How To Paint A Concrete Pool
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If you are looking for information about how to paint a concrete pool then you are likely looking for a less expensive alternative to pool plaster, tile or other more expensive interior surface finishes. You should know that most concrete pool builders agree that painting is not really a good idea for a concrete pool. There are certainly some times where painting a pool is a viable option, but in order to make an informed decision about which interior finish you should use for your pool you should read this article that compares pool plaster versus pool paint over a 25 year service life. Pool paint is not likely saving you as much money as you might hope, and this article will help you to understand why, and understand the limitations and concerns of using pool paint. Once you have read and understand more about the differences between plaster and paint, and you would still like to paint your pool, then the information on this page will show you one of the best, easiest, cheapest and most successful methods of painting a concrete pool.
DO NOT just drain and paint your pool. Draining a concrete pool in the wrong way can break it permanently. If this is news to you...then you should certainly not drain and paint your pool. You need to learn more about how concrete pools are stabilized in the ground and the correct technical process to control ground water pressures in and around a swimming pool. Assuming that you know how to drain your pool, and when you should (and should not) drain your pool, then the painting process that I prefer usually starts like this:
So you have a concrete pool and the interior surface is failing. You have received quotes from pool companies for anywhere from a few thousand to a few tens-of- thousands to refinish the pool but you simply do not have the cash to take this on right now. What are you going to do? Do not just ignore the problem - if the interior surface of your pool is failing you need to do something to prevent this problem from further damaging the pool structure.
If you are afraid of refinishing costs for the interior surface of the pool then you certainly never want to need structural repair estimates! Also, if you are thinking of throwing in the towel and just filling the pool in, filling a concrete pool is not exactly the straight forward process that you might be thinking. Removing every stitch of the pool from the ground, as per the law in most areas, also costs in the tens-of-thousands range. Before you burn down your stupid house and your stupid pool for the insurance money perhaps you should consider this cost effective approach to refinishing your own pool.
Average cost of painting a concrete pool with this method is less than $1000, takes 1-2 days, and requires no skills or tools
Sound like something you are interested in? I thought so. Having a concrete pool that is in need of a renovation can be a very stressful problem. In some areas finding qualified help is impossible, and when you get into interior surfaces on concrete swimming pools there is a lot that can wrong to the uninformed. While there is no way to simply avoid the costs associated with concrete pool maintenance the information in this article will provide you with a course of action that can buy you as few as a few years to a decade or more or pool life before you need to hire a professional and pay for a full scale renovation project.
The pool above is a good example of the type of transformation that you can get with this process. While this might not be possible for every concrete pool and every interior finish type, the vast majority of concrete pools can be repainted using these steps - regardless of how dirty, disgusting and neglected the pool currently is.
Interior Pool Finishes
In order to understand if this painting process is an option for your pool you need to be aware of the different types of interior pool surface and be able to identify
the type that you currently have. Being able to identify your current interior surface is a big part of the problem with repainting a pool. To limit liability pool
contractors are very selective about what they will apply a new pool surface over. If there is ANY doubt as to whether the new surface will adhere then the contractor
will recommend a sandblast of the pool surface. While sometimes sandblasting is the only option, especially with very old or very deteriorated pools, as the pool
owner you can be more liberal with what you will try to paint over. Since sandblasting alone is usually many thousands of dollars, if you can avoid sandblasting or
potentially live with less than perfect results, that is certainly the way to go.
Plaster is a very common interior surface on concrete swimming pools and the most common for new concrete pool construction. This is a smooth, dense mortar application that uses a hard-trowel technique to increase water retentive abilities of the pool. For newly constructed swimming pools this is one of the most common interior surfaces. It is usually white, but sometimes other colors, and is usually between 1/2" to 1" thick and applied over the structural concrete shell of the pool. Pool plaster is the general term and terms such as marcite, marblite, quartzite etc. all fall under this category of smooth mortar finishes.
Epoxy paint is one of the most common interior surfaces for the aftermarket pool finish market. Re-plaster costs can be very expensive and so epoxy paints are often considered as an option that will cost half the amount of plastering. At half the cost but still a service life of 5-7 years epoxy paints are a reasonable option for pool owners. The downside of epoxy paints is that they can only be applied to bare concrete (or plaster) or over previous epoxy pool paints.
Chlorinated rubber or synthetic rubber paints are essentially the same quality, durability and process as using epoxy paints. So much so that it can be extremely difficult to tell whether you have epoxy or rubber based paint in your pool. Since these two paints are not compatible if you attempt to use the wrong one to cover your old paint you will experience a total delamination and failure of the new layer which is a costly mistake. This inability to field test* rubber versus epoxy paints is one of the main reasons that pool contractors will often require sandblasting to be absolutely sure the new interior surface will adhere.
Acrylic paint is the shortest lifespan interior surface pool paint but also the easiest to apply since it is applied to a damp surface. All other pool paints require an extremely moisture controlled environment that can be difficult to achieve even for professionals. Acrylic paint should not be applied over rough concrete shells since it does not build at all (it is a thin paint, you will see all imperfections in the concrete under it) however it is an ideal option for refinishing pools with an existing interior surface that is failing. You can also parge, grind and smooth rough concrete inside the pool surface in order to use this paint so long as you understand the patches will be visible in the final product.
Pebble - finishes are very common in certain areas in North America. If you have a pebble surface for your pool then the process outlined on this page will not apply to your pool. Painting of a rough surface such as exposed aggregate or pebble finishes is not ideal.
* You can field test pool paints by determining which solvent will dissolve paint chips. Epoxy paint is soluble in Xylene, rubber paint is soluble in acetone and acrylic paint is soluble with denatured alcohol. Even armed with this information is can be inconclusive in the field to determine epoxy versus rubber with 100% accuracy.
