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Replastering a Pool: A Complete Guide

Replastering a pool

Your pool has become a gathering place where friends and family enjoy spending time together. You have invested time and energy over the years to maintain your own personal swimming hole. Over time, however, you have noticed that the walls and bottom of your pool have become rough, bumpy and even sharp in places.

Something needs to be done, but what? As pools get older, the plaster originally used tends to get rough and make them unsightly and potentially dangerous. How do you fix the problem? By replastering.

Replastering a Pool: A Complete Guide

In a nutshell, replastering a pool means putting a new layer of plaster on the walls and bottom. What does plaster do? 

First, it serves to make your pool waterproof. Kind of important, right?

When you had your pool installed, the people who did it likely used either concrete or gunite to form the “shell” of the pool. The problem with both of these substances is that they’re porous. That means that they don’t hold water over time.

If they simply left your pool as a concrete or gunite shell, it would periodically empty out on its own and you’d have to keep refilling it.

To avoid this problem, installers typically add a ½ inch-thick layer of plaster. Not only does plaster keep the water from draining out, it also makes the surfaces of the pool look and feel nice. A newly-plastered pool will be smooth, shiny and blue.

Unfortunately, plaster doesn’t last forever. Depending on how much you use your pool and how well you clean and maintain it, pool plaster can remain viable for anywhere from seven to 20 years.

If you’re approaching that “danger” range and the pool is starting to look and feel a bit rough, it’s probably time to replaster.

Steps to replaster a pool

What are the risks if you ignore the problem? You can probably already guess some of them, but let’s go down the list:

You’ll get stains. Over time, certain minerals that may be present in your water, such as iron and copper, can cause the plaster to stain. These stains will make the water and the pool itself look a dingy, dirty green or brown color.

Ultimately, this is just an aesthetic problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. You likely spent a lot of money installing your pool, and you’ve continued spending to keep it looking and working its best. If you have to deal with a stained, dirty-looking pool after all of that, it can be frustrating.

It’s important to note, though, that the kinds of stains that call for replastering typically take many years to show. If you notice stains in one or two places after only a year or two, that is likely due to a different problem, and you definitely need to bring someone in to look at it and shore up those spots.

The surface can become uncomfortable. We’ve mentioned lumps, bumps and scratchiness, but it bears repeating. No one wants to jump into a pool and scrape their foot, knee or hand because the plaster has worn away and left rough, painful spots.

Depending on how your plaster wears away, you might be dealing with bumpy, uneven surfaces or rough ones. Bumpy may not seem so bad, but it can still be uncomfortable to walk, sit or lean on, and the lumps can make the pool harder to clean and easier for algae to find a welcome surface. And rough surfaces can not only cut you, but can also snag and tear at bathing suits and other items in the water.

It can compromise the structural integrity of the pool. Ultimately, this is the biggest danger. Remember, one of the biggest jobs of plaster is to waterproof the pool. Right underneath that half-inch waterproof layer is porous gunite or concrete. If the plaster wears through in spots, water will seep into this “shell” and can cause big problems over time.

While it is possible to patch areas that wear through on an individual basis (even while the pool is still full!), generally speaking, this is seen as a stop-gap measure. The plaster will continue to wear down on the rest of the pool surface, and the areas that you patch will always be noticeable.

Basically, if the surface of your pool feels rough or bumpy, or if you notice the “shell” materials peeking through, it’s time to think about replastering.

Replaster pool process

Is There An Alternative To Replastering A Pool?

If replastering your pool sounds like a big project, you might be wondering if there is a way to avoid doing it. The short answer is that you have several other options. Unfortunately, most are temporary fixes or even more expensive. Let’s go over each one.

Patching. As mentioned above, you could patch your pool when you notice rough areas or places where the plaster has worn through. However, this is not only a very temporary solution, it’s downright unsightly, because the patch materials will never match the plaster.

Acid wash. This is a quick fix that works for stains, but not so much for plaster that’s wearing away. In fact, it actually makes your plaster wear away faster because it essentially takes off the top, stained layer. Use an acide wash only if aesthetics are really that important to you.

Tile. Want a solution that’s incredibly durable and striking in appearance? Not worried about cost?

Tiling a pool can be a great decision. Compared to the other choices, tile basically lasts forever, as long as you maintain it. Even better, it looks absolutely gorgeous, and you can create pretty much any design that you imagine.

The downside is that tile is really, really expensive. How much are we talking about? Typically anywhere from $75-$100 per square foot. If you wanted to tile your entire pool surface, that would get very expensive very quickly. 

Paint. That’s right–paint. Years ago pools didn’t use plaster at all. Pool builders used paint that was specially designed to stand up to the rigors of being underwater, the various chemicals that tend to be present in swimming pools and the extremes of temperature.

Even better, the average cost to repaint a pool is about $5,000. It’s significantly less expensive to paint a pool, a lot easier to apply than plaster and typically it looks just as good.

