Pool Decking: Design facts and recommendations
Nothing beats a backyard swimming pool for summer fun with family and friends. Obviously, the water is your main focus, but it’s the pool’s decking and landscaping that helps to set the scene, and also determines how safe it is for swimmers. Good pool decking should provide a secure walking area around the pool, as well for lounging areas. If you’re thinking of adding decking around your pool, renovating an existing deck, or upgrading it, the info on this page can help you research what you need, and provide tips on design & installation.
Choose Your Material Carefully
Bare feet are normal on pool decking so it’s critical that your chosen decking material won’t become slippery when wet, absorb excess heat, or be abrasive on a swimmer’s feet. The surface should be pleasant on the feet, so keep comfort and safety in mind when choosing pool decking material.
Poured concrete has been the material of choice for pool decking for decades.
It’s extremely durable, water-resistant, and when finished with a brushed surface, allows swimmers to walk barefoot safely.
Pros: Poured concrete can be formed & poured in any shape; curves and geometric patterns are frequent options. It’s also fairly affordable, averaging $10-$12 per square foot when professionally installed, or about $4 to $6 per square foot if you plan on doing it yourself.
Cons: In reality, concrete is only ‘do-it-yourself-friendly’ if the pour is small, and if you have experience working with concrete. Larger areas should be left to professionals since concrete can start to set within minutes on a hot day, and you could end up having to break it up and start again if it sets too quick.
Pre-cast Cement Pavers
Pre-cast cement pavers are a good alternative to poured concrete.
They can be purchased in a wide range of shapes, such as squares, rectangles, and octagons.
Pros: Homeowners can choose from a range of gray and earth tones. And unlike poured concrete, installing cement pavers is DIY-friendly. Pavers are non-slip and affordable, ranging from $4 to $7 per square foot for a DIY installation, or from $8 to $12 per square foot for professional installation.
Cons: If not installed correctly over a leveled, excavated bed of sand or gravel, pavers can sink or subside, creating an uneven and possibly dangerous deck.
Another DIY-friendly option, brick installs in much the same way as pavers – over a bed of leveled sand – and brings a classic look to your pool decking, so is ideal for homes with a more historic look.
Brick is a little more expensive, ranging from $1 to $8 per brick, depending on type and style, and professional installation will cost around $4 to $10 per square foot.
Pros: Brick is durable and a variety of colors and installation patterns is available. Choose paver bricks for decking as they don’t have holes in them like like standard bricks do.
Cons: Brick is time-consuming to install; they are small and each brick must be individually leveled and set. Additionally, dark-colored bricks tend to absorb heat and can get hot underfoot.
Wood is a smooth choice that feels great underfoot, but be careful as not all woods are suitable for pool decking. You need a quality exterior wood, – redwood, teak, cedar, or ipe are excellent choices – they repel water and resist insects.
Wood decking requires the construction of a joist system that the decking boards are installed onto, so if you’re experienced in basic construction, the materials for wood decking will cost around $7 to $12 per square foot, depending on individual specification. Professional installers can add an extra $9 to $15 per square foot.
Pros: Wood decking is a perfect for updating an existing concrete or brick landscape since it can be constructed on top. It’s also the material of choice for creating stairs and decks for above-ground pools and other landscaped features.
Cons: Wood is a natural, and even weather-resistant types require an annual application of protective sealants. Wood decking needs regular maintenance, and may need refinishing every 3-4 years.
Stone Tile Pool Decking
Stone tiles are a premium material available in a variety of natural colors and styles, such as travertine, limestone, and sandstone. They give the landscape a natural look.
Only unglazed tile should be used in a pool deck area as glazed tiles can be slippery. Also, choose light shades as they won’t absorb too much heat and will be more comfortable under your feet.
Pros: For sheer good looks, you can’t beat stone tile. They offer a perfect surface for lounging and entertaining, and feel soft and smooth to walk on.
Cons: As premium decking, you’ll easily pay between $12 and $25 per square foot for materials alone. Professional installation can add $6 to $30 per square foot on top of the tiling costs.
Surface coatings contain epoxy, or a combination of polymer resins, sand, and cement. This allows them to bond to concrete surfaces, cover-up aging concrete pool decking, and upgrade the appearance. These coatings provide a non-slip surface, resistant to water and chemicals, as well as harsh UV rays, meaning won’t be boiling hot in the full sun.
A range of spray-and-roll-on products are available in clear and opaque colors and finishes to update, seal, and add texture to the surface of your concrete decking.
Pros: Surface coating products are great for treating existing pool decks in need of a facelift. They’re waterproof, low maintenance, and DIY-friendly, running $3 to $5 per square foot; professional installers will cost around $4 to $8 per square foot on top of that.
Cons: Coating treatments are a surface fix, but not permanent, and they won’t fix deeper issues, such as settling concrete.
Installation and Design Details
It’s important to keep the following in mind, whether you’re doing the work yourself or having a professional installation:
- Call before you dig. Even if you’re only excavating only a few inches, call DigSafe (811), a free national service that will notify the utility companies in your area so they can make sure their buried lines won’t pose a problem.
- Obtain the proper permits from your local authority. Many communities have rules and bylaws that restrict installations in an easement or over a utility line, so check before you start, rather than have remove your pool and/or decking if you’re in violation of a local law.
- There is a cost to curves. Professional installation for curved decking will be much higher than for square & rectangular shapes.
- Factor in a slope. Poured concrete, tile, brick, and paver decking need a very slight slope in order for water to drain. Wood decking doesn’t need a slope since water drains between the boards. Ideally, the slope should be a quarter inch per lineal foot, sloping away from the pool so that dirty water, leaves, dirt and debris can wash away.
- Add a drainage channel. If you have pool decking that runs from your home to the poolside, think about installing a drainage channel between the two to collect water and allow it to drain away.
- Your foundation. Pool decking starts with a solid foundation. Poured concrete, pavers, and bricks all require excavation and a professionally leveled base of sand and/or gravel. Tile can be installed over a sand foundation, or may need a concrete slab as a foundation. Wood decking needs a floor joist foundation.