How to Choose the Right Swimming Pool Tile
It’s hard to imagine a swimming pool without tile: Whether you’re going for a minimalist-meets-industrial look or an over-the-top tropical oasis, the right pool tile can take your design to the next level.
But there’s more to decorative pool tile than meets the eye. In addition to adding a splash of color or a unique, eye-catching texture to your swimming pool, tile also helps protect your pool finish -- particularly along the waterline where stains and mineral buildup can create maintenance headaches.
Of course, when it comes to pool tile, you have lots of choices: Do you want large, ceramic tiles or a mosaic of tiny, glass tiles? Do you want modern pool tile or something more traditional? Is cost a factor? What size pool tile appeals to you the most?
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the main choices you’ll need to make when selecting your ideal pool tile.
Selecting Pool Tile by Size
When it comes to pool tile, size is an important determining factor in your choice. Larger tiles tend to cost a bit less, and they’re a great choice if you want to showcase a tile with an interesting design or texture. Smaller mosaic tiles can be expensive, but many pool owners feel that the dramatic effect is totally worth the price. Here’s a breakdown of National Pool Tile (NPT)’s most popular pool tile sizes:
6" x 6" pool tile
This popular option is the largest of the “standard” sizes in pool tile. It’s also one of the most common sizes for swimming pool tile, and you can find it in a wide range of materials, including ceramic, stone-look, and porcelain.
The Pros of Larger Pool Tile
Here are a few good reasons to consider going big with your pool tile:
- A larger surface area means there’s more room for fun patterns, interesting textures, and intricate designs.
- When you choose larger tiles, you don’t have to purchase as many – so you can stretch your pool tile budget further.
Need some inspo? Check out this gallery of 6" x 6" pool tile:
3" x 3" pool tile
This slightly scaled-down size is also a great choice – and you’ll still find plenty of awesome colors, materials, and patterns to suit any design aesthetic.
Considering 3" x 3" pool tile? Check out these amazing options:
2" x 2" pool tile
If you’re looking for a good, wallet-friendly option, you can’t go wrong with 2" x 2" swimming pool tile in durable, affordable ceramic or porcelain. Keep things classic with a solid color or add interest with textures or iridescent hues.
Curious about 2" x 2" swimming pool tile? Here are a few awesome ideas:
1" x 1" pool tile
Tiny mosaic tile is perfect for adding a touch of drama to your swimming pool – and you’ll find a wide range of colors to choose from. Most 1" x 1" tiles are made of glass, which means your pool tile will last for years to come.
Check out the gallery below to see how mosaic tile can transform your swimming pool:
Did you know?
No matter what size tile you choose, you can make it last for decades with proper maintenance. To ensure a long life for your pool tile, clean it regularly and keep it free from debris and buildup. And, of course, be sure to choose tile that was manufactured specifically for swimming pools!
Selecting Pool Tile by Material
The material you choose for your swimming pool tile can affect both the look and the price of your pool. You’ll find a wide variety of tiles to choose from, including tried-and-true classics like porcelain and ceramic to showstopping glass mosaic tile. The only limit is your imagination and your budget.
Porcelain and ceramic pool tile
If you’re looking for the most bang for your swimming pool tile buck, you can’t go wrong with porcelain or ceramic. Both tiles are affordable, durable, and available in a wide range of sizes and colors, from basic blue pool tile to modern shapes and textures. They’re also easy to clean and scratch-resistant, which means that they’ll last a long time.
On a budget?
If you’re trying to keep costs down, choose ceramic or porcelain tiles. Both options are available in a range of colors and styles, and they’re more affordable than stone or glass pool tile.
Stone-look pool tile
Stone-look tiles are an excellent option if you’re looking for something more subtle and rustic. Like natural stone, stone-look tiles come in a variety of neutral shades, and today’s stone-look tiles have all of the interesting textures and unique shapes that you’d find with natural stone. What’s more, stone-look tile is a lot easier to maintain than natural stone. It’s less porous, which means it’s not prone to algae or mildew. And you won’t have to worry about sealing it like you would with natural stone.
