If you have a swimming pool in the US, you may be wondering what to do with your pool deck. Some call it "pool surround," others "pool decking" or "pool patio." Whatever you call it, your pool deck serves many purposes, besides just (hopefully) looking good. Your pool deck helps you keep annoying grass clippings, mulch and insects out of the pool by establishing a "protective" perimeter around it. It is a place to lounge without having to worry that the lounge chair sinks into the soil. And, a fact which is underappreciated by many, the pool deck provides structural stability to the pool wall and the pool itself.
If you are researching ideas and options for your own pool deck resurfacing or renovation project, you may want to know a bit more about the background of the pool industry. Because it provides a few clues about what you are after: a nicer looking concrete pool deck or patio.
Fact #1: The US Swimming Pool Industry
The swimming pool industry in the US is, while the largest in the world with an installed base of approximately 10 million pools, relatively small. Compared to other industries, for instance the US building materials industry with annual sales of $137 B or the US plumbing industry with $126B , the swimming pool industry clocks in with a modest $3 B per year in total revenue. Large manufacturers like Jandy and Hayward dominate along with large distributors like SCP and Doheney the supply chain of the equipment needed to build and maintain pools. However, the pool installation and maintenance industry is a relatively fragmented collection of regional and local players, requiring pool builders and maintenance companies to focus on their specific market. While one would think that "water is water" and that a "pool is a pool," there are in fact many important differences between the pool markets in different areas of the country.
For instance, pool owners in the North of the country routinely close their pools in the fall with a safety cover, pools further South never have a cover on them. While one may not be able to swim in the pool in North Carolina in the winter, the pool may still stay open so that it contributes to a great looking backyard. In Florida, for instance, where most pools are part of the lanai, the average pool size is much smaller compared with other parts of the country.
What all markets have in common, however, is that most pool decks have traditionally been built using concrete. Concrete is the most broadly used building product in the world, it has many structural advantages, it is readily available, and it is economical. Even today, most new pools are built with concrete surrounds. It is the go-to choice by homeowners and pool builders alike!
Yes, new pool owners may inquire about pavers instead of concrete. However, they are oftentimes - and rightfully so - convinced to use concrete instead, because pool builders know all too well that pavers will wobble and promote weeds. The formerly popular bluestone-type pavers are no longer promoted by pool builders because they get so very hot. Even stamped concrete is no longer suggested by most pool builders: Too frequent were complaints about a super slippery surface when new. Worse yet, stamped concrete pool decks are hard to repair: Once a section chips or spalls or cracks, the only remedy is the complete removal.
If there is one thing that all pool industry professionals want is from their work: no call-back or complaints. Especially because the pool deck itself is outside of the core expertise of pool builders and maintenance companies, concrete is the best choice for them too, because once the deck is poured, chances are very small that they will receive a complaint call from the customer! Everyone is happy!
Fact #2: The Concrete Industry
A few minutes ago, we mentioned that the US swimming pool industry is about $3 billion in annual revenue. Compare that to the staggering size of the US concrete industry of $74B annually. At an average cost per cubic yard of concrete of $125, this means that the US concrete industry pours approximately 592 million cubic yards of concrete. Because concrete and its main components are very heavy, cement plants are distributed throughout the US so that transportation to the job size is minimized. Commonly, the closer to a metropolitan area, the more cement plants you can find because of the higher demand for concrete.
At a cost of several hundred million dollars per cement plant, it is no surprise that the cement plants that exist have the market "cornered." If you want to pour concrete within say 25 miles of a cement plant, chances are that the concrete will have cement from this plant.
Concrete has always the same three main components: Portland cement, aggregate, and water. While this basic formula is the same for all concrete in the world, each cement plant uses slightly different components. For instance, the sand that is used frequently as aggregate is sourced locally from a sand mine, and its composition, color and properties vary greatly from one place in the world to another. Once the concrete arrives at the job sites, commonly accepted tests - like a backfill slurry slump test - can verify the quality of the concrete mixture. However, each concrete batch will be different from another, no matter what.
The average swimming pool deck size in the US is approximately 1,200 square feet. At a standard 4-inch thickness, each pool deck contains about 15 cubic yards of concrete. Considering the annual output of the US concrete industry of approximately 595 million cubic yards, the industry could pour an amazing 4 million pool decks every year.
