Selecting The Best Pool Surface

When selecting a pool surface, there is more to the selection process than just picking the color. The surface of your pools will see considerable exposure to chemicals, UV light, and physical contact from cleaning and pool use. Choosing the right material to finish your pool’s surface will save you money and time through reduced maintenance while prolonging replacement and repair. You will need to balance the expected life span, cost, and aesthetics – some of the best surfaces can be extremely expensive. 

Gunite or concrete pools are porous by nature and will allow water to seep through them. The primary purpose of adding a finished pool surface is to seal the concrete and prevent water from leaking out of the pool. While there are several other reasons that we may consider, for example, the appearance of the surface, texture, color, and maintenance requirements, the primary purpose is to seal the underlying concrete. 

With so many options available today, it can be easy to decide which materials and colors you will want in your new or remodeled pool. Some of the most popular choices are tile and Pebble Tec. Tile offers a wide range of materials from glass to stone, offering a nearly endless palette of color and pattern choices. Pebble Tec offers a wide array of color choices to match anyone’s taste at an affordable price. 

If you already have a pool and it requires resurfacing, this information will be of value to you as well. Any of these surfaces can be added to a pool remodel. 

Let’s take a look at all of your pool surface options a little more in-depth. 


pool plaster install

The plaster finish is the original pool surface finish and is the least expensive. In recent years plaster has fallen out of fashion. Because of the cost of plaster finishes, it is still the standard pool finish on new pools. If you are on a tight budget and need resurfacing, then plaster maybe your best option. Plaster surfaces are prevalent in mid-century homes because it fits the era of the house itself. This is particularly popular in pools in the Beaumont area.

Plaster can come in a wide range of colors, while blue remains the most popular. The plastering company will mix different chemicals and dyes to create the desired color. One of the drawbacks of colored plaster is it can make any mistake in the pool more visible. While white colors will hide imperfections more readily, they will stain and discolor faster than non-colored plaster. The best solution is to pick a dyed plaster that is lighter colored. 

The typical white plaster will show age and weathering faster than other pool surfaces like tile or aggregate. The average life expectancy for plaster surfaces can be 7-10 years. The life span can be more or less dependent on proper maintenance practices and the environment. To get the longest life span out of plaster, you should regularly acid wash the surface (every five years) and strictly control the pool’s PH. Also, algae growth can be more common in plaster surfaces, requiring more maintenance to prevent staining and discoloration. 


Pebble surfaces are rapidly becoming the most popular pool finish on new and remodeled pools. Of all the surface options, pebble offers some of the best longevity, appearance, and comfort on your feet at an affordable price. Pebble also offers lower maintenance than plaster by far. 

Pebble surfaces have a significantly longer lifespan than plaster pool surfaces. It is also nonporous, which means it will not absorb pool chemicals and resist algae growth and stains. The maintenance requirements are also far less than plaster pool surfaces. 

The pool concrete will be finished, and after it has cured, using a mixture of polished stone pebbles and hydraulic cement, the pebble surface is applied. The mix of concrete and pebble is applied pneumatically. The application is very similar to installing gunite. Then hand-wiped or water-blasted to reveal the top layer of pebbles.

Pebble comes in colors ranging from white to black and almost every color in between. The vast number of color choices can be overwhelming for some new pool owners. When selecting the pebble, you should be aware that the pebble size will affect the texture of the pool’s surface. The size of the pebble will be as crucial in the selection process as the color. The smaller the pebbles are, the better the texture will feel on your feet. Pebble is also slip and stain-resistant.


One of the leading providers of pebble surfaces is PebbleTec. The company has been in business for over 25 years, with many quarries located worldwide, allowing for an extensive range of material offerings. They have four different types of finishes that come in different textures and colors:

  • PebbleTec 
  • PebbleSheen
  • PebbleFina 
  • PebbleBrilliance

You can learn more about these finishes here.


pool tile installation

Now we arrive at the peak of the high-end pool surface finishes.

Tile is by far the most expensive pool surface finish you can apply. The most substantial part of the higher cost is the labor that is involved in installing the tile. While plaster and pebble are sprayed on and then spread to the desired finish, tile must be laid out, fitted, cut, set, and finished. 