See how natural stone can add rustic appeal to any swimming pool:
Glass pool tile
Glass pool tile offers an unmatched combination of durability and easy care. Unlike stone, ceramic, or porcelain pool tile, glass tile isn’t porous, which means you won’t have to worry much about algae, mildew, or stains.
Of course, glass is one of the more expensive pool tile options out there, so it’s not the best choice for pool owners on a tight budget. But if you don’t mind spending a little more, you’ll find that the higher price tag is worth the beauty and durability.
See some stunning glass tile options here:
Decorative Pool Tile
Decorative pool tiles are accent tiles embellished with special designs, shapes and colors. You can select decorative pool tile in most of the above materials. Our tip for incorporating decorative tile into your project? Space your decorative tiles out from each other, alternating non-decorative tiles between deco tiles.
Additional Pool Tile Products for Consideration
In addition to geometric tiles, did you know that NPT offers swimming pool mosaics? Showcase your passion for travel with a compass mosaic or recreate your favorite beach vacation with an under-the-sea-inspired coral reef mosaic. Can’t find something you like in the catalog or showroom? Call NPT to design a custom mosaic, limited only by your imagination. Consider colored grout to give your pool design a high-end, customized look. Commercial customers, don’t forget about depth markers and other safety features for your poolscape.
NPT offers more than 100 styles of durable swimming pool tiles in a near-endless array of sizes, materials, colors, and textures. Unlike most tile, all of NPT’s glass and porcelain tiles are made to withstand constant exposure to water, weather, and pool chemicals.Learn More
FAQs: Swimming Pool Tiles
What’s the difference between pool tile and regular tile?
Pool tile has been specially manufactured to stand up to sunlight, changing temperatures, an aquatic environment, and constant contact with the chemicals in swimming pool water. “Regular” household tile -- such as bathroom and kitchen tile -- isn’t designed for outdoor use and may not offer the same durability.
What is the purpose of waterline pool tile?
Because swimming pool tile is less porous than concrete or plaster, it’s less prone to algae growth and mineral buildup and it’s easier to clean – and that means it’s a perfect material to use on your pool’s waterline. What’s more, tile is available in a nearly unlimited variety of sizes, colors, and styles, from ceramic tiles in traditional, Spanish-inspired designs to mosaic-style glass tiles in every iridescent color of the rainbow.
Can you use waterline tile in fiberglass pools?
You can, but it’s optional. Unlike cement or gunite pools, fiberglass pools aren’t porous -- and that means they’re less prone to issues like algae growth or mildew. This means that waterline tile isn’t absolutely necessary. But if you like the look of decorative tile and wish for a more customized look, go for it!
Where can I find pool tile ideas?
Check out our online gallery of pool design ideas here. Catalogs, websites, home improvement TV shows, and social media sites are great resources for getting some preliminary pool tile ideas. Also, if you have friends and family with swimming pools, take a peek at what they selected, too. You can also call one of our swimming pool experts for design advice and product recommendations.
How can I find pool tile near me?
Once you have some general pool tile ideas in mind, call us at 888.476.POOL. We’ll connect you with builders and products that can make your dreams come to life.
How do you clean pool tile?
The biggest maintenance concern for pool tile is calcium deposits. To remove light deposits, you can use a soft brush and a vinegar-water solution. For thicker deposits, use a muriatic acid solution instead. A few other options include: specially formulated pool tile cleaner (available at most home improvement stores), pressure washing (make sure to use a low setting to avoid damaging tiles!), or a pumice stone (we suggest you try a small test area first to see how the pumice affects your tile).
What kind of tile can you use in a pool?
We recommend using ceramic or glass tile that is specifically made for swimming pools. Swimming pool tile is the most durable option because it’s non-porous and treated with a specially formulated glaze that prevents it from cracking and fading after prolonged exposure to the sun and pool chemicals.