When it comes to finalizing your pool design, you will be faced with 3 major decisions:
What decking material or materials are you going to choose?
What tile option are you going to choose?
What pool finish are you going to choose?
And after decades of improvement in the pool and spa industry your choices in decking, tile, and finish options are almost limitless. Don’t start getting overwhelmed though, Island Way Pools is here to help quiet those nerves! Not only do we have a showroom with samples of the best materials in the industry but, we are also providing you with a blog post breaking down each of these topics.
Today, we will be taking a deep dive into: what is pool decking, why it is important, and the 5 best decking options according to our pool experts!
What Is Pool Decking?
When most people hear the word “decking” their mind likely jumps to a wood deck, which is not wrong. However, in the Pool & Spa industry the term “Decking” refers to the hardscape that surrounds your pool. Oftentimes, your decking is the first thing to catch peoples eye when you step into a gorgeous outdoor living space. Because your pool decking is going to play such an important aspect visually to the look of your project, this is the first material our team likes to have you decide on at our Showroom In Clearwater Beach!
Your pool’s hardscaping though needs to be more than just visually pleasing because it also needs to be functional for your property! The key function of decking is to be pleasant on your feet and provide you a safe surface to walk on. Your pool decking should remain cool to the touch, be anti-slip (this is one of most common concerns among homeowners), be easy to maintain, be mold/mildew resistant, and withstand the elements.
With so many pool decking options available and the ability to combine materials to create a more unique hardscape, finding the right combination of aesthetically pleasing and functional is easier to find now than ever before. With over 20 years of pool building experience, these are the 5 best pool decking materials according to our pool design team:
5 Best Decking Materials
Interlocking Pavers: One of the most popular choices for driveways, walkways, and pool decks available right now! Interlocking pavers are included in our “Tier 1” decking options, so you do not have to pay an upgrade cost if you decide on having them installed around your new pool!
Pavers are typically made of dyed concrete but can also be made of stone or natural clay; meaning with interlocking pavers you have plenty of colors, patterns, and styles to choose from. Not only do you have a wide selection of pavers but you are also getting a durable, easy to repair, and non-slip decking material without breaking the bank!
While interlocking pavers are a great choice for your pool project, it does come with some downsides. Some of the cons of interlocking pavers are:
If your property has a lot of direct sunlight, interlocking pavers can get very hot on your feet. Especially if you go with a darker color choice that will retain more heat!
Pavers are a labor intensive process and must be installed properly to hold up to the weather and foot traffic. It is important to ask for examples of the paver work of the pool builder or contractor you decide to trust with your project!
Due to pavers using dye to achieve the colors mixed in them, the pigment can fade over time with direct sunlight on them. This is especially prevalent in tans, beiges, and reds. This can be prevented by sealing your pavers though but this can be very costly over the lifespan of your pool decking.
Natural Stone: Travertine, Limestone, Marble, and Bluestone are all extremely popular natural stone options to consider for your pool or outdoor living project in Florida! At Island Way Pools, we love the look of a travertine or marble decking for pool projects; they are our most popular decking selections. Selecting a natural stone will be an upgrade from our “Tier 1” decking to either our “Tier 2” or “Tier 3” decking options. Our Director of Sales Zach will talk through these cost upgrades when you stop by our showroom in Clearwater Beach for your design consultation.
Natural stone (similar to pavers) come in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns for you to choose from. If you have done any research on pool decking, Travertine was definitely a popular option you probably saw. Travertine (and many natural stones) are extremely popular because they are durable, are easy maintenance, are anti-slip, and most important of all they are cool to the touch. If your property has a lot of direct sunlight, then you should consider upgrading to travertine decking!
With natural stone the biggest downside is often the cost, especially if the materials are having to be sourced from quarries that are not local. Similar to interlocking pavers:
Installing a natural stone deck is a labor intensive process and it is important to ensure the pool builder or contractor has examples of their work! You want to ensure that the decking can withstand the weather and all of the foot traffic that it will face.
Certain natural stones, especially darker color stones, are prone to retaining more heat. So if you have a property with a lot of direct sunlight, you may still want to consider going lighter with your color choice. Our Director of Sales Zach will be able to let you know in our showroom which samples to avoid if your property has a lot of direct sunlight.
Many people are under the impression that natural stones are slippery when wet but this is not the case at all. Natural stone becomes slippery when it is sealed improperly. It is not necessary to seal natural stone but if you decide to do it you need to make sure the contractor you hire uses an impregnating sealer. If they do not, the sealant will create a barrier between your feet and the texture of the stone. Making it very slippery!
Outdoor Tile: Tile comes in a variety of materials, colors, and patterns making it a great choice for those clients that want something a little different for their pool decking. You can even find a tile that matches the interior tile of your home, allowing you to create a more seamless indoor to outdoor transition on your property!
While tile is a gorgeous option for your outdoor project, it is important to do your research on the product you decide on. Tile is graded on slip resistance, meaning not all tile is made to be installed around your pool or outdoor living space! In addition to being very slick if you choose the wrong tile, it is also going to require more maintenance than natural stone or pavers. The grout lines are prone to algae growth and attracting dirt! If algae growth starts to occur on your tile, they will become slippery. Even if they are meant to be slip resistant!
While tile is great at exuding a feel of sophistication to your outdoor space, it can come with a hefty price tag!