So why don’t more people use paint today?

The main reason pool owners choose to replaster is that it can last up to 20 years. Pool paint jobs, in contrast, have far less longevity. In the absolute best situation, pool paint might hold up for seven years, but two or three is far more common, and pools are that used very frequently need to be repainted annually.

When you break down the numbers and the number of times you would likely need to paint your pool versus replastering it, the cost starts to look a lot more even.

Moreover, a thin layer of paint simply can’t compare with a half-inch thick layer of plaster in terms of durability. It will chip and wear away more easily, and when it does, you will need to repair it.

If there’s a reason to use paint over plaster, it’s that the application process really is a lot easier. While you could paint on your own, replastering is something that only the most industrious homeowners take on. You’ll see why in a moment.

Alternative to replastering a pool

The Replaster Pool Process

Convinced that you need to replaster your pool, but wondering what is involved? Before we get into step-by-step instructions, let’s cover the basics.

First, you’ll want to gather all your needed materials, which is no small task. You will probably have some of the tools you’ll need, but you will probably be making trips to multiple stores to get the rest. Then, you’ll need to drain your pool and remove any bubbling or loose plaster. Then you’ll need to sand down all the rough edges.

After you have a nice, uniform surface all along your pool, you’ll need to apply an acid wash and then a bond coat, allowing time between each coat to dry. Then you’ll need to mix and apply two layers of plaster to the pool bottom and walls. You’ll need to apply a few layers of pool paint, let that dry and then refill your pool.

Average Cost To Resurface Pool

Trying to weigh whether to replaster your pool yourself or hire someone to do the job? Of course, costs vary depending on the part of the country in which you live, the condition of your pool and other regional factors. If you assume your pool is about 120 square feet, you should budget about $200 for supplies and about $500 for six hours of labor. That means that your total cost will be about $700 for 120 square feet.

Steps to Replaster a Pool

You might decide you want to replaster your pool yourself in an attempt to save some money. Keep in mind that it will take a lot of time and effort on your part, because the replaster pool process is complex and prone to error.

Here’s what you’ll need to do it yourself:

  • Acid wash
  • Air compressor
  • Air hammer
  • Bond coat
  • Brush for acid
  • Buckets
  • Chisel
  • Cleaning solution (ecologically-friendly)
  • Face mask
  • Finishing plaster mix
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Hammer
  • Hose
  • Marker
  • Mixer (for cement or mortar)
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Paint roller (rough one)
  • Pool plaster mix
  • Power trowel (stainless steel)
  • Putty knife
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sander (a powerful one)
  • Shovel
  • Soda ash
  • Sponge
  • Sump pump (for submerging)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Yard brush

Some of those you probably have on hand. Many you likely don’t. A few may not even be familiar to you at all.

That doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker though. Spend some time watching a few YouTube videos and you should be able to get a general idea both of the specific tools and how you’ll need to use them to replaster your pool.

Average cost resurface pool

Once you gather all your materials, you’ll want to follow these steps to replaster your pool:

Get the Pool Prepped

  1. Turn off any pool equipment.
  2. Drain the pool.
  3. Use the sump pump to get out any remaining water.
  4. Remove any loose debris like leaves.
  5. Chisel away any plaster that has gotten loose.
  6. Sand down any edges that are sharp or rough.
  7. Use the cleaning solution and a sponge to clear away any dirt that remains.

Start the Pre-plastering Process

  1. Take your acid brush and spread the acid wash over the old plaster.
  2. Use a hose to rinse the acid wash off. Make sure you are thorough.
  3. Allow the pool to dry.
  4. Apply a bond coat.
  5. Let the bond coat dry. This will take anywhere from 8 to 10 hours.

Prepare and Apply Plaster

  1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions, and mix the plaster accordingly.
  2. Starting at the deep end of the pool, use your trowel to apply a layer of plaster at least of an inch thick. Make sure that the layer is smooth and that you fill in all cracks and holes.
  3. Allow the plaster to dry.
  4. Apply a second layer of plaster with the trowel that is about ¼ inch thick. Do a double-check to make sure that the surface is as smooth as possible.
  5. Let the finishing layer of plaster dry.

Finishing Up

  1. Once the plaster is completely dry, add a layer or two of pool paint.
  2. Allow the paint to dry completely again.
  3. Fill up the pool.

Trust Your Pool To The Pros At ABC 

Besides the process itself being difficult, time-consuming and involving the use of a number of tools you’re likely not very familiar with, there are other reasons you might be better off reaching out to ABC Home & Commercial Services to replaster your pool. Simply put, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. The job has to be done well, and it has to be done quickly to ensure that the plaster looks and works as well as it’s supposed to.

Make a mistake and you could end up with etching, crazing, shading – even bond failure that means you’ll need to redo the entire job. If you’re going to spend the money to plaster your pool, the one thing that you want is for the work to be done right the first time. The best way to ensure that is to go with the experts.

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