by Rob Cox August 23, 2013
If you want to really change the look and feel of a pool, beyond the interior surfaces, look at what surrounds your pool, and imagine what you could do with deck areas, planter areas, maybe even a small water feature.
So, let's talk about 3 areas of pool renovation
Pool Borders or Planter Areas
Adding earth to one side or end of the pool, and you can have steps leading up to a raised area for seating or plantings, or a higher area for water to fall into the pool. It needn't be 3 feet higher, raising less than a foot can have dramatic effects.
Drainage is important to plan correctly, so that heavy rains won't drain into or overflow into the pool, but that is easily done, as the wall of the pool is usually raised to mirror the elevation changes in the deck.
A wood deck can be easily raised 6" above the surrounding pool deck, and is one of my favorite pool deck renovations. Covering a portion of concrete deck with a raised wood deck with built in planters, storage and seating can really change the overall pool appearance.
Planted borders can also be placed at varied elevations. Raised planter boxes, built of stone or wood, can replace a boring slab of concrete with color and shapes.
Add Texture and Color
Pool decks have so many options for color and texture that it can be confusing. Here's a rundown of some of the more common pool deck treatments used on today's pools.
Stampcrete Pool Decks: Stampcrete is not an overlay, it's only used on new concrete. Templates apply a texture to colored concrete as it's poured. Staining after curing can intensify colors. Stampcrete can look like stone, brick, tile or even marble.
Stone Pool Decks: Natural stone is the ultimate in luxury pool decks. Flagstone is the most commonly used pool deck stone, but field stone or other natural or milled stone can be used. Never needs resurfacing, and is naturally slip resistant.
Wood Pool Decks: Wooden decks can be an expensive option if you use luxury woods such as redwood or ipa wood, but can be more cheaply built with less expensive woods. The design of a wood deck is very flexible and can use curves and built in benches, planters or storage areas. Wood is a nice contrast to the harder materials used around pools, and provides a great transition to natural borders.
Spraycrete Pool Decks: Spray-on concrete coating applied over new or existing concrete. Choose a color, and a texture or finish. After deck prep, a colored cementitious or acrylic coating is sprayed over the concrete and knocked down with a trowel. It can also be taped off to resemble brick and tile. Common in the south and west under names like SunDek, Kool Deck, Lace Deck.
Tile Decks: Marble, Saltillo or Terra Cotta tiles are commonly used, but there are many more choices in outdoor floor tiles made with natural or synthetic materials. Tile can be used as the entire deck and coping, or can be used for patios and walkways adjacent to the pool, in a formal or casual style and design. It can be laid over top of existing decks, with thin deck tiles.
Paver Pool Decks: One of the most popular pool deck upgrades for pools built around the turn of (this) century, pavers are a relatively inexpensive, durable and attractive pool deck option. They can be laid on a 4 in. base of crushed stone, or can be laid over a concrete sub-deck. They can be thin (2 in) or thick (4 in), and are assembled tightly together, and usually against a low steel border on the outside of the pool deck.
Exposed Aggregate: An upgrade to broom finished concrete, exposed aggregate uses small pea gravel size aggregate in the mix and spread on top of the concrete. A retardant is sprayed on the curing concrete, which allows them to spray off the top 1/8 in. of 'cream' with a garden hose, exposing the colored river stones just beneath the surface.
Borders are planter areas near the pool. During planning stages of a new deck, give careful thought to which areas around the pool will have natural plant areas. These don't have to be right up against the pool, but could be new planted areas for privacy, shade or accent - set further back from the pool edge.
Borders can also serve as barriers to the pool, for safety or privacy. Be careful not to block the view of the pool from the house, for safety reasons.
Depending on your temperate zone, different plants can be used in your borders. Ornamental grasses, dwarf evergreen and perennial plants such as hydrangea, azalea and lilac are beautiful choices. Southern and western pools can use tropical plants and palms. Avoid cactus, unless you can isolate it from the swimmers!
The soothing sound of falling water adds a playful ambiance to the pool. Small water features, such as the Copper Wok or the Edgestone Scupper are operated from a 1/2" hose tapped off of a nearby return line. Dolphins or Frogs are common fountain features, usually placed in a corner of the pool.
Larger water features range from cascades, where water flows down a rocky slope, or waterfalls with a vertical drop of 2-6 feet. They can be formal and backlit, such as the Sheer Descent waterfall, or a natural look can be custom built from stone and rock. Rainfall features, dropping from 8' or more are popular.