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Pools & Spas

Pool Plaster and Finishes

Compare plaster, pebble finishes, beadcrete, and tile lined pools

  • Infinity Pools Pebble Tec was developed as an alternative to plaster for pools with natural or manufactured stone decks and coping. It's composed of tiny pebbles in a polymer resin that is far more algae resistant and low maintenance.
  • Infinity Pools Glass tile swimming pools are a high end trend that's here to stay. In lieu of plaster the interior shell is lined with inch sized glass mosaic tiles in endless color options. This tile opens the door for designs and graphics that make a pool unique to a site or project.
  • Infinity Pools This super luxury formal pool features classical Roman designs in glass tile as well as fiber optic fixtures throughout to create a sparkling star like effect. Patterns make the bottom of very large pools far more visually exciting, particularly after dark.
  • Infinity Pools This lap pool lined with glass tile features a one of a kind mosaic to be viewed from the upper stories of the adjacent house. Glass tile provides an opportunity to integrate beautiful or meaningful forms and graphics into the bottom of any pool or spa.
  • Infinity Pools Dark colored plaster creates a much more naturalistic pool when set within a jewel of a landscape. Often it's blended with stone paving, coping or veneers. Dark plaster is thought to help a pool retain its heat better than lighter colors.
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Pool plaster has been transformed from a uniform finish of pools to alternatives that can lend incredible visual effects. Early on all pools featured white plaster which shows every spot and bit of litter that accumulates on the bottom. It also has just a 5 to 15 year longevity. As pools evolved into much more elaborate systems with water features, new products were developed to make these special effects look better and reduce maintenance.

Traditional Plaster FinishSometimes called whitecoat or marcite, basic plaster is the least expensive pool finish and many people prefer the way the smooth surface of plaster feels on their feet. However, plaster is the least durable of pool finishes and will require re-plastering every 8 to 12 years.

Downsides of a plaster pool finish:

  • Is porous and requires extra care to keep water chemicals in balance
  • May crack, develop hollow spots or chip
  • May become rough due to scaling and scrape skin
  • Can wear away at high traffic areas (i.e. steps)
  • Stains easier than other finishes

It is important to realize that when selecting a plaster color you are actually selecting a water color. Light plasters produce a sparkling, tropical water color, while darker plasters produce a deeper blue, similar to a natural lake.

Pool Finish Options Comparison

  Cost Longevity Beauty
Modern Pool, Ipe Pool Deck
Swimming Pool
Landscaping Network
Calimesa, CA
low low moderate
Spa Stone Coping, Dark Bottom Spa
Cipriano Landscape Design
Mahwah, NJ
low low moderate
Luxury Pool
Alderete Pools Inc.
San Clemente, CA
medium medium high
Roman Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool
Landscaping Network
Calimesa, CA
medium medium high
Glass Tile Pool
Cipriano Landscape Design
Mahwah, NJ
high high high

Pebble TecAt Cipriano Landscape Design of New Jersey, owner Chris Cipriano shares some details on variations and longevity of plaster and plaster alternatives. "Textured, pebble finishes such as Pebble Tec cost more, but they last over twenty years and have a unique, sparkling look. Because the pebbles can be rough in texture if too much aggregate is exposed, we don't recommend this option to active families with young children. For those who insist on a pebble-like finish, I would recommend a glass bead finish like Beadcrete as a better alternative."

On the west coast, Shea of Alderete Pools also installs this plaster alternative. "We do some dark bottom pools with crushed rock added to pebbletech which look natural with rock pool designs."

BeadcreteThe growth of simple modern designs has brought Beadcrete to the market. We are using more Beadcrete," says Alderete. "This is composed of tiny beads of polished round glass bound with polymers for ultra smooth surface compared to natural pebbles. It's the cream of the crop. The beads become irridescent in LED lighting and are up to 400% more reflective than anything else. Beadcrete offers 8 to 10 colors, so we can give our clients the exact look they want."

Glass Tile PoolsGlass tile pools aren't new on the international scene, but they're making a splash in the U.S. luxury pool market today. This pool is entirely lined with small mosaic sized glass tiles instead of plaster. It is durable and resistant to corrosion and lasts longer than any other kind of plaster alternative. One reason it's restricted to the luxury market is cost, which ranges from $75 to $100 or more per square foot of surface.

Designers love mosaic tiles because they are so versatile. In the modern design world, fields of custom color mixes can make the bottom of a pool sparkle in a range of hues. Because of the ability of glass tile to amplify and reflect light into the water, glass pools are unusually bright and clear. For more traditional pools, some contractors are recreating ancient Roman motifs and details like the pools of Caesar. Either way, the beauty of a glass tile pool in full sun is unmatched by any other.

Chris Cipriano is a big fan of tile lined pools which are pricy but incomparable when it comes to longevity and durability. "While glass tile is the most expensive, it lasts fifty years if installed correctly. It is the most aesthetically appealing choice offering a brilliant shimmer of varying colors across the entire surface of the pool. Glass tiles can also produce beautiful mosaic designs that give the pool additional character."

Contributing Author:

Maureen Gilmer, contributing writer for Landscaping Network, author and syndicated columnist

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