It’s just the way things go. Your pool has looked great for some time, but you’ve watched a few problem spots show up over the years—and now those trouble spots are not the exception, but the rule. Yikes. Everyone has different breaking points. Maybe you have a bit of extra time this week, and you’re in the mood to cross a big task off your list. Maybe it got to the point that you realized you’re actually a little embarrassed to have friends over. Either way, you know it’s time to give your pool a serious update with a new paint job.
Repainting your pool isn’t the easiest task, but it is one that you can do yourself—and if you’re properly prepared, it’s all the more likely to end with the final result of your dreams. Plus, it’s the most affordable option available—at least in the short term. I’ll explain why you might need to repaint your pool, give you all the information you need to decide between repainting or replastering, help you choose the right paint for your pool, get the prep work done, and finally, repaint your pool—the right way.
Yeah, You Might Need to Repaint Your Pool
You’re not the first one to consider repainting your pool—by far. Decades ago, all pools were painted as part of the pool opening day checklist. When plaster began to be used, pool owners appreciated how long lasting it felt that smooth, white look, as well as how durable the plaster surface was as opposed to paint. But that doesn’t mean paint isn’t still super common today.
So why is this task even on your list? You’re a great candidate for a pool repainting if your plaster (or previous paint job, if your pool has had one) is starting to look... off. Your plaster might have delamination spots, stains, cracks, or just looks generally dull. If your pool has had a paint job before, that paint might be peeling and flaking, and lost its usually shininess.
Just keep in mind that if you do have structural damage, such as cracks, you’ll need to fix those up before painting. But before we get into the super nitty-gritty, let’s visit the age-old painting versus plaster debate.
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The Painting vs. Plaster Debate
I’m not usually one to hold back my opinion, but the truth of the matter in this case is that both options, painting your pool and plastering your pool, are pretty evenly matched. I’ll let you decide—after all, nobody knows your preferences (and your pool) better than you. I will, however, present the winner of a few different considerations.
Considering Cost: It’s a Tie
You might be here because your pool guy brought up the idea of replastering—and then told you the cost. Yikes! The cost of pool plastering just starts at $4,000, and goes up depending on the look you have in mind. Who wants to spend thousands of dollars on pool maintenance?
Pool paint, on the other hand, is a much cheaper alternative—at first. For a gallon of this paint, you’ll be spending just under $100, and you can expect to drop $1,000 on materials in total. Sounds like the best deal, right?
Now so fast. Another secret factor here is time. Plaster can last 3-4 times longer than paint, so the cost ends up in a tie. Sorry about that!
Considering Longevity: Plaster Wins
Like I mentioned, plaster lasts much longer than a pool paint job. If it’s done right and properly maintained, plaster will last 15-20 years, while you can expect a good paint job to last 2-7.
Considering Durability: Plaster Wins
Pool paint might be designed for underwater use, and is super durable against unbalanced pool chemicals, extreme temperatures, and rough friction from pool equipment. But it’s just no match against the 1/2 inch of thickness most plaster can offer.
Considering Prep Work: Paint Wins
Since the prep work for a paint job can be done the DIY way—we’ll get to the specifics in a few—it wins against the plaster prep process, which requires a professional crew.
Considering Application: Paint Wins
Just like we saw about prep work, the actual application of a paint job can be done by anyone. Plastering should only be done by a crew of experts—they even have a giant truck designed just for plastering. It’s just not recommended you ever try to plaster your pool by yourself. That’s just a mess in the making.
Considering the Finished Look: It’s a Tie
Not all paint and plaster jobs are perfect, and you’ll want to make sure your paint is fresh, bonding well to your walls, and the job is done on a dry day. But when paint and plaster jobs go well, they’re pretty similarly beautiful. Pool paint is shiny, and plaster has a more matte luster.
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First, Choose the Right Type of Paint
So you’re on team paint, huh? Well, you’re going to have to get the right kind. Unfortunately on the surface, not all paints work for all pools—but that’s actually a good thing. Because the better the paint you have bonds to your walls, the better the job will look once its done.
The three types of paint are: epoxy, rubber-based, and water-based acrylic. And how much you need? That depends on the type of paint—usually, one gallon covers about 200 square feet. Just make sure you have more than enough. You’re not going to want to redo the job because you were one gallon short and couldn’t evenly apply paint to the pool all at once.
Based on Pool Type
When choosing a pool paint type, you should always consider the material of your pool. Is it made of fairly new concrete, bare plaster, fiberglass, or older concrete?
Epoxy is the most common pool paint type on the market—this is because it works for all pool types, though it’s also especially recommended for old concrete pools.
Got a fiberglass pool? Rubber-based paint water-based acrylic won’t work there. You’re better off with an epoxy.
Based on Previous Paint Job
If your pool has been previously painted, stick with the type of paint that was used or a water-based acrylic paint. This is super important, because otherwise your new coat of paint won’t properly bond to the old. Since you’re investing about a thousand dollars to get this project done, it’s the kind of task you’re not going to want to immediately repeat. No, thanks.
Don’t Forget the Primer!
