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Swimming pool surface guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide you with quality information that will help guide you through the process of finding a pool surface that is best suited for your needs and lifestyle.  What is unique about this guide?  Most information found online that compares various pool interiors is written by a specific manufacturer who is promoting their own products.  Typically, this ‘information’ highlights all the faults and flaws in their competitor products but conveniently fails to mention the flaws with their own!  Because this information is unreliable, a common question that we hear from clients that are considering renovating is ‘which pool surface is the best’?  These clients trust our advice because we don’t sell pool interiors or have any financial affiliation with any pool interior company.  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.

“Even the very best pool surface is susceptible to visible stains along with a dramatically reduced lifespan if the water is not regularly and properly maintained.”

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

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.  This saying refers to the chemical power and properties within water which can easily etch, calcify, stain, bleach, corrode or even completely destroy pool surfaces if the water is not maintained regularly.  This image shows how even a simple rainwater drain can cause deep etching in concrete over time.

Corrosive water

Surface lifespan is reduced with renovated compared to new pools

In many cases, a pool interior surface product will not last as long if it is applied to a renovated pool compared to a brand-new pool shell. This is because older pool concrete structures 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 because the old surface is still in the pool and is now between the new surface and the pool shell that a strong adhesive bond is not possible in some cases. Because of this, some product warranties are reduced significantly (or eliminated) if they are used on a renovation rather than a brand-new pool. This is discussed 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

caclium silicate on pool tiles


  • Very durable and long lasting finish
  • Ceramic tile surface makes it easier and cheaper to maintain proper water balance
  • Very wide selection of tile colours, finishes and patterns available
  • Small sections can be repaired and closely matched (with spare tiles)
  • Relatively smooth under foot
  • Surface cleaning is easier than some other pool surfaces
  • Tiled pool surfaces have been used worldwide and stood the test of time for many decades


  • Tiles can fall off the walls as pool ages
  • Up to X 4 times the cost of almost every other surface type
  • Chequered tile patterns can be visually off-putting for some people
  • Pool owner will need to wait a long time to see a return on extra investment
  • Trendy tiles can ‘date’ your pool over time
  • Algae and calcium can form in grout causing erosion and discolouration
  • Some cheap imported tiles are etching, fading and not lasting as long as good quality tiles

Which Pool Surface is best?

After reading this information you may feel as though every pool surface available is a disaster just waiting to happen. While this is certainly the experience of some pool owners, these issues can often never appear or take many years to appear if the water is well maintained. Along with good water maintenance, the professional application of the new surface during the renovation process will play a critical role in surface longevity.  This is because a substandard application will cause major problems, even if the water is maintained perfectly. In short, the secret to a long-lasting pool surface is to maintain the water and ensure that the new surface is applied correctly.  Doing these things will massively increase your chances of having a new pool surface that will look great for a long time and bring joy to your family for many years to come.

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.  A good quality home test kit may help you maintain the water more regularly if you don’t have time to go to the pool shop frequently.  Most water test kits do a good job and are surprisingly accurate.  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 ok.

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 old dated pool into one that looks brand new and is an impressive feature of your backyard.   However, if you feel a little scared and taken aback by what you have seen here our purpose has been achieved.  Our goal in writing this article is not to scare you.  Our aim is to help you approach this renovation project with accurate information and also a small dose of scepticism.  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 XYZ or product XYZ.   Clients stuck in these circumstances often face an expensive repair bill and emotional stress that far outweighs the time it would have taken to conduct a little more research before signing up.

Pool stains can cause genuine distress

An example of the emotional distress that can happen when things go wrong happened a few weeks ago.  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 that 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 if she did not reduce her stress in her life and stop grinding her teeth 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 some time to find a great pool contractor

Having said all the above, there are many amazing pool contractors in the pool industry that go well beyond the legal requirements to make things right for customers if something should go wrong.  They are people of integrity and goodwill who have a brilliant reputation and are loved by their past clients and have the respect of many within the pool industry.  On many occasions, I have personally seen genuine and honest builders pay for our treatments out of their own money, even when the pool issues have absolutely nothing to do with them, their products or their workmanship.  It is my hope that this article will help you connect with contractors like these who 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.