Swimming pool plaster, plastering and plaster care information can help you decide if plastering your swimming pool is right for you. Pool plaster is the most common finish on concrete swimming pools and can be found in residential and commercial swimming pools.
Pool plaster can provide tons of options for your swimming pool. From smooth textures to polished rock textures and can turn your water’s color from white plaster to royal blue and even dark black.
For the purposes of this article we will focus on the general characteristics of white plaster.
To learn how to paint your swimming pool Click Here
Want to compare different types of swimming pool surfaces? Click Here
What is Swimming Pool Plaster?
When swimming pool contractors and builders refer to swimming pool plaster, they are referring to a relatively thin layer of coating used on the concrete pool shell (floor and walls) to give your pool finish a specific color, to give your water a specific color and to provide a smooth and water-tight surface for your swimming pool.
(“Water-Tight,” instead of “water-proof” is used because these concrete coatings are a semi-permeable membrane that will allow some moisture through.)
Swimming Pool Plaster is essentially just aggregate, cement and admixtures.
How Common is Pool Plaster?
Swimming pool plaster has been installed on swimming pools since the 1960’s and is the most common finish on concrete pools, residential or commercial.
Basic plaster, like white plaster, is economical when compared to other plaster upgrades that contain larger aggregate, color options or both.
Swimming pool plaster is ``a combination of cement, aggregate and water, without or without admixtures that when mixed thoroughly, placed properly, and finished accordingly, form a desirable decorative aesthetic that is maintainable and a watertight finish applied over the shell of the swimming pool.”
- National Plasterers Council (NPC)
How is Swimming Pool Plaster Installed (“Plastering”)?
Swimming pool plasters typically arrive on the job site in their plaster truck(s). These are large flat-bed trucks that have concrete mixers and pumps mounted to them.
1. The plasterers have already “prepped” your swimming pool for the plaster
2. They arrive on plaster day and begin making their pool plaster recipe in “batches” in the mixer
3. These batches are then pumped to the pool by way of the concrete pump mounted on the truck
4. The plaster then comes down a long hose from the pump on the truck to the inside of the swimming pool
5. The plaster sprays out of the nozzle on the hose operated by the “nozzle man”
6. The nozzle man applies the plaster to the swimming pool walls, floor, benches and steps
7. Several “finishers” will begin hand-troweling the plaster to create a smooth and water-tight surface on your concrete pool shell
Swimming Pool Plaster “Start-Up”
Once the swimming pool has been plastered and the pool has been completely filled with water, the “start-up” begins.
The Start-Up is a process that helps the plaster throughout the curing process to obtain its ultimate strength and finish. During the first 28 days, the swimming pool plaster is more susceptible to staining, scaling and discoloration. Following the proper start-up procedures throughout the 28 days is critical for your swimming pool plasters success.
Who performs the “start-up”?
This depends on who the contract or work order states is performing the start-up. Because the actual start-up is 28 days of two visits per day…you can quickly imagine how much the start-up could cost if you had the plaster company or pool service company perform the complete start-up for you.
Typically, the homeowner or maintenance staff of the swimming pool will perform the day-to-day start-up procedures. It is not uncommon to have the swimming pool plaster company or a swimming pool service company perform the first few days of start-up to help out the owner with the start-up.
Whatever the case, make sure everyone is clear on who is performing the “start-up” and make sure that it is performed completely and thoroughly for 28 days.
Click Here for the Start-Up Card provided by the National Plasterers Council (NPC).
How to Clean, Maintain and Extend the Life of Your Swimming Pool Plaster
– brush regularly
– remove leaves, acorns, nuts, pine-straw and other organic debris immediately
– maintain a balanced water chemistry at all times
– keep the pool full of water at all times (if you have to drain do it in the cool season and only for a few days)
How Long Should Swimming Pool Plaster Last? (White Plaster)
Generally speaking, plaster for a residential swimming pool typically lasts 10-15 years. Plaster for a commercial swimming pool may last 5-10 years based on the traffic, usage and water chemistry. Typically commercial pools have higher bathing loads (more people using the pool at a given time) which creates a greater chemical demand and more erosion in higher-traffic areas.
There are several factors that play a role in the lifespan of pool plaster.
There are other plaster options in the market that last a lot longer than white plaster, typically due to the addition of larger inert aggregate in the plaster mix. These types of plaster include: quartz plaster, pebble plaster and even glass-bead plasters.
Pros & Cons of White Plaster or Colored Plaster
– affordable, compared to other plasters that contain a larger aggregate or decorative aggregate
– provides a smooth finish
– creates a pleasing water color
– creates a water-tight barrier
– hand-troweled and can be over/under-exposed
– susceptible to improper water chemistry
– white plaster reveal organic stains more easily than colored or larger aggregate plasters
– over-time can pit and erode more than larger aggregate plaster
– must have a proper “start-up” to look its best
Signs that Your Swimming Pool May Need Re-Plastering
– plaster is “popping-off” (delaminating) in large or several areas
– plaster is pitting heavily making algae near impossible to remove
– plaster is rough to the touch and scratches or hurts when touched
– plaster has eroded in high-traffic areas exposing the gray concrete pool shell underneath
– plaster has several significant stains that cannot be removed or lessened much with stain treatment programs and/or acid-washing
– plaster has large or long structural cracks that make repair impractical
Tips for Successful Swimming Pool Plaster
1. Make sure the “start-up” is followed thoroughly, this could make or break the aesthetics of your finish.
2. Make sure to leave the fill water running continuously until the water reaches half-way up the waterline tile.
3. Make sure brush your pool during the start-up.
4. Make sure to test ALL of your chemicals at-least twice a week (residential) and twice a day (commercial) and supplement as necessary.
5. Make sure your calcium is within acceptable parameters.
6. Remove all organic debris daily to limit organic stains on your plaster.
7. Make sure you brush your plaster regularly.
8. Have fun and enjoy your new plaster!
DID YOU KNOW?
Shrinkage cracks (open/closed) may become visible right away but should re-seal themselves quickly while underwater and do not affect the performance of the surface coating and are considered a normal characteristic of a cementitious surface coating. Sometimes after these cracks re-seal they are still somewhat noticeable due to dirt trapped inside of them.