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Thread: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

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    TortugaCat's Avatar
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    Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    We love the look of travertine, but after all the overages we have experienced (some of our own doing) it is not in our budget. We found a concrete person, not our PB, who does rock salt finish concrete (aka salted concrete, or salt concrete). We saw a sample of the finished product and loved the look and feel. The price was great too. However, when I asked him about getting a quote, our PB said that nobody does this finish anymore because people in cold climates had issues with it when it first became popular 20 years ago. The concrete person, of course, only had good things to say about it. Our PB won't offer it to us an option, because it is "too risky". He is suggesting a more traditional stamped concrete.

    I know nothing about concrete and I am not sure who is telling the truth, or if the truth is somewhere in between. Any experts out there? Any advice? I don't want to make a mistake that I will regret, but I am not a huge fan of the look of stamped concrete. Decision has to be made ASAP.
    Pool + Spa in MA -- 40' x 16' gunite pool, 8' x 8' spa with spillover. PebbleSheen Ocean Blue. Vibrance Glass Nero 2" x 2" tile. SWG, Paramount in-floor cleaning system, 400 BTU Sta-Rite LP Gas Heater, ACT1500 Heat Pump, S7M120 Sta-Rite Modular Media Filter, IntelliPro XF 3.0 HP Pump, SuperMAX VS 2.2 HP Pump, AquaLink automation. LP gas firepit. 1700 sf stamped concrete patio.

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Personally, I don't see that it would be a problem, but I live in Florida so YMMV.

    Ask your concrete guy if you can see some of his older projects to see how they are holding up.
    14k free form IG, Pebble Tec, spillover spa, IC40 SWCG, Whisperflow 1 1/2hp pump, Fafco solar, Pool Valet in-floor cleaner, Taylor K-2006 test kit

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    I can not think of why the cold weather would cause a problem. It is just a normal concrete slab with some salt thrown on at the end and troweled in so when you dissolve the salt out, you are left with little holes. I would not think that freezing water in the holes would cause a problem since the top is open, but what do I know, I am in AZ
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Well, I love my rock salt finished concrete. It is ZERO maintenance, not slippery at all and still looks great in season 5. But, not sure how much help I can be with the cold weather aspect of it. We did have a couple of cold winters with real live snow and temps in the 9-12 range. And it has not been an issue. But, that doesn't line up with your winter. I definitely recommend it without hesitation. Pics in my build thread, link in sig. Mine is also colored with color hardener. Color is tan or buff or something like that.
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Agree with Pooldv above - We also did rock salt finish on all our concrete around our home, and then around the pool when that was built. However, we are also in an area that sees no freeze/thaw cycles at all.

    I know that there are different sizes of salt that can be used to make the finish holes in different sizes - I have seen huge holes in concrete in Hawaii to mimic lava - I would think that would be a bigger problem as the holes are walnut size (ours are pea size and smaller).
    2015 Build Link: 15'x30' Rectangle (3'-6", 5', 4' depth) 14,000 Gallon Pool, Finish: Wet Edge Primera Stone Black Kona. TF-100 Test Kit, Dolphin DX5+S Robot, Jandy CL460 Filter, VS 2HP pump, AquaPure 1400 SWG, iAqualink2, Automatic Safety Cover. No Heater

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    JoyfulNoise's Avatar
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete



    Acid wash concrete pool deck (top) and rock salt finish concrete walkways (bottom). Love my walkways. Glad I went with concrete.

    Have you looked at stamped concrete? The stamps can get very fancy and maybe even simulate a faux travertine look? Just a thought...
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Thanks everyone! I didn't sleep a wink last night, but I did email the concrete guy this morning and asked for a couple of references from past salt finish concrete patios.

    I spent a lot of time in the wee hours researching and I just couldn't find much information. Both Travertine and salt finish concrete have holes. The top grade of Travertine is around 8,000 PSI and the concrete proposal was for 3,500 PSI, but I don't see how that would make a difference in terms of durability during freeze / thaw cycles. I am also not concrete expert

    The salt finish concrete would be sealed with something that wouldn't allow water to penetrate. I am not 100% sure, but I don't think they were recommending sealing the Travertine.

    Our PB came back last night with a quote for stamped concrete which was more than the quote for the salt finish, and I like it about 5% as much. He thinks it is a lot better for the climate here and is what he has at his pool.

    Hope to have more answers soon. If anyone else has more advice in the meantime, I would love to hear it.
    Pool + Spa in MA -- 40' x 16' gunite pool, 8' x 8' spa with spillover. PebbleSheen Ocean Blue. Vibrance Glass Nero 2" x 2" tile. SWG, Paramount in-floor cleaning system, 400 BTU Sta-Rite LP Gas Heater, ACT1500 Heat Pump, S7M120 Sta-Rite Modular Media Filter, IntelliPro XF 3.0 HP Pump, SuperMAX VS 2.2 HP Pump, AquaLink automation. LP gas firepit. 1700 sf stamped concrete patio.

