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Current swimming pool deck alternatives can be built using a variety of materials and installation mechanisms. Making the right choice will ensure an efficient project.

The choice of swimming pool deck can be responsible for making a crucial impression on bathers and their overall swimming experience and safety, while also playing a key role in terms of pool aesthetics.

But decisions surrounding the installation of a swimming pool deck go beyond the superficial: picking a low-maintenance, durable option will ensure operators’ investments remain efficient in the mid and long term.

Keep reading to learn more about current swimming pool deck options and how to pick the right one for your project.

1. What is a swimming pool deck?

The swimming pool deck is the area that surrounds a swimming pool basin. It’s the nearest surface to the water surface and a place where bathers often rest on loungers, walk around or prepare to dive into the pool.

However, the significance of a swimming pool deck goes beyond these obvious activities: it’s a key element that defines the pool’s area aesthetics, safety and comfort, making it crucial to determining user experience within a swimming pool installation’s appeal.

2. What to consider when designing a swimming pool deck?

There are a few factors to take into consideration when choosing the right swimming pool deck for your installations:

  • The surface of a swimming pool deck must look good but also be easy to navigate barefoot. It should therefore be non-slip, even-surfaced, red-heat reflective and resistant to chemicals, mould and mildew.
  • Materials must be aptly chosen to fulfil the requirements outlined above, while also balancing cost, durability and low-maintenance needs. Today, there are numerous options to choose from to ensure the right swimming pool design is delivered.
  • The swimming pool deck can also house extra leisure areas and services in commercial pool installations looking to enhance the user experience and their economic performance. As such, designers should also be ready to incorporate elements such as cocktail bars, lounge areas, watershows or spa and wellness facilities among others.
  • The pool coping is an essential element in a swimming pool deck, it plays a key role in the overall appearance of a swimming pool and when well-chosen, it can be a crucial element of decor. The coping can be defined as the area and material used for capping or edging around the basin of a swimming pool. As such, it must be uniformly designed and installed, adding to the look of the swimming pool as a whole.
  • Accessories such as movable floors and certain pool covers are installed as part of the swimming pool deck and act as an extension of this area by completely covering the pool surface when needed. Apart from protecting the pool water, they add versatility to pool installations by allowing this space to be used for additional purposes.
3. Material options for swimming pool decks

The choice of materials for swimming pool decks is often guided by a combination of factors, including safety, durability, aesthetic, overall look and price.

But the type of pool that is going to be built can also influence decisions regarding materials. For instance, in-ground pools could be accompanied by a pool deck made from concrete, as that is a durable, easy-to-customise material. Another good option are ceramic pool decks also. On the other hand, wood and composite swimming pool decks are a go-to option for above-ground pools.

In fact, all swimming pool deck materials come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the different options:

3.1. Concrete

Concrete is one of the most popular materials for swimming pool decks. This is mainly due to its outstanding cost-effectiveness, as well as its versatility and customisability.

Options for concrete decks go from the traditional plain-poured concrete to stained, stencilled or stamped concrete textures that can mimic stone, brick or other finishes with ease.

The poured version makes the perfect option for owners and operators who envision a minimalist swimming pool deck, prioritising a cost-effective and simple installation.

Stamped concrete follows the same philosophy but features a textured or imprinted surface. As such, it adds aesthetic appeal with a vast array of ornamental features that are simply unavailable in other materials, while remaining a low-maintenance choice.

Concrete’s susceptibility to heat and temperature changes must be mentioned as a potential drawback for the material, which might lead to cracks appearing on the swimming pool deck. Hence, swimming pool deck designers must ensure control expansion joints are included on the concrete surface to resolve this issue.

3.2. Wood

Wooden decking is a good choice for a swimming pool deck that provides a unique, warm and natural feeling to match almost any type of outdoor environment. This is an easy-to-manufacture option, and its installation is often simpler than other alternatives.

Several natural wood varieties such as pine, cedar and Brazilian ipe are ideal for swimming pool decks. Additionally, teak offers particular advantages such as a natural resistance to mould, mildew and insects.

The choice of wood must also take into account that tannins used to dye certain wood materials can leach colour and leave unappealing stains. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the timber, the less it leaches colour, as it hasn’t been dyed. Recycled timbers can also be a good option in this respect, as the tannins used to dye the wood have already been leached out.

A wooden swimming pool deck will require regular seasonal maintenance, including cleaning and sanding. Additionally, oiling, sealing and waterproofing operations must be undertaken on a yearly basis. Otherwise, wood tends to rot or splinter. This need for regular maintenance often escalates costs for wooden swimming pool deck options, turning them into medium to high-end choices in terms of the required economic investment.

3.3. Wood composite

Wood composite stands out as an alternative to natural wood decking. A mixture of high-density polyethylene and wood particles, it has been treated with preservatives and binders, making this option less prone to rotting compared to natural wood while presenting a similar feel. Additionally, the options available today cover a broad range of timber looks.

Wood composite is however a more expensive option than natural wood and, because of its heavier weight, it is prone to sagging.

3.4. Synthetic materials

Recycled plastic and PVC (Cellular Polyvinyl Chloride) are two popular alternatives that can provide a wood-like look while reducing the maintenance and weathering issues related to natural materials.

As such, the key benefits of synthetic materials include their reduced maintenance requirements and outstanding durability. They’re also extremely resistant to intact pests and harsh weather conditions, including daily exposure to sun and water, being a great option for high-moisture environments. Additionally, they make a lightweight and eco-friendly choice, as a high percentage of their composition includes recycled plastic.