While a new swimming pool and pool deck is an amazing and exciting project for a homeowner, the laws of economics dictate that the concrete that arrives on the jobs site is what it is, and that in most cases, as long as its done professionally, the concrete deck that has been poured, is what it is as well.
As we mentioned above, some of the advantages of concrete that are commonly cited include its availability, economics, durability and - most of all - its strength.
Fact #3: The Concrete Surface
Concrete mixes are specified according to their compressive strength in psi. The reference to compressive strength means that the final concrete - when cured - should be able to handle a load that produces up to the specified pressure on the concrete. Common strength ranges are from 2,500 psi to 4,500 psi, but what does this actually mean?
Consider in comparison that the ground pressure of an M1 Abrams battle tank is 15 psi, or that of an adult elephant is 35 psi, and you can understand how concrete is really a super strong material. Imagine, in theory, 166 tanks of the US military stacked on top of each other, creating less than 2,500 psi pressure, and the concrete would hold up!
So, if concrete is so strong, how come then the concrete slab in your backyard is cracked? You surely did not have a tank drive through your backyard, never mind 166 of them stacked on top of each other. The answer is that concrete also has several weaknesses, which we explain in more detail elsewhere on this blog. One is its inherently low tensile strength of only 300 psi to 700 psi, meaning that the concrete structure can only withstand a pressure of 300 psi to 700 psi when pulled apart. Since in most backyards, concrete slabs rest on more-or-less loose gravel and soil, which can and will move with changing backyard conditions, the slabs are no longer equally supported by a base. The resulting force is a lateral compressive force at the bottom of the slab, and a lateral tensile force on the surface of the slab. The slab ends up cracking on the surface.
Another weakness of concrete is its surface. As concrete sets and ultimately cures, the water of the concrete mixture reacts with the Portland cement to create the final concrete strength. The water near the surface also evaporates, drawing more water from beneath to the surface, leading to the creation of the concrete cream. Well-intended but detrimental overworking of the surface by the installer can draw even more water to the surface, leading to a mixture on the surface that is too wet, and too weak.
Indoors, where the concrete slabs are usually covered with some other flooring product, and even if not, are protected from the elements, this weak cream is rarely noticed or problematic.
Even in the outdoors, it often takes years for this weakness of concrete to be noticed. However, it becomes clear ultimately, when one compares the original surface condition to the one found two, five or ten years later: The cream has slowly washed away, exposing rougher concrete and in many cases even aggregate. What is a known occurrence and little source of complaints on common walkways or driveways, becomes a problem in any backyard: The surface of concrete pool decks becomes rough, unattractive and oftentimes littered with cracks.
With so many benefits of concrete, but also a few but key disadvantages, homeowners can feel stuck with the concrete deck that they have. Pavers are not the answer, as we have explained here in detail:
The ground surrounding new swimming pools is not stable, leading to a loose base and uneven, wobbly pavers
The same is true for pool deck replacement: Besides its tremendous risk to the structural integrity of the pool wall and the piping, when pavers are set later, they are also subject to becoming loose and wobbly.
Landscapers recommend pavers because they are not experts with pool decks.
Moss will grow in between pavers.
Weeds will grow in between pavers.
Pavers that are properly installed can be expensive.
Concrete overlays can create an attractive solution, it is all but short-lived: It’s only a matter of time before they crack and peel. Anyone who can accept the unnatural look and feel of the initial installation will be disappointed by the short lifespan. More on this topic is discussed here.
Thankfully, RenuKrete has developed a revolutionary, patented and proprietary solution that allows home and property owners to keep their concrete, but to enhance it at the same time. RenuKrete's Engineered Concrete Flooring pool decks withstand the test of time. RenuKrete is NOT an overlay, so it won't chip and peel off like an overlay!
Created from the existing concrete deck. There’s no demolition or replacement of old concrete, saving money and carbon output.
Not an overlay. It won’t chip and peel away in a few years like overlays can.
Better than pavers for pool deck applications. It won’t shift or sink over time.
Authentic. RenuKrete maintains the natural texture of your deck and gives it the look and feel of natural stone.
Cutting through the clutter of pool deck renovation options is not as easy as it might seem. None of the other options, however, can come close to competing with RenuKrete for durability, low maintenance, and sustainability – which makes RenuKrete the best choice above all.
Get started with your RenuKrete pool deck renovation today by going to www.renukrete.com/get-started