Homeowners upgrading their pool deck may find a fresh start less expensive and more creative. An aged deck often has cracking, significant settlement, or needs a drainage correction. And with options like barbeques and rock hardscapes, a complete redesign might be in order. In other cases, working with the existing base may be the best way to proceed.
Small or challenging jobsites can make equipment access difficult, or when the deck serves a structural purpose, such as the upper floor of an apartment building, giving the deck a facelift can achieve the desired aesthetics without compromising the structure. The consumer's cost limitations and feelings about replacement are considerations as well.
“Sometimes homeowners fear their backyard will be destroyed,” says Mark Feldstein, CEO, Jeff Kerber Pool Plastering, Montclair, Calif. “This offers an opportunity to talk about an overlayment if the deck is still intact.” As a large swimming pool remodeler, the company takes special care to estimate the preparation costs—crack repair, shot blasting the surface, correcting improper drainage, and changing the deck's configuration to offer options to the customer for a microtopping solution if the costs are similar.
“Many homeowners want to add ‘rooms' of outdoor space as finished as an indoor living room,” says Feldstein, “and that mandates new design.” He says to find out from homeowners the look they are trying to achieve and the features they want to add. By showing them options, such as a separate coping that offers contrast to a deck's interior space or the clean lines accomplished with a single pour and a cantilever coping, the ideal design can be achieved.
The methods for installing the pool coping that sits over the bond beam and behind the tile differ, but the goal is the same: to prevent any pool deck movement from cracking the coping or causing damage and pop-outs of the tile on the inside of the pool. Jeff Kerber Pool Plastering, Montair, Calif., bonds all coping to the bond beam and the shell of the pool unless it is a single pour where they use a slip-sheet for the cantilever. The company installs expansion joint material between the double pour—bonded at the backside of the decking and at the coping to the bond beam and decking. The expansion joint material isolates deck movement from the coping. Pools are often in direct sunlight and the hot/cold temperature cycling expands and contracts the deck. “You never want the deck to push up against the coping since it could crack,” says Mike Yeakel, operations manager for Jeff Kerber Pool Plastering. Expansion joint and control cuts are placed close together—approximately a 6-foot spacing for the deck versus the typical 10-foot on-center for a 4-inch concrete driveway. Extra jointing is done at the skimmer. At the coping, the company generally places expansion joints 3 feet apart.
By contrast, Colorado Hardscapes, Denver, doesn't connect the coping to the bond beam. The coping sits on the bond beam by weight but is a completely separate pour from the rest of the deck and is isolated with expansion joint material. The coping is reinforced—with two or three #4 rebars through its length. A bond breaker is placed between the bond beam and the coping. “An exception may be when a portion of the coping itself will be submerged, such as a weir for a waterfall between levels of a pool. There, a full bond is desired to seal the seam against the water and an epoxy-bonding agent may be used,” says John Buteyn, technical manager. “In our experience, placing the concrete directly on the bond beam without an isolation sheet and without an epoxy-bonding agent has resulted in intermittent bonding and increased cracking.”
Another feature that affects the appearance is the increasingly popular automatic pool cover. The most effective mounting and concealment for a pool cover is with a rectangular shaped pool and a poured-in-place coping. The hardware goes into the underside of the cantilevered edge. In custom shaped pools, the cover may be mounted on the deck's surface. “Precast pool copings are not as stable for a pool cover installation,” says Buteyn. “Colorado Hardscapes regularly uses Stegmeier forms to shape the coping.”
Creative concrete treatments continue to evolve. Colorado Hardscapes finds that partly stamping a pool deck and combining with its Sandscape Texture patented finish are popular with their customers. Concrete artists and homeowners come up with new combinations: natural stone through a deck; stain, stencil, and engraving methodology; texture mats without a pattern; or techniques such as crinkled plastic to add texture. “Knockdown finishes have made a comeback with the addition of new polymer additives to increase adhesion and durability,” says Glen Roman, superintendent, Jeff Kerber Pool Plastering. “Spray on one or two coats with a hopper gun and give it a light or a heavy knockdown finish. We call it French Lace.”
“We often use polishing equipment with color hardener,” says Mark Foreman, AK4 Concrete Solutions, owner, Auburn, Calif. “A client wanted a soft natural travertine granite look. Light sandblasting was too aggressive, so I diamond polished to hone the surface with 50-grit resin metal pads. The honed surface exposed a very light amount of the fines in the color hardener—about the size of beach sand. We concealed all control joints within the decorative score pattern to create a seamless look.” Foreman also selectively hones sections of patterned concrete on decks to achieve natural and varied textures.
Good pool finishing includes protecting against all water: sealing expansion material with a polyurethane sealant and sealing the concrete deck. The latter varies with installers. Colorado Hardscape prefers Okon's penetrating sealer—a water-based acrylic. Foreman has come up with a system using a lithium silicate densifier in place of acrylic sealers that he says will not scratch, scuff, or peel like conventional solvent and water-based sealers. He likes the green-friendly and mostly maintenance-free results.