Guide to Swimming Pool Finishes Comparison Chart Pebble/Aggregate Pool Finish Plaster Pool Finish Tile Pool Surface Recommended Brands FAQs

Guide to Swimming Pool Finishes

When it comes to designing your swimming pool, few choices are as important as your pool finish. The color and texture of your pool finish can affect the shade of your swimming pool water (think bright “swimming pool blue” vs. deep, profound black vs. natural, sandy-hued beige). Your choice of pool finish can also affect your overall pool budget and your pool maintenance regimen: Some finishes cost more than others, and some require more maintenance to keep them looking their best.

New to the world of pool finishes? Have questions about which pool finish is right for you and your pool? In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the most popular pool finish options out there. Ready? Let’s dive in!

Pool Finishes Comparison Chart

Just want the basics? Here’s a quick and easy guide to the major pros and cons of the most popular National Pool Tile (NPT) pool finishes:

Pebble/Aggregate Pool Finish: Strength Meets Sparkle

swimming pool with pebble finish

A newer trend in pool finishes – aggregate pool finish -- has become incredibly popular with swimming pool owners thanks to its unmatched combination of beauty and durability. So, what is aggregate, exactly? Here’s where it can get a bit confusing: The name “aggregate pool finish” has become sort of a catch-all description for several very distinct types of pool finishes – each with their own unique characteristics, pros, and cons.

In general, though, “aggregate pool finish” refers to any pool finish that features a blend of plaster, cement, or concrete with pebbles, tiny glass beads, or even quartz crystals mixed in. The blend of materials results in a sparkly pool interior, with added depth and texture. Our favorite NPT aggregate pool finishes include:

  • StoneScapes. A favorite for pool owners craving a pool finish that mimics a lakebed or a mountain stream. StoneScapes pool finishes are available in a wide range of subtle shades that help you achieve your desired look in your backyard with the authentic texture of “exposed” aggregate. If you want an authentic look but don’t love the feel of standard exposed aggregate, consider the mini pebble pool finish, which many pool owners say is easier on bare feet.
  • JewelScapes. For a glamorous, luxurious look, consider this unique gem-inspired pool finish, which features tiny glass beads designed to sparkle in the sunlight. NPT’s JewelScapes pool finishes are available in an array of dimensional hues, from white and sand to deep midnight blue and black.
  • QuartzScapes. NPT’s quartz pool finishes are made of crushed quartz blended with plaster, resulting in a pool surface that’s as durable as it is beautiful. One of the benefits of quartz finishes is its unmatched color integrity. Unlike other materials, the color of quartz crystals does not degrade over time, insuring your poolscape exudes beauty for years. QuartzScapes are available in a wide range of radiant shades, from pale, shimmering ivory to deep, lustrous black – and every shade in between.
  • PolishedScapes. Looking for a smooth pool surface with the dimensional beauty of an aggregate finish? Look no further than our PolishedScapes line. A smooth mix of polished marble and glass aggregates, PolishedScapes provides the sparkling color you crave with the silky-smooth feel of a plaster finish.

The biggest drawback to aggregate? Price. You’ll pay much more for an aggregate finish than you would for plain plaster. But most pool owners agree that the extra cost is worth the beautiful results – and the considerably extended lifespan (aggregate pool finishes can last between 12 to 20 years with proper maintenance).

Location, Location, Location.

Your pool’s location and its exposure to sunlight can affect the way your water color looks. If your pool is in a shady area, your pool finish will appear darker; if your pool gets lots of sun, the finish color will look lighter. This is something to consider when you’re thinking about pool placement. For examples of this, check out our water color article.

Plaster Pool Finish: A Timeless Favorite

swimming pool with plaster pool finish

An enduring classic, plaster pool finishes have been around since the early days of backyard swimming pools – and with good reason. Plaster is affordable, customizable, and offers a respectable lifespan of 7 to 10 years with proper care. It’s also available in several color options, from classic “swimming pool blue” to more subdued neutrals like gray and beige.

Another great thing about plaster? It’s super-affordable, which is great news for anyone looking for a way to make the pool building process a little easier on the wallet. And although it might lack the sparkle of, say, a quartz or glass aggregate finish, you might be surprised at how amazing a plaster pool can look with the right finishing touches such as stunning waterline tile or carefully chosen pool lighting.

A few considerations before you commit to plaster: It’s a little more prone to wear than aggregate pool finish, which means it tends to become rough over time. It’s also a bit more susceptible to algae growth, which means a good pool maintenance regimen is a must.

Pro tip: If you choose a plaster pool finish, invest in a good quality telescoping pole and a pool brush. The right equipment can make maintenance a snap!

Tile Pool Surface: Swim in Color

swimming pool with tile surface and grotto

Technically, tile isn’t a true pool finish: After all, it’s incredibly rare to find a swimming pool that’s finished in nothing but tile. And, if you’ve ever wondered why, there are a couple of really good reasons for this. First of all, tile is expensive: It would cost a lot of money to finish your pool’s interior with tile. And second, tile is more prone to chipping or cracking than plaster or aggregate pool finishes.

But this doesn’t mean that you should write tile off entirely – far from it! The impact all-tile pools and spas have is certainly desirable. Want use tile as your pool or spa surface? Check out this slideshow of inspirational photos: For inspirational photos of all-tile pools and spas, check out this gallery.

For those of you wishing to accent your poolscape with tile but aren’t committed to the all-tile look, jump over to our pool tile guide where we review options and provide recommendations.

Recommended Brands

FAQs: Swimming Pool Finishes

What are the different types of pool finishes?

There are many varieties of pool finishes to choose from. The most popular options are plaster and aggregate. You can also opt for an all-tile pool or spa.

What is StoneScapes pool finish?

Stonescapes is the name for NPT’s line of pebble-inspired aggregate pool finishes. Our StoneScapes line includes exposed pebble finishes; smooth, polished finishes; and mini-pebble finishes. All of our StoneScapes swimming pool finishes are available in a range of shades to fit any style or aesthetic.

What pool surface is right for me?

That depends on several factors, from your budget to your design preferences. If you’re looking for a durable, wallet-friendly finish, plaster might be the best option. If you’re looking for a stunning, multi-dimensional look (and you don’t mind paying extra), consider a luxurious aggregate option like JewelScapes or QuartzScapes.

How do you choose the best pool finish for your backyard?

Once you have some general ideas in mind, we highly recommend checking out some pool finishes in person. Talk to your pool professional or find an NPT showroom near you.

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