The Perfect Pool Blog

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Know Your Options When it Comes to Swimming Pool Surfaces

Pool finishes

If you’re adding a pool to your home, it’s important to understand the different types of pool surfaces and finishes on the market. Some pool surfaces can reduce maintenance costs and time down the road, while others can save costs upfront.

Pool finishes (which are different from pool surfaces) can range in function and style, too. Understanding the pros and cons of all your options can help you make the right choice for your lifestyle.

The 3 Types of Pool Surfaces

A pool’s surface is the material that makes up the pool’s walls and floors. There are three primary pool surfaces on the market.

1. Gunite:

Using a rebar framework, builders spray a concrete, water and sand mixture to create a gunite pool surface. This option is the most popular surfacing option in the U.S. Gunite pools are similar to concrete swimming pools, except Gunite is sprayed on in layers using a specialized spray gun, instead of poured into a wooden framework like concrete.

Often, the terms gunite and concrete are used interchangeably, since the application is the primary difference.


  • Highly durable (can last up to 100 years)
  • Complete freedom of shape/design
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Cons:

  • Most expensive option
  • Takes up to 4 months to install
  • Requires ongoing maintenance to make it last

2. Vinyl:

A vinyl-lined pool uses a layer of vinyl for the pool’s surface. Generally, builders dig a hole, build a floor and frame, and then apply the vinyl surface. Like the gunite pool, a vinyl pool has several pros and cons.


  • Cost effective (cheaper than the other two options)
  • Complete freedom of shape/design
  • Installation and maintenance are simple
  • Cons:

  • Only lasts about 5-10 years
  • Tears can happen (and they’re difficult and expensive to repair)

3. Fiberglass:

Fiberglass is the final pool surface option. A fiberglass pool is pre-molded from fiberglass-reinforced plaster. Builders install the prefabricated, fiberglass pool into the ground.


  • Non-porous and easy to maintain
  • Rapid installation
  • There’s no need to resurface
  • Cons:

  • Limited design options
  • Repairs are difficult and unattractive

What About Pool Finishes?

If you go with a concrete or gunite pool, you will need to decide on a pool finish, too. Concrete and gunite are porous, so gunite pool surfaces need to be sealed with a finish to prevent leakage and damages.

Pool finishes are also applied to make pool surfaces more aesthetically pleasing.

The main types of pool finishes include:


This is the least expensive finishing option, and it has been around since the sixties. It comes in a few different colors, but white is the most popular. Plaster lasts about 5-7 years. However, you’ll need to control the pH levels in the pool and keep algae growth under control to prevent staining and damages. Also, prepare to acid wash the pool’s surface every 3-5 years with plaster.


There are two types of aggregate pool finishes, exposed and polished. However, all aggregate finishes are usually a combination of plaster, concrete, pebbles, and sometimes, glass beads. PebbleTec is a popular brand of aggregate pool finishing.

The finished product is a durable, visually appealing, low-maintenance pool finish. Aggregate pool finishes come in a variety of looks and styles. They are more resistant to chemicals, staining and algae growth than plaster. As a result, they can last up to 20 years without needing refinishing.

Photo courtesy of Pebble Tec


This is the most expensive, high-end pool finishing option. There are several tile types on the market, including ceramic, porcelain, stone, quartz and glass, each with their advantages and distinct appearances.

Tile provides a durable and long-lasting option for pool finishing. Tile comes in various looks and styles, so the aesthetic possibilities are nearly unlimited. Once your pool is installed, be sure to add a secondary sanitizer like Nature2® to help keep your pool water clean and clear.

Still have questions about picking pool surfaces? Ready to start building your dream pool? Quickly find a qualified pool builder in your area using our free dealer finder tool.

About This Blog

Includes all the latest information, tips, and expert advice from Zodiac Pool Systems, Inc. on owning the healthiest, safest, most enjoyable pool possible.


Zodiac is a leading global manufacturer of differentiated pool and spa products. With our rich heritage of innovation excellence, we develop some of the world's leading products that afford our customers a better life.


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