Types of Pool Finishes: Which One is for You?

Pool Finish

credit: sunrisepool.com

The finish type is one of the most critical elements to consider when redesigning your swimming pool or installing a new one.

Your choice of finish will affect the pool’s aesthetic appeal, ability to withstand the elements, and total cost.

There are several finish materials and color options to choose from to ensure you get something that works best for you. This article looks at the main types currently available in the market.

Requirements of a Good Pool Finish

There are several things that you need to know when choosing a pool finish. However, the following are the essential ones.

  • Proper Sealing: The finish you choose needs to prevent water from leaking out, as this can be highly problematic.
  • Durability: Most pool finish types out there will last anywhere from 5 to over 30 years, and so you need to choose wisely.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Do you want a tropical, dark blue (lake-like) or light aqua pool appearance? You can get all this and more by choosing the right pool finish type and color.
  • Cost: Typically, you can expect to spend anything from $1,000 to $30,000 or even more, depending on the finish type you choose and labor costs.

Types of Pool Finishes

1. Plaster Finishes

Plaster Pool Finish

credit: 1goldcoastpool.com

The plaster pool finish has been around since the 1960s, which makes it one of the oldest finish types out there. This tried and tested pool finish is still one of the most prevalent options globally despite the coming of many others.

Plaster finishes contain a mix of white cement, sand, and water. Sometimes marble aggregate is used instead of sand, but the mixture is typically troweled by hand to ensure you always end up with a smooth finish.

Contractors use a round-edged trowel to apply plaster to the pool surfaces. Although plaster is typically white, it is highly customizable by adding different dye colors. Adding dyes and other pigments also helps give it extra dimension or drams.

A typical plaster finish can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, depending on the specific formulation and the elements. Also, it is one of the cheapest options as the price hovers around $5,000 for a standard size pool, making it very ideal for those working on a tight budget.

Despite giving pools a classic and more iconic finish, plaster is more prone to staining and etching. Also, it requires more maintenance, and if not applied correctly, it can feel a little rough to the touch.


  • Relatively more affordable
  • Gives pools a classy and more iconic appearance
  • More customizable finish
  • Can provide more dimension and drama
  • Tried and tested pool finish


  • Can be a little rough to the touch
  • Not very long-lasting
  • Stains and etches easily

Standard Plaster

Standard plaster is the regular pool finish plaster with no dyes or other additives. This plaster is typically white but sometimes can be grey depending on the specific cement type used in its making.

This plaster type is popular because it always leaves the pool with a more classic or traditional design, and the water appears to have a tropical aqua color.

Although standard plaster is one of the cheapest types of pool finish you can use, it often requires more maintenance than many others.

Colored Plaster

Colored plaster is just the regular plaster but with some pigmentation. While you can get it on almost any color, the most popular shades are blue and grey.

Many pool owners will opt for this color when they want to break from the tropical aqua monotony that comes with standard plaster as it gives the pool water a lake-like appearance.

2. Aggregate finishes 

aggregate pool finishes

credit: dcplaster.com

The aggregate finishes are a fantastic option when you want to take your pool finish a notch higher or even spice up a traditional plaster finish.

Aggregate pool finishes include a cement-based mixture like the regular plaster but with other materials like pebbles, crystals, and river stones added in place of white sand.

When applying this finish, the pool builders will rub off the top layer of the plaster to reveal the stones, pebbles, quartz, marble, or crystals. The finish created is referred to as an exposed aggregate finish, and it will have some small bumps that you can feel when touching the surface of the pool. However, it is still possible to get a smooth finish by polishing the surface.

Aggregate pool finishes are some of the most durable that you can get. Most types will typically last up to 30 years when properly installed. Better still, they hardly require any significant maintenance besides the usual cleaning and descaling.

That said, the aesthetic appeal of the aggregate finishes will come at a cost as they can be up to 3 times pricier than the plaster types, with prices averaging around $15,000. Additionally, these finishes seem a little more prone to calcium buildup.


  • Requires little maintenance
  • Highly durable finish
  • Plenty of finish options
  • Visually appealing and unique


  • More expensive than plaster
  • Prone to calcium buildup

Quartz Aggregate

Quartz aggregate finish is a mixture of polymer-modified cement and quartz. This finish often uses colored quartz for more aesthetic appeal and will also include dyes and other additives.

