The Ultimate Guide to Pool Finishes

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A pool is just a hole in the ground—until you find the perfect finish! From rustic and natural to sleek and modern, there are almost endless combinations of pool finish types, styles, and designs. But your pool’s finish not only affects the aesthetics of your yard; pool finishes have crucial functionality—and can affect durability, maintenance requirements, and the overall lifetime costs of your pool. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore everything you need to know about pool finishes, from traditional plaster to innovative aggregate options like Pebble Tec, NPT, and Diamond Brite.

Importance of choosing the right pool finish

Your pool finish serves as the interior surface of your pool—so it’s the first thing everyone will notice when entering into the pool area. But beyond aesthetics, the finish also plays a crucial role in sealing and protecting the pool's structure, preventing leaks, stains and deterioration over time. What’s more, the texture of your chosen finish can even impact pool safety—providing traction to minimize accidents.

Types of pool finishes

As mentioned, the styles and colors of pool finishes can create endless combinations for a one-of-a-kind look. But generally, pool finishes fall into three overarching categories:

Plaster finishes

Plaster is a classic (or some might say “old school”) pool finish type. It’s probably the type of pool finish you might remember from your local public pool as a kid. This pool finish—which consists of a mixture of cement, sand, and water—has stood the test of time because it’s the most affordable type of pool finish. It is possible to push the envelope on style, however, because plaster can be tinted to achieve various colors, from classic white to vibrant jewel tones—all with a smooth surface that's easy to clean. On the downside, however, traditional plaster is prone to staining, chipping, and etching over time. In fact, it requires regular maintenance and refinishing every several years to stay looking fresh.

Tile finishes

You’re probably used to seeing tile as a pool accent—around the lip of the pool or on the steps. But did you know tile can be used as a pool finish for larger areas or even the entire pool? This luxurious and durable option offers endless design possibilities with a wide range of colors, patterns, and textures. Porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles are popular choices for their resistance to fading, staining, and chemical damage. For a more rustic or natural look, some people choose natural stone tile. In addition to its durability and easy maintenance, using tile as a pool finish allows your pool builder to create epic designs and works of art that can be as showstopping as they are serene.

On the downside, full tile finishes can be an expensive pool finishing option. Additionally, certain colors and types of tiles are more prone to mineral and salt buildup that can create an unsightly ring around the waterline of the pool. Be sure to talk to a pool expert about the best tile choice for your needs.

Aggregate finishes

Aggregate finishes are one of the most popular modern choices of pool finishes—known for their seamless look and sometimes sparkly, textured surface. Aggregate pool finishes combine traditional plaster with small bits of other materials like pebbles, quartz, or glass beads. The result is a granular, mosaic look without the expense and labor of tile installation. The color of plaster, combined with the type and color of aggregate material used, can create a variety of distinct looks to suit any aesthetic. The result is both stunning and highly durable.

Aggregate pool finishes can be expensive, but they offer superior resistance to stains, abrasion, and chemical damage, resulting in a longer lifespan and reduced maintenance requirements compared to traditional plaster. Some popular brands of aggregate finishes include Pebble Tec, NPT (National Pool Tile), and Diamond Brite.

Pebble Tec

Pebble Tec is one of the more well-known brand names of premium aggregate finishes. It comes in dozens of colors and textures and is made from small, smooth pebbles bonded together with durable cement. Pool owners can choose from a traditional textured finish to a smooth, polished finish.


Hydrazzo is a polished marble aggregate finish that provides the look and durability of a traditional aggregate finish; but thanks to its polished facade, it has a smooth texture more akin to a plaster finish. Hydrazzo finishes come in a range of colors and can be customized with additional aggregates for a one-of-a-kind look.


NPT is another aggregate pool finish brand that offers a wide variety of colors and textures. The resulting styles run the gamut from a rustic pebble look to a silky smooth shimmer.

How to choose your pool finish

Before you choose your pool finish, talk to an expert pool builder who can deliver a variety of options–and help guide you to the one that meets your needs. During the selection process it’s essential to consider factors such as cost, durability, maintenance and your intended aesthetic.

To recap:

  • Plaster is the most affordable option, but requires regular maintenance and refinishing.
  • Tile is luxurious and durable but can be the most expensive if used as a full finish.
  • Aggregate is durable, low-maintenance, and visually appealing, with a moderate price tag.

In conclusion, the choice of pool finish is a crucial decision that will impact the beauty, durability, and maintenance requirements of your pool for years to come. Whether you opt for traditional plaster, elegant tile, or innovative aggregate, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of each option and select the finish that best suits your budget, lifestyle, and aesthetic preferences. By investing in a high-quality pool finish, you can create a stunning aquatic oasis that enhances your property and provides years of enjoyment for you and your family.