Jacksonville when it comes to finishing your pool surface. Choosing the right plaster or as it is also called whitecoat or marcite in Florida can be a tough decision will require some un-bias research. From regular old white plaster to colored marcite, from a spectrum quartz aggregate mixes to all of the colors of pebble finishes. It can all get a bit confusing, even overwhelming, if you don’t know the differences between all these products and the advantages and disadvantages.

A sound finish job should last ten to fifteen years, sometimes more. I’ve seen twenty-five year old pools that are just getting to the point of needing resurfacing. This may be a decision that you will live with for many years.

The pool finish is a decorative element. The surface of the pool is usually the biggest, most noticeable surface in the yard. It can be the first impression a visitor gets of your yard, so it must be chosen carefully. They must also be easy on bathers’ feet and hands. No one likes a pool where your feet are raw after only a few minutes of swimming.


White Plaster:

Traditional white plaster is the most common pool finish, even in these days of exotic quartz and pebble finishes. It’s been around since the beginning of the pool construction business. When a white plaster pool is filled with water, it takes on that classic pool look: a light blue color, cool and crisp.

Pros: The prototypical pool finish. The most cost effective finish.

Cons: Susceptible to staining and/or etching if the pool is not maintained properly.


Colored Plaster:

If you desire a little bit different look, there’s colored plaster. It’s made the same way as white plaster, but a coloring agent is added as the plaster is mixed. The most common colors are probably various shades of gray, and black.

Pros: A different look. Darker colors make the water surface more reflective, which is sometimes desirable.

Cons: Costs slightly more than white plaster. Also, the shortcomings inherent in white plaster are more apparent and pronounced in colored plasters, especially the darker shades. Surface mottling, streaks or unevenness of color, even crazing and check cracks are more noticeable. I don’t recommend colored plaster if you feel that you will not be pleased with some unevenness over time.

Quartz Aggregate Finishes:

Traditional plaster, white or colored, with ceramic coated quartz particles added in the mix. 3M makes a product called “Colorquartz” that is one of most popular finishes of this type. The surface can be slightly harder and more durable than plaster, depending on the amount of quartz aggregate added. But, in my experience, it’s still susceptible to most of the problems of plaster: staining, spot etching, etc. The look is different than colored plaster and seems more uniform in appearance than colored plaster. Also, the cost is a quite a bit higher.

Pros: Richer look than plaster. A harder and more durable surface than plaster.

Cons: Costs more than plaster. Still affected by many of the same technical problems as plaster. Not a bad choice if don’t want color, but can’t afford a pebble finish.


In the pool business, these are called “exposed aggregate” finishes. “Pebbletec” is a popular brand, the oldest of this breed. Basically a pebble finish is a plaster, white or colored, with a lot of small, smooth, stones of various colors mixed in. It is applied and finished like regular plaster, but when a certain surface hardness is reached, the surface is removed with special water misting devices. This exposes the aggregate in the mix.

Pros: Since most of the surface exposed to the pool water is stone, this type of finish gets away from many of the problems associated with plaster: staining, etching, etc. Also it is available in a wide variety of colors. Many clients are pleased with the more “natural” look. Much more durable, longer-lived surface, too.

Cons: The cost. Can be double the price of plaster or more. Also, some people dislike the the feel of the pebbles on their feet: the surface isn’t flat like plaster, but, um, pebbly instead. Before committing to this type of finish, look at some finished pools, and if possible, put your feet in to try it out.

I can’t overemphasize how important it is to keep a close eye on your pool’s water chemistry and maintenance. For instance, if the pH varies from the recommended levels, either too high or too low, it can be detrimental to your plaster. Usually poor chemistry and maintenance lead to problems that are cosmetic. But they can also lead to more serious problems that may require expensive remedies, or even necessitate stripping out the old plaster and applying new. This, of course, is very expensive.

Like many things in life, making a good choice involves understanding the choices available. What their strengths and weaknesses are, what the cost trade-offs are. What the best value is for the money spent.

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    Jacksonville Backyard Hardscapes Landscapes Ecoscapes - Pools and Spas - Choosing the Right Finish for Your New Swimming Pool or Spa

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