The finish will hold up well against common pool chemicals and the elements. You can expect a service life of between 7 and 12 years from this finish. However, you still need to choose a good product like Diamond Brite, which you can get in various textures and colors.

Marble Aggregate

Marble aggregate is a smooth, polished pool finish that will look fantastic in both modern and traditional indoor or outdoor pools.

This finish will include actual marbles mixed with white cement. Once applied, you need to give the surface a thorough polish to highlight them with a nice shine. You can expect to get a plaster life of 9 to 12 years with this option.

Pebble Aggregate

Pebble aggregate finishes include cement, pebbles, some smooth stones, and pigmentation. This finish creates a blue-lagoon-like water appearance and has a very natural feel.

Pool owners love that this finish creates a non-slip surface and that you can get it in several texture and color options. Pebble aggregate finishes will last between 10 and 20 years. If you prefer the pebble aggregates, CL Industries has some good pebble options in various styles.

Glass Bead

If you are looking for a high-end aggregate finish for your pool, the glass bead option will be a fantastic choice. This finish adds a 3D appeal to the swimming pool and a lovely sparkle that makes it ideal for use as an accent for contemporary swimming pools.

This finish will mix glass beads into the cement-based aggregate finish mix and sometimes include pebbles to add a non-slip element to the surface. Good quality glass bead finishes should last at least 15 years.

3. Tile finishes 

glass tile pool finishes

credit: premierpools.com.au

Tile finishes are some of the most durable options you can use for your pool. Better yet, tiles also offer a wider variety of color, pattern, and texture options.

Typical pool tiles are either porcelain, glass, or stones and come in hand-painted, textured, and glazed options for those who prefer something even fancier.

For those who love the finer things in life or want to give their swimming pools a classy look, tile finishes will be a fantastic option. But, like other fine things, these luxurious finishes can be quite costly as you often have to part with as much as $50 for every square foot.

Unlike the plaster or aggregated finish types, tile finishes are installed by hand. Additionally, you can use tiles to create interesting mosaic patterns to give the pool some extra elegance.

Provided you choose a suitable tile type, you might never need to replace them as they offer one of the longest service life.

Besides being one of the most expensive pool finish options, tiles are also quite labor-intensive to install, given you need to lay each by hand, and they are prone to calcium buildup.


  • Luxurious and delightful finish
  • Highly durable finish
  • Ideal for creating mosaic patterns


  • Quite expensive
  • Long and laborious installation process
  • Prone to calcium buildup

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

The ceramic or porcelain pool tiles are an ideal option for those shopping on a tight budget, as a 9-piece box of 4-inch tiles hardly goes beyond the $30 mark. They are the most common type but still offer a fantastic look if you go for those that come in attractive patterns like the DRT Talavera Ceramic Mexican Tile.

It is crucial to note that porcelain tiles are more durable than ceramic ones and cost more. Additionally, porcelain tiles also come in textured options to help create an anti-slip pool surface.

Stone Tile

Stone tiles are all-natural as they come from actual stones like granite, sandstone, and quartzite. These tiles have a highly aesthetically appealing appearance and offer better resistance to chlorine and the elements.

Safety is also assured with these tiles as they create a non-slip surface. Better still, they make pool warming faster and easier as they will absorb heat quickly.

Glass Tile

Glass tiles are premium pool tiles ideal for those who want to give their swimming pools a luxurious, high-end appearance. However, these are some of the priciest pool tiles out there. You should be ready to spend up to $100 or even more per square foot to buy and install them.

These tiles are resistant to UV rays, heat, light, and frost, which helps prolong their service life. Also, glass tiles are some of the easiest to keep clean. Better yet, some like the Illumino Opus One Ocean Blue Glass Tile will even glow in the dark to give your pool some extra elegance.


There are almost countless pool finish options out there, and so you can be confident that there is something that will suit your tastes and help give your swimming pool the desired look.

However, as you shop for a pool finish, it is essential to remember that they differ in factors like feel, durability, ease of installation, and overall cost. Thus, you need to choose carefully to ensure you get something that will work best for you.

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