Framing Your Swimming Pool
The masonry around your swimming pool sets the tone for your entire backyard. Materials, design elements, and craftsmanship combine to frame your pool and create a custom outdoor living space. Depending on your style and entertaining needs, stone decks can include multiple levels, staircases, service counters, privacy walls, built-in lighting, fire pits and more. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning new construction or a renovation in your backyard.
There are two common techniques used for installing a deck around a pool: “dry set” and “wet set”. Each approach has pros and cons. You’ll hear contractors refer to one or both techniques and unless you are in the construction business, you probably won’t have a clue what they are talking about. So here is a basic description of each:
Stones are set upon a gravel base in a diluted sand and cement mixture. The joints between the stones are then “broom swept” to ensure a solid bond. Some masons prefer to use stone dust; however, at Shoreline we’ve consistently seen better results with the sand and cement mixture.
Pros: Most cost-effective approach. Lifting and resetting stones is a relatively simple and inexpensive process
Cons: Over time, the deck will undoubtedly shift and settle due to expansion and contraction during freezing temperatures. This is a normal occurrence that will require the stones to be lifted, adjusted, and reset from time to time.
Stones are cemented to a steel-reinforced concrete slab. The joints are all cemented by hand.
Pros: More sturdy and permanent than dry set.
Cons: More permanent and expensive application. Any remedial work is more involved and takes more time.
Over the past few years, Bluestone has been the most popular choice for natural stone swimming pool decking. But we’re seeing a rise in the popularity of several other natural stones, specifically Chinese Granite and Spruce Mountain Granite. All are beautiful and easy to maintain, so the choice really comes down to the look you are trying to achieve.
The most common form of bluestone decking (also called flagging) has a wide range of color options and within each color family there is a lot of variation giving it a more casual, organic look. Customer favorites are blues, grays, browns, lilacs, and rusts. Bluestone comes in random sizes of square and rectangular slabs.
Granite is a denser stone making it slightly more durable than Bluestone against extreme weather conditions. It also stays cooler so it’s a little more comfortable to walk on with bare feet. Chinese Granite has a wide range of color options, but unlike Bluestone, each color family is fairly uniform giving it a more formal or modern look. Chinese Granite comes in random sizes of square and rectangular slabs.
Spruce Mountain Granite
If you prefer a more natural looking stone deck to compliment a freeform pool, there are plenty of “irregular” stones to choose from. We love Spruce Mountain Granite. It comes in a range of brown earth tones and each piece is unique in shape and size.
While our customers largely prefer natural stone decks, we don’t want to leave out pavers. Paver manufactures offer a wide variety of materials, shapes, and sizes to mimic the natural stone look you are trying to achieve. They are considerably more cost-effective than natural stone, durable, and stay cool to the touch.
Selecting a Contractor
When choosing someone to create your outdoor living space, be sure to pick a reputable mason who is familiar with working around swimming pools. Swimming pools present unique elements and obstacles that must be addressed and accounted for to ensure a structurally sound deck. Here are a few questions to ask when interviewing potential masons & contractors:
- Are they familiar with working on top of pool pipes and electrical conduits?
- Do they understand the importance of an expansion joint to create a separation from the pool and the deck?
- Are they familiar with the required electrical bonding and inspections before they can start setting stones?
Any mason can set stones to create a deck, but a mason who is experienced working with swimming pool landscapes will save you time, money, and headaches.
About the writer:
Michael has been working at Shoreline Pools for nearly 10 years. He is the VP of Construction and the youngest NESPA Certified Builder in the country.