Artificial Turf: Artificial turf has been rising in popularity in the 2010’s due to: its easy maintenance, the newer products actually look like real grass now, and it is extremely durable. Turf is an excellent choice if your primary focus of your pool is entertaining your kids and their friends. Newer turf is slip resistant, is safer if slips/falls happen, and will be able to withstand all the foot traffic with ease; all this while also always giving you the perfect lawn look!
If you are considering turf for your outdoor living space, it does have some cons like any product will! Installing turf properly is a skill: hiding the seams, ensuring it is staked down properly, and ensuring all the fill is installed properly is necessary for your turf to be functional and look its best. So make sure the contractor you entrust with your project has samples of their artificial turf work! Turf can get hot to the touch, especially when it is exposed to lots of direct sunlight or you go with a low quality material. They have infills that can help keep the temperature down and once turf gets wet it will cool down though.
With direct sunlight being mentioned, artificial turf can fade over time if it is not meant to handle UV rays. Ensuring your contractor or the vendor they purchase from carries products meant to withstand the sun is important because turf does come with a steep upfront cost compared to other materials!
The turf look is not for everyone but it is a great material to consider adding as an accent to your outdoor living space! Turf inlays or a large section of turf to break up your pavers is a great way to add a natural accent to your outdoor living space while also keeping the space functional. It also complements marble and travertine decking very nicely, allowing the natural stone to really pop!
Composite Wood: Similar to artificial turf, composite or synthetic wood began to amass major popularity in the 2010’s due to the material being extremely durable, easy to maintain, and available in a wide variety of colors! If you follow home improvement trends you have definitely seen the popularity of this material rise. If you love the look of wood but do not want the upkeep involved, a composite wood is a great alternative to consider!
Composite woods did not have the best rap but after the introduction of a protective shell as the outer coating… it blew up in the home improvement industry! This new protective layer meant that the decks were now resistant to insects, protected from mold/mildew, no longer faded when exposed to lots of sunlight, and were water resistant. All of these benefits with little to no maintenance, it is no wonder synthetic wood has become so popular! The water resistance has made it extremely popular in high moisture environments, something we in Florida are far too familiar with.
While composite wood may seem like the perfect material after all of the benefits, it is also going to be one of your most expensive options to have installed! Similar to the materials above, installing a wood deck is a skilled process to have installed properly and to look its best. Ensure your contractor or builder has samples of their work to show you! Composite woods can be prone to sagging if not installed properly due to the weight of the boards. They also can retain heat if your outdoor living space has lots of direct sunlight. Avoiding darker colors is one way to avoid this. Lastly not all composite woods are graded to be slip-resistant, so ensure you choose a product that will not get slippery when wet!
Two Alternative Materials
Wood: Wood has been used around pool decks for a very long time and they are especially popular for above ground pool projects. From a wide selection of materials and an almost infinite amount of stain/finish colors, wood can be an absolutely gorgeous decking selection for your property. While it is a gorgeous option, this one that we would not necessarily recommend as a best selection.
Natural wood will require a lot of upkeep to ensure it looks great and remains functional around your pool project! Oiling, sanding, sealing and repeat year after year if you want to keep your wood deck from splintering or rotting. Can you imagine having to pick splinters out of your feet, hands, or legs anytime you tried to use your pool? It does not sound like a fun experience; which is why ensuring proper maintenance of your wood is going to be very important. Choosing a less porous wood option can help cut back on your maintenance slightly but these woods are going to be more expensive upfront. A wood deck is an expensive option to start with and once you take into account all of the yearly maintenance, our team thinks it better to consider other options for your outdoor space.
Similar to turf, natural wood makes a great accent material for your outdoor project! A wood pergola, an accent wall, a decorative wood fence, or a small wood deck area are a great way to make your pool project stand out!
Poured Concrete: Poured concrete used to be the most popular material to install around your pool due to it being: cost effective, easy to customize, and durable. The possibilities with poured concrete are almost limitless now that dyes, stamped patterns, and different textures are all possible now with improvements in the industry. A skilled contractor or builder with poured concrete can create pool decking to go with almost any style. If you are a fan of modern architecture, then poured concrete is absolutely an option to consider!
While poured concrete is still a great option for your pool project, the downsides to it are why we at Island Way Pools do not recommend using it for outdoor living project. Poured concrete is prone to cracking, even with proper expansion joints it is not uncommon to see cracks occur. Unlike concrete pavers or a natural stone, if your concrete decking cracks it is not an easy fix. Typically you will need to remove a large chunk of the concrete and this can get very expensive. Another downside to using poured concrete will be the maintenance required to keep your deck looking its best!
Due to poured concrete being prone to cracks and difficult to repair, we would recommend considering another material for your pool deck! The look you may be going for can be achieved with other materials that will provide you more upside in the long term. Using a natural stone or concrete paver to achieve the concrete stepping stone look is a great alternative!
What’s The Best Decking Material?
Not one decking material is the “Absolute Best” for all pool projects! Worksite conditions, budget, your unique style, and your project goals all play a big role in deciding what pool deck will work best for your outdoor living space. Through years of experience, an expertise in the “Art of Outdoor Living”, and listening to your pool goals our design team will be able to provide you recommendations to help you create an outdoor space that leaves you in awe!
Pro-Tip from our Director of Sales Zach: “Mixing materials is a great way to keep your project from becoming too monotonous and allows you to show off your creative side!”
In our next blog post, we will give you an in depth analysis of the next big decision to make after your pool decking: What tile option are you going to choose?
Our design team can point in the direction of what pool deck will help you achieve the outdoor living space of your dreams. Schedule your consultation today with our Director of Sales Zach to start your free design, 727-259-5063!