In order to get the best bond, you’ll need a primer for any unpainted pool surfaces (so you can probably skip this if your pool has been painted before). For acrylic or rubber-based paints, a diluted or full strength first coat will serve as a primer just great.
For an epoxy paint job, you’ll want an epoxy primer that was made specifically for this task. For especially rough surfaces, like bare concrete or gunite, you can get a more specific epoxy primer marked especially for gunite or similar surfaces.
Drain Your Pool—The Right Way
Alright, this is where we start to get really serious. If you’ve never drained your pool before, or haven’t learned about how to drain your pool properly, it’s time to do some extra homework. If you drain your pool improperly, you could potentially face what is called the inground pool pop-up, which means that the ground under the pool rises, causing the pool itself to crack in about a million places (I’m exaggerating those cracks, but not by much). Make sure you read and reread up on how to properly drain your pool—and avoid the inground pop-up. Seriously, you don’t want this to happen to you.
When you do drain your pool, make sure that you’re able to drain it all the way—for the last of the water to dry, it’ll probably take a few days. A ShopVac might be handy for this part. Your pool has got to be fairly dry for this next step, where we’ll clean its surfaces, rinse it off, and let it dry again—but completely this time.
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Preparing for Paint—In Three Steps
You’ve got the paint on hand, and your pool is drained and pretty dry. Now we’re really in the weeds here, but good things are happening. You’re going to love how your pool is looking this time next week. Let’s prep to set your pool up for a successful paint job.
Keep in mind that if you have loose paint, hollow spots, or any cracks, you’ll want to fix them up before even starting on these steps. That loose paint can be scraped away, and the rest can be filled in. That way, you have a nice even surface to work with. With pool paint, that’s essential.
1. Scrub It Out
That paint’s not going to bond well at all if there’s grease and oils on the surface of your walls—and yes, these could be totally invisible. Use a watering can and scrub brush and wash the surface with a tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) solution. Then, rinse well.
2. Etch that Surface
To get that paint really sticking, you’ll want to make the surface a little rough. For most pool types, you can use diluted muriatic acid for this step. If you have a fiberglass pool, you’ll need to sand the entire thing with sandpaper instead, and then clean with that TSP solution mentioned above. Might want to pay some of the teenagers in your neighborhood to come by, because that’s a huge job in a big pool.
3. Check the Forecast!
No wind or rain coming, right? And no extreme temperatures on the way—like below 40 degrees or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit? And it’s not crazy humid in your area? You can expect at least three to five days to prep your pool for a paint (that’s how long it’ll take to dry after the drain) and one day to do the actual paint job. You’re not going to want your pool painted—or left empty—if any of these environmental conditions are about to strike.
How to Paint Your Pool—In Five Steps
Once your pool is dry and you’ve minimized the amount of debris that could possibly land in your freshly-painted pool—I recommend using a leaf blower around your pool deck—you’re ready to start painting. It’s a fairly tedious job, but it’ll all be worth it. And you’re saving a ton by doing it yourself. Don’t forget to have fun—and if you’ve ever wanted a stencil on the bottom of your pool, now is the time.
1. Tape Up Tile (and More)
All lights, tiles, and fittings can be covered up with painter’s tape—unless you like a Jackson Pollack look (kidding). Once they’re all protected, you can go ahead with getting the paint mixed up and ready to go.
2. Mix Your Paint—Seriously, Mix Your Paint
With primer and your actual paint, it’s important to mix it properly. And I don’t just mean swirling a long wooden stick a few times and calling it good. A power drill with a mixing paddle is necessary to get the paint really, really mixed.
Keep in mind that the popular epoxy paint usually has an additive that begins a reaction when you mix it into the paint, so each batch should be used fast—within a few hours. Better get in the zone.
3. Get Your Roller Ready
You’ll want the right gear for this task. Use a low nap roller, 3/8” nap or less, especially if you’re dealing with smooth surfaces. A five-gallon bucket with a grid will work a lot better than a typical flat paint pan. And you’ll want to buy a wooden extension pole for your roller frame, so that it’s easier to roll the paint on.
4. Add the Primer, then Paint
Now let’s get into method. Start at the deep end of your pool, and then make your way to the shallow—you’re not going to want to need to climb up steep, newly-painted walls just to get out of the pool when the job is done.
Using an even pressure, overlap your paint strokes just slightly. When you reach tougher, narrower spots, such as around your pool’s steps, use a small cut-in brush. You’ll need a few coats, so be sure to read your pool paint’s manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Let it Dry
Whew, you did it. Now, let the paint dry, and keep an eye on any debris that might fall in. Once it’s dry—and really dry—you can fill your pool right back up. If you have a water source with a high level of metals, make sure you have a water filter on your hose. And the second your pool is full again? It’s time to rebalance your chemicals and get your pump fired up.
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That’s One Chip Off Your Shoulder!
This is one of those jobs that, once it’s done, looks as good as it feels. Congratulations, you now know how to repaint your pool. And in a few years when it’s time to do it all again, you’ll know exactly what to do. Great job. Now, go soak up that gorgeous pool of yours. Enjoy.