Evaluating The Condition Of Your Pool Finish
If you can afford to refinish your pool with plaster then this will almost certainly be the best in the long term. It is very likely that the pool was built for
plaster originally as this has been the industry standard for the last 40+ years. The plaster will last from 5-15 years before needing to be re-plastered with another
layer of mortar being added over the old one. Since plaster is just form of mortar (concrete) then you can simply clean it and bond new plaster to the old plaster.
The only problem with this process is that it is far from a DIY level of project and is something that is very expensive to have a professional do for you.
For most of the swimming pool aftermarket, concrete pool paint will be the interior finish of choice simply due to the reduced costs when compared to re-plastering. Since concrete pools can be serviceable even after as much as 50-70 years then the interior surface of your pool may have many old layers of paint. It is very important to note that painting your pool will only last as long as the weakest layer. If you have obvious problems with delaminating of older layers of interior surface then this needs to be addressed before repainting. In many cases this can be resolved to a satisfactory degree by pressure washing, scraping, grinding and sanding however in severe cases where the substrate is compromised and falling apart then sandblasting will be your only recourse.
Do not paint your pool if you have tiles falling off or requiring repair
Do not paint your pool if you have structural cracks or leaks through the pool shell
Do not paint your pool if the pool surface is delaminated or crumbling
These problems go above and beyond the scope of simply repainting your pool. Deficiencies in the pool structure or plumbing should all be attended to prior to worrying about the interior surface. The interior surface of the pool is the final detail for a pool project. When you finish the interior surface of the pool the only remaining steps should be filling and swimming. For the vast majority of pools an aging interior surface is just a maintenance fact of ownership and ultimately just another expense. By painting the pool yourself you can save a few thousand dollars but there is much to know before you crack out your paint roller and drain the pool.
The Problem With Pool Paint
Epoxy pool paint and rubber pool paint are not compatible with water which creates a very serious problem for meeting the application guidelines for these products.
Concrete pool shells will hold water for days after you pump them out in all but the hottest and most arid climates. In many areas even after draining the pool you
will require 7 or more days of completely dry weather in order for the pool shell to dry. In theory the pool shell should be moisture tested, for example by duct
taping a square of plastic to the floor in the deep end. If the plastic fogs up then there is still too much moisture in the concrete to apply the paint. This
concern for moisture caused delamination is one of the main reasons why epoxy pool paint is less friendly as a do-it-yourself project.
The next big problem with pool paint is that there are at least 3 fairly common types and you need to know which one you have to be able to paint over it. If you guess wrong then you will have a huge and costly mess on your hands. As a pool owner you will not likely be able to tell the difference between rubber or epoxy paint even with doing field testing with paint chips and different solvents. The only actual way to know would be to send in paint chips to pool paint manufacturers for analysis - which some will do.
This brings us to the $10,000 question - is there any pool paints that are easy to use and are compatible with unknown previous paints? Yes, there is one.
Paint Over Any Other Type Of Pool Paint
As a concrete pool contractor I have encountered many situations where pool owners are desperately searching for a cost effective solution to maintaining the pool
surface. The reality is that a concrete pool is an expensive luxury item and when it comes time to reno it you had better have a budget set aside for this. In these
cases I almost always recommend to these customers that they paint their own pool using Ramuc brand acrylic DS pool paint. I have spent probably 100 hours over the
past 5 years researching options for pool paints that are suitable for painting over other, dissimilar painted pool surfaces and this is the only one that I have found
that I was able to achieve reliable results. In many cases even if a renovation of the pool can not be avoided it can be delayed by a few years by repainting it with
a short service life acrylic paint. This provides the pool owner with a plan of action to take now and a timeline to work with that will allow you to save for a more
extensive pool renovation in the future.
No moisture control needed - Acrylic pool paint is water based and is applied to a damp pool shell so this completely eliminates the need to drain and dry out the shell for days or even weeks. With this paint you can start painting as soon as the pool is empty, prepped and clean. This factor alone puts this paint head and shoulders above other types for being DIY friendly. Other than being a very large surface to paint, using acrylic pool paint is about as easy as painting a large room - anyone can do it. Plus the fumes and toxicity of working with acrylic paint is far less than that of any epoxy or rubber based paint.
Paint over epoxy, rubber or other acrylic paints - If you know of another paint that has the ability to paint over old epoxy, chlorinated rubber, synthetic rubber or other acrylic paints then please feel free to email me directly. As far as my research has concluded only this brand advertises the potential to be used over other, unknown paint surfaces. Even this claim is something that they offer with a heavy note of caution about properly prepared surfaces for painting - but my experience has been 100% positive with this product. Not without limitations, the acrylic DS pool paint from Ramuc is the best option I have found for painting over previously painted surfaces.
The limitations of this product is that it typically lasts 1-3 seasons before needing re-application as advertised by the manufacturer. This is the shortest service life of all the pool paints however the fact you can paint the pool yourself makes it the superior choice despite this. My field experience has almost all of my clients getting 4 seasons before repainting with only pools with commercial traffic levels needing yearly repainting.
Preparing Your Pool For Repainting
The viability of this painting solution for your pool hinges on the current quality and condition of the pool surface. At some point all concrete pools will need to
be sandblasted and professionally refinished. If you can buy 3, 5 or 10 years before this is required then that can take a ton of pressure off of you and your
finances. Without looking at sandblasting the next best solution to strip the pool surface is a high strength pressure washer (over 3000psi) and a very aggressive
pressure wash. This is something that is well within the ability of the average DIY enthusiast and you can rent a pressure washer from your local hardware store or
borrow one from a friend of yours for the day.