Although a synthetic swimming pool deck might involve higher initial costs than the rest of materials listed here, it stands out as a highly viable choice in the mid and long run.

3.5. Pavers

Pavers are a popular hardscape option for pool decking that represent a cost-efficient investment with low maintenance needs and usually available in three options: concrete, stone or brick – the first two being more durable.

Pavers come in many sizes, shapes and colours and can be made to resemble cobblestones, granite, tile or bricks. Installed following an interlocking pattern , they can be designed to provide an uncluttered look by using larger individual units, such as slabs. Additionally, a non-slip surface can be obtained by applying textures to the pavers.

Besides their low maintenance requirements, they are easy to replace if a unit gets damaged and they won’t crack or accumulate water.

The most work-intense process in a paved swimming pool deck is the installation, as the ground will require careful prepping to ensure it’s perfectly levelled, as well as a permanent border to prevent shifting. It must also be noted that pavers are prone to colour changes and stains, and maintenance must include removing all potential weeds growing in the joints and cracks between each unit.

3.6. Stone

Stone has a rustic and earthy look that might appeal to those looking for a natural aesthetic with a rugged feel. There are many different stone options, with the price often determined by local availability.

Limestone is one of the go-to stone materials. A hardy option, it can retain its aesthetic appeal for years even after regular continued use. It also remains cool to the touch (although darker-colored stones tend to be hotter) and can tolerate extreme weather conditions.

Sandstone is another popular option for a swimming pool deck. It’s a naturally lustrous stone with a smooth texture and boasts high tensile strength. Durable and resistant to weather fluctuations , it does not require special maintenance.

Stone paving is another possibility that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Additionally, textures can be worked to make any stone swimming pool deck non-slip.

When picking stone for a swimming pool deck, designers should bear in mind that this material will look darker when wet, although applying an enhancing sealer might prevent this issue.

In terms of the initial investment, certain stone options might be more expensive than other materials mentioned on this list.

3.7. Tiles

Tiles exude an air of sophistication – especially unglazed ceramic tiles – and have remained a popular swimming pool decking option for decades.

There’s a wide variety to choose from, including unglazed tiles with matte finishes, and some designed to resemble natural stone. In fact, the choice of tiles can often dictate prices, ranging from low to medium and high-end options.

Asides from their appealing look, tiles are also considered a user-friendly option as they are graded for slip resistance and can be selected to provide good traction. They can also withstand hot and cold temperatures equally well and are easily customised: they are available in a variety of colours and patterns and can include sophisticated decorative motifs for a unique swimming pool deck look.

Tile installation requires a simple concrete substrate, while maintenance operations include frequent cleaning of the grout between tiles to prevent the accumulation of grime.

3.8. Bricks

Brick gives a rustic and traditional look that can appeal to some swimming pool operators.

Available in a wide range of colours and sizes, bricks can be laid using sand or mortar, as well as over a concrete floor. Their easy installation and low material cost make brick options a mid-point investment compared to other types of pool decking.

Since bricks are made of natural material and heated at high temperatures, their colour tends to fade fast. However, bricks are not very absorbent, so dirt and stains can be easily washed away. Regular maintenance will be needed to eliminate potential moss and algae that might make a brick swimming pool deck extra slippery.

4. Swimming pool deck for competition pool events

In the case of competition pools, the nature of each competition event will determine the most adequate option for a swimming pool deck.

As such, there are two solutions:

  • Pools hosting temporary events will benefit from a swimming pool deck designed for fast and simple assembly and disassembly. This means the solution will be composed of the same panels with which the pool shell was assembled. Skypool panels by Fluidra incorporate a “L-shaped” structure that is made of the same stainless steel used on panels supporting the structure of the pool deck.

This system can extend the pool deck, making it 3 metres larger or more, depending on each project’s requirements and available space. In order to do so, a set of structures and vertical support columns are installed, improving the system’s stability as well as allowing the installation of water treatment equipment in the technical room below.

Following anchoring of the panel’s pool deck structure, it is covered with wood and a liner, providing a cover for the first 1.5 metres. Afterwards, the liner is attached to another non-slip coating, thus creating a walkable pool deck that prevents the surface from being slippery.

  • In the case of fixed competition pools, a concrete structure surrounding the pool basin is made on-site, so the Skypool panels play no part in integrating these horizontal structures or the pool deck.

During installation, experts must leave a 5-cm gap to accommodate potential movement due to the force of water or changes in temperature, ensuring the panels won’t collide or press against the cement when the pool is filled. An anchoring system offers an additional aid for preventing damage caused by these movements.

Once the overflow channel and ceramic pool coping have been installed, the liner of the panels is extended above these, passing over the cement structure until it is joined with a waterproofing coating. Finally, the non-slip slabs and tiles are placed on top, thus defining what the swimming pool deck area looks like.

5. How to make the right choice for your swimming pool deck?

As with many other decisions regarding aquatic facilities, the choice of swimming pool deck materials and overall design plays a crucial role in the installation’s final look and costs.

We’ve seen how certain materials and modular installations can help operators save money and guarantee their project remains viable in the mid and long term. Ensuring minimal maintenance operations is another key factor in swimming pool design in general and for pool decks in particular.

As such, the role of professional aquatic contractors is to use their engineering and design expertise in advising swimming pool operators on the best options in line with their project’s needs and potential limitations.