Tile takes much longer to install than any of the other finishes. Plaster and pebble installations only take one day to complete. On the other hand, tile can take several days to several weeks, depending on the material and pattern.

Tile comes in a wide array of colors and materials that can give you any custom look you may want. Some of the most common materials are stone, ceramic, quartz, and the most expensive glass tile.

Standard tile sizes used in pools are 1″, 2″, 3″, and 6″ squares, but other shapes are not uncommon. Tile also allows you to create a custom mosaic in your pool.


Ceramic tile is the most commonly used tile in swimming pools. The tile can be glazed or left unglazed. The unglazed tile looks more natural and tends to blend the best. At the same time, glazed tiles will give a more polished look and will be more reflective. The glazing will also help seal the tile and make it more waterproof. Not to worry if you go with unglazed tiles, as tile is naturally pretty waterproof to start with

Ceramic tiles can be hand-painted and are often used to create custom mosaic images.


stone pool tile

Stone tiles will, by far, give you the most natural look. The stone tiles will have a rougher texture than ceramic tile. Keep this in mind when considering stone tiles. The tiles come in a wide selection of natural colors that will offer a good variety of color choices.  

Stone tiles will give your pool the look of a Mediterranean-style oasis. The most common stones used are:

  • flagstone
  • travertine
  • slate
  • sandstone
  • bluestone
  • semi-polished granite


Quartz is on the high end of tile choices. These tiles are made by crushing quartz and blending it with white cement, and adding pigments.

The crystals in the quartz will shimmer when light hits them. The tiles do a terrific job of refracting the summer sunlight.  

Most of the quarts tiles used in pool surfaces will have a green or blue hue to accent the pool water’s color. There are varying depths of color that can be chosen to give the pool owner a more profound shade if they desire. It depends on the desired look and the surrounding features of the pool. 


glass tile on the pool

Now comes the most expensive material you can finish the surface of your pool. Glass is more costly than any other material, by far. Even at the high-cost, glass tile is quickly becoming a trendy material for good reason. Glass tile should never need replacement. It is chemical, UV, and heat resistant, making it a superior pool finish material. 

There are variations in glass tile quality; however, they all have an amazing appearance. Glass tiles are available with an iridescent coating. The coating makes the surface shimmer with changes in lighting and water flowing over the surface.

The only concern with glass tile beyond the cost to install is when tile breaks. With glass tile, this means glass in the bottom of the swimming pool. We all can imagine the safety risks of broken glass at the bottom of a swimming pool. Because of the risk of breaking, special care must be taken to prevent this from occurring. 


Plaster finishes are the cheapest and easiest to install, but they lack durability. Aggregates can be the most attractive but are slightly more expensive and more time-consuming. Tile finishes are the most expensive and take the longest, but their durability is top-notch.

The decision of which to choose depends on your budget and the look you want to achieve.

We recommend Pebble Tec finishes because of the increase in life expectancy, appearance, lower maintenance at a reasonable price. IN the end, the choice is yours. Here a list of each material’s pros and cons to help you decide which finishes are right for you.



  • Price – least expensive of all pool finishes (about $4 per sq ft)
  • Classic look


  • The surface of plaster is very rough and can easily cut the skin
  • permits algae growth
  • higher maintenance- cleaning and acid washes are required
  • The pool’s PH level needs strict monitoring and control to prevent cracks, staining, scale, and etching from occurring.  
  • Colored plaster can often streak, mottle, or change color as the dye leeches out of the plaster. 
  • The shortest life span of all pool surfaces – 7-10 years



  • Long life span – up to 20 years
  • The surface is less likely to cause abrasions to the skin. 
  • Algae resistant 
  • Stain-resistant
  • Chemical resistant
  • Low maintenance




  • The longest life span of any pool surface material- 20+ years
  • Easies surface to clean


  • Price – tile is by far the most expensive material that you can use as a pool surface. The cost can vary from $5-$130 per square foot, depending on the material. With complex pool shaps=es or large mosaic designs, the price will likely be even high. 


This article is here to give you some insight into the various materials available, their pros and cons, and an idea of the cost you can expect. If you are resurfacing your pool or what to upgrade, the surface of a new pool would be best to speak with our pool sales representative. They can help you decide on the best surface for your needs at a price that will be within your budget.