Which pool surface is best in 2024?

Salt staining on fibreglass pool - after

Swimming pool surface guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide you with quality and reliable information.  This will help guide you through the process of finding a swimming pool surface that is best suited to your needs, budget, and lifestyle.  So, what is unique about this guide?  Firstly, most information found online comes from surface manufacturers who are selling the benefits of their own material. Usually, they are just promoting their own products, not conducting an honest comparison.  Also, this ‘information’ highlights all the faults and flaws in their competitor products but conveniently fails to mention the flaws with their own Therefore, because this information is unreliable, a common question that we hear from clients that are considering renovating is ‘which pool surface is the best Fact is, our clients trust our advice because we don’t sell pool interiors or have any financial affiliation with any pool interior company Remember, we have vast experience with pool surfaces because every day our company treats stains and repairs the common issues that various surfaces face when things go wrong.

Fact is, all pool surface finishes have their merits and drawbacks which are explained. Given the right conditions, any surface mentioned below can be the ‘right’ one for you and look great.

“All surface types are susceptible to visible stains and a reduced lifespan if the water is not regularly and properly maintained.”

6 common pool surfaces sold in Australia

  • Pebble ( + glass beads)
  • Fibreglass
  • Vinyl Lined
  • Quartz
  • Painted
  • Fully Tiled

Unbalanced water will damage any pool surface

What makes surface selection even more challenging is that every pool surface, no matter what they claim, will have a visible and adverse reaction to unbalanced water This happens because water is a very powerful substance and as such is often referred to as ‘the universal solvent in chemistry Remember, the chemical power and properties within the water can easily etch, calcify, stain, bleach, corrode or even completely destroy pool surfaces if the water is not maintained.  This image shows how even a simple rainwater drain can cause deep etching in concrete over time.

Pool surface lifespan is less when applied in an older pool.

In many cases, a pool interior surface product will not last as long when you apply it to a renovated pool. This is because older pool concrete pools will have aged and become more porous over the years. Also, most pool renovation companies will apply the new surface directly over the top of the old (or existing) surface. This means that the old surface is still in the pool and is now under the new surface.  Therefore, creating a strong bond to the pool shell is not possible because your old surface is still there. Because of this, some product warranties will reduce significantly (or eliminated) when used on a renovation rather than a brand-new pool. We discuss this in more detail below.

Fully tiled pool

Without doubt, fully tiled pools are the ‘Rolls Royce’ finish for maintenance and longevity. However, they also are the most expensive finish available. If your planning to stay put for the next 25+ years, this finish is worth a closer look.
COST: $18,000


  • Very durable and long lasting
  • Ceramic tiles make water maintenance easier and cheaper
  • A wide selection of tile colours, finishes, and patterns is available
  • Small sections can be repaired and matched (with spare tiles)
  • Relatively smooth under foot
  • Surface cleaning is easier than some other pool surfaces
  • Tiled pools are proven and have stood the test of time for decades


  • Tiles can fall off the walls as the pool ages
  • Up to X 4 times the cost of almost every other surface type
  • Chequered tile patterns can be visually off-putting
  • You will need to wait a long time to payback on investment
  • Trendy tiles can ‘date’ your pool over time
  • Algae and calcium can form in grout causing discolouration
  • Cheap imported tiles are etching, fading, and not lasting very long

Pebble Pool

Pebble pools, in various colours, are by far the most common type of surface that pool owners select.  Mainly because the pool contractors are most familiar with this surface.  It can go on any shape, is quick to install, and comes in almost unlimited colour combinations.
COST: $8,000


  • Wide range of colours to choose
  • A uniform finish that has no sharp edges
  • Low-cost and fast installation
  • Relatively smooth underfoot
  • The surface will not fade, ever
  • Can be reapplied easily when it comes time to renovate


  • Very common surface which may be boring for some
  • Can trap calcium, stains, and black spot algae in the aggregate
  • Not a smooth finish like vinyl or fibreglass
  • Poor application can lead to surface issues like calcium nodules
  • Will become harder to clean as it ages.
  • Small cracks will be visible

Which Swimming Pool Surface is best?

After reading this information you may feel as though every swimming pool surface available is a disaster just waiting to happenWhile this is certainly the experience of some pool owners, these issues can often never appear or take years to appear if the water is well maintainedAlong with good water maintenance, the professional application of the new swimming pool surface during the renovation process will play a critical role in surface longevity Remember, a poor surface application will cause major problems, even if you maintain the water properly.
In short, the secret to a long-lasting pool surface is to apply it properly and to maintain the water.  Doing these things will increase your chances of keeping your new pool looking great and bring joy to your family for many years.

Should you test your own pool water?

Testing water regularly is not only good for swimmer health but will also keep your pool surface looking great as well.  We often say that if everyone maintained their water perfectly then the pool stain removers would be out of business.  Also, using a good quality home water test kit may help you maintain the water more regularly because you will not have to go to the pool shop as often.  Quality water test kits do a good job and are surprisingly accurate.  In fact, we prefer the old-style ones with liquid drops as they are generally more accurate than test strips and cheaper per test. Remember, testing and adjusting the water regularly is the best thing that you can do for your pool. However, it is a good idea to go to the pool shop every so often to get a full water test to make sure all other levels in the water are correct.

Renovating your pool can transform your backyard

Renovating a pool can make a huge difference to the appearance of your home and garden.  A quality job can transform an outdated pool into one that looks brand new and is an impressive feature of your backyard.   Remember, if you feel a little scared and taken aback by what you have read here then we have done our job. We want you to know what you are getting into, good and bad.
Our goal in writing this article is not to scare you.  Rather, our aim is to help you approach this renovation project with accurate information along with a dose of skepticism This is because we hear heartbroken clients almost every day say that “if only” we had checked things out beforehand and done our research properly we would never have used company or product XYZ Remember, clients stuck in these circumstances often face an expensive repair bill and emotional stress. so to sum up, taking some time to research products and companies before signing up is a great use of your time.

Pool problems can cause genuine emotional distress

An example of the emotional distress that can occur when things go wrong happened in late 2018.  A distraught client in Brisbane told me that she had built a new pool at a cost of $65,000 and that within 7 weeks, the surface had growing staining issues.  These issues were so severe that she was unable to sleep.  When she did sleep, she was grinding her teeth with such intensity that her husband insisted that she visit her dentist After spending $4,500 to repair multiple fractures in her teeth, the dentist told her that she needed to reduce the stress in her life and stop grinding her teeth. He warned her that if she didn’t that there would be nothing more that he, or anyone else, could do for her.  It was her story that prompted me to write this article.

Take time to find a great pool contractor

Finally, there are many amazing pool contractors in the pool industry. These contractors go well beyond the legal requirements to make things right for customers if something goes wrong.  They are people of integrity and goodwill who have a brilliant reputation.  Their clients love them and have the respect of many within the pool industry.  On many occasions, I have seen genuine and honest builders personally pay for treatments, even when the issues have absolutely nothing to do with them or their workmanship.  It is my hope that this article will help you connect with contractors like these.  They mean what they say and do the things they promise.
We wish you the very best of luck in your pool project.
Wade Bosse Managing Director The Pool Stain Removers Pty Ltd.