When it comes to in-ground swimming pools, concrete pools hold the top spot in status. Yes, fiberglass and vinyl liner pools have numerous advantages – and either one could be the better choice for you and your family if you’re considering adding a pool. But the allure of the concrete pool runs strong. Whether you’re weighing your options, or have purchased a house with a concrete pool, here’s what you need to know about their construction, pros and cons, and maintenance.
How a Concrete Pool is Constructed
Even if you’ve bought a home with an existing concrete pool, basic knowledge about how it’s built will help you be better aware of condition issues that may develop. Heritage Pools provides the following step-by-step process, with elaboration by Holly Jender of River Pools.
Excavation – The first step in building a concrete pool is to excavate the area where the pool will be installed. This involves digging a hole in the ground that is larger than the actual pool size to allow for proper installation.
Steel reinforcement – Once the excavation is complete, the pool builders fashion a cage of steel bars – known as rebar – installed to match the pool’s design specifications. The rebar will eventually be encased in the concrete shell. This creates a strong framework that helps prevent structural failure. It also increases the pool’s ability to flex and move with its environment.
Plumbing and electrical work – Before the concrete is poured, the plumbing and electrical systems for the pool are installed. This includes pipes, drains and electrical wiring for lights and pool equipment.
Concrete shell pouring – Once the plumbing and electrical work is complete, the concrete pool shell is poured or shot into the pool structure. The concrete is poured in layers, with each layer being allowed to dry and set before the next layer is poured. This is followed by 28 days of curing – the process in which specific molecules within cement become hydrated with water. The more hydrated or cured concrete is, the stronger it becomes.
Finishing – After curing is complete, the finishing process begins. This involves smoothing out the surface of the pool and adding any desired finishes, such as tiles or pebble aggregate. The pool is also treated with chemicals to balance the pH levels and prevent algae growth.
Patio installation – The builders prepare the base beneath the patio area by placing and compacting stone, and they install the patio over the course of one to two weeks.
Plaster – In the final construction phase, the builders apply the interior surface of the concrete pool. This is typically plaster, which is a mixture of cement, sand, marble dust, pigment and water. The builders pump it through a hose, shoot it onto the pool shell and trowel it to a flat finish.
Filling the pool – Once the pool is finished, it is filled with water and tested for leaks and proper operation of the plumbing and electrical systems. The interior of the pool must be brushed twice a day for at least the first 10 days after filling to remove plaster dust from the surface.
Advantages and Challenges of a Concrete Pool
As our blog post – “Concrete Pool Maintenance – What You Need to Know” – mentions, think of a luxury custom pool, and you’re thinking of a concrete pool. Unlike fiberglass and vinyl liner pools, the size and shape of a concrete pool can be completely customized, limited only by the size of your property, imagination and – of course – budget. You also can incorporate fountains, waterfalls or other specialty features into the design.
Other advantages of a concrete pool include the following:
Strength and durability – A concrete pool has the longest useful life of any other type of pool. If well-maintained, a concrete pool can last as long as 50 years – or even longer. Moreover, it can handle weather and temperature extremes without showing much wear and tear – which helps in withstanding Central Florida’s triple-digit summer temperatures and occasional hurricanes.
Home resale value – While we can’t definitively speak on this matter, owing to the factors affecting the market at any given time, a quality, well-maintained concrete pool can be a selling point. In Central Florida, many homebuyers consider such a pool an important amenity that makes a house more desirable. Of course, to help your home get top dollar, the pool must be in pristine condition when it goes up for sale.
However, there are some downsides involved with a concrete pool. If you’re considering having one constructed, you most likely already know that it’s by far the most expensive type of pool, and takes the longest to install and prepare. But whether you have it built, or own a home with an existing concrete pool, here are the challenges you can expect:
Rough surface – The interior of a concrete pool is durable, but it’s also rough and can scrape your skin. The surface can become even rougher over time due to rising pH, excessive crazing, delamination or negative environmental conditions. This creates issues such as pitting and calcium nodules. They can be resolved by sanding, shaving, or acid washing, but the surface will need to be replastered if the roughness returns.
High maintenance and expense – The lifetime cost is higher for concrete pools than for vinyl liner or fiberglass pools. “Concrete pools require a lot of hands-on maintenance,” Jender writes. “The porous nature of concrete means it easily harbors algae. Once embedded into the surface of a concrete pool, algae is extremely tough to remove. In fact, concrete pool builders recommend brushing the entire surface of the pool with a steel brush at least once a week to remove any algae that is on the surface.
“Since most of this routine maintenance doesn’t merit professional work, your own effort will go into this upkeep. On the other hand, hiring a professional pool cleaning service will save you effort but not expense.”
Water chemistry is another issue with concrete pools. Because algae embeds into the surface, you have to use more chemicals to reach and destroy it. Also, concrete is alkaline-based, which constantly increases the pH of the pool water. You must test the water and add acid regularly to the water to keep it in balance.
In addition, expect to have your pool acid-washed by a professional every three to five years to remove deep-seated grime and buildup.
Frequent resurfacing – A typical concrete swimming pool could need resurfacing every five to 10 years. This mainly depends on the type of finish originally used and the amount of use the pools gets. Homeowners who have their pool maintained regularly will typically require less frequent resurfacing.
Concrete Pool Maintenance for Maximum Life
Most pool maintenance tasks apply to all types of swimming pools. As you’ve learned, however, a concrete pool requires more frequent care in order to prevent problems. Here are the basic tasks to perform on a regular basis:
Chemical balance – Maintaining the chemical balance of the pool water is critical for cleanliness and safety. Regular testing and adjustment of pH, alkalinity and chlorine levels are necessary.
Cleaning – Regular cleaning of the pool helps to prevent debris buildup and algae growth. The pool should be skimmed, vacuumed and brushed regularly.
Repairs – Prompt repair of any cracks or damages to the pool structure can prevent further damage and prolong the pool’s lifespan.
Regular maintenance checks – Regular maintenance checks by a professional pool technician are essential to ensure that the pool is in good condition and any issues are addressed promptly.
As we’ve said on other occasions, just as with your house, your concrete pool requires regular maintenance, and will develop problems if left neglected. Doing the necessary work – or hiring a reputable swimming pool service company to do it – will pay off with a beautiful asset that will provide years of relaxation and recreation for your family.
And of course, being proactive in keeping your concrete pool in good repair can go a long way in preventing leaks. However, calling our experienced team at Certified Leak Detection if you suspect a leak will help keep a bad situation from becoming much worse. We use technology and techniques we have developed over 20 years in business. In addition to quick detection of pool leaks, we provide industry-leading leak detection for spas, hot tubs and fountains. Serving areas throughout Central Florida – including Orlando, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford, Kissimmee, Clermont and Winter Springs – our team is ready to answer your call. Contact us for quick, reliable service!