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    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    I wouldn't seal the concrete. That just creates another maintenance chore, risks making the concrete slippery and is of questionable value.
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    Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Thanks pooldv, I will ask more questions about the sealer and why they think it's necessary.

    Latest update. PB emailed and said his concrete sub could do salted finish, but there might be a delay because he had to order the stamp. Um, what?! But I thought it was a terrible idea?! No mention of that...

    The concrete sub the PB uses does rebar and 4000psi. The concrete person we received the quote from uses mesh and 3500 psi. Not sure how much of a difference that makes, or if it's one of those industry debates. Is either known to be better? We definitely don't want to cheap out on materials or quality given the climate.


    Pool + Spa in MA -- 40' x 16' gunite pool, 8' x 8' spa with spillover. PebbleSheen Ocean Blue. Vibrance Glass Nero 2" x 2" tile. SWG, Paramount in-floor cleaning system, 400 BTU Sta-Rite LP Gas Heater, ACT1500 Heat Pump, S7M120 Sta-Rite Modular Media Filter, IntelliPro XF 3.0 HP Pump, SuperMAX VS 2.2 HP Pump, AquaLink automation. LP gas firepit. 1700 sf stamped concrete patio.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    There is not a stamp needed for a salt finish .... unless they are going to try to use a stamp to make it look like a salted finish.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Yeah, that stamp comment sounds a little off. They just sprinkle the rock salt onto the concrete and press it in a bit.
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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Yeah. Only old school concrete guys use real rock salt. Wusses use stamps. The old guy that did my decking work was like 900 years old and did the acid wash deck with NO respirator on. I think he also did some concrete work when the Romans built the Coliseum.

    Stamps are fine, but honestly using rock salt is a lot cheaper, faster and easier IMO.
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    My understanding is they are going to use a stamp to make it look like a rock salt finish. I thought they didn't want to do it because of the holes in the concrete that could be a freeze and thaw issue, but now I'm not so sure. We will decide one way or another tonight which way we want to go. I certainly have no interest in being a guinea pig.


    Pool + Spa in MA -- 40' x 16' gunite pool, 8' x 8' spa with spillover. PebbleSheen Ocean Blue. Vibrance Glass Nero 2" x 2" tile. SWG, Paramount in-floor cleaning system, 400 BTU Sta-Rite LP Gas Heater, ACT1500 Heat Pump, S7M120 Sta-Rite Modular Media Filter, IntelliPro XF 3.0 HP Pump, SuperMAX VS 2.2 HP Pump, AquaLink automation. LP gas firepit. 1700 sf stamped concrete patio.

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Yes they make a stamp to look like a rock salt finish. If they do it right it looks pretty good. If they do it wrong you'll see the seams from the stamps or worse.

    3,000-3,500-4,000 psi should all be fine for a deck. I would spend more for 5" 3,000 rather than 4" 4,000 psi. Concrete is cheap, about $100 yard, and an extra 1" or 2" won't break the bank. Wire mesh should be fine, but rebar is a little better mainly because they chair it up to the middle of the slab before the pour. Mesh is usually pulled up into the concrete after they pour. They use hooks to pull it up to the middle of the slab, and most times don't do a very good job. I don't know how many slabs I have torn out that had the mesh laying under the concrete on the dirt!

    If you want a slab that lasts I would recommend the following

    1) Dirt prep is key. They must get proper compaction of the soil or it will settle. I would really recommend hiring a testing lab to do compaction testing, pull two tests. They will probably need a soil sample a week prior to doing the compaction test so they can do a "Proctor" on the soil to calculate the compaction percentage.

    2) Reinforcing must be at least 1" from top/bottom surface of concrete. Either mesh or rebar does no good if it is not placed properly.

    3) Make sure the concrete is not too wet when it comes off the truck. It should be no more than 90 minutes old at time of placement, ask the driver to see his ticket and look for the batch time. Send it back if it is too old. The amount of water in the concrete is measured as "slump" They make a little pyramid of concrete with a metal cone and then measure how much it slumps when the cone is removed. The more water in the mix the more it will shrink and crack when it dries. I would probably shoot for 3-4" slump but no more than 6" This is another good time to hire a testing lab to come out and do a slump test. It's money well spent. PSI is a national lab I think, but there are many more.

    4) Consolidation. Make sure the vibrate the concrete thoroughly as they are placing it to eliminate air voids. Voids collect water and then freeze/thaw cycles do all the bad stuff.

    I wouldn't worry so much about the finish as I would about the above 4 items. If it is placed properly a salt finish should last almost a lifetime.

    Hope this helped!


    14k free form IG, Pebble Tec, spillover spa, IC40 SWCG, Whisperflow 1 1/2hp pump, Fafco solar, Pool Valet in-floor cleaner, Taylor K-2006 test kit

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Bumping this up because I want to get opinions on how slippery it is compared to other deck surfaces? I know someone above said that it isn't slippery at all and wanted to know if others agree? This is what we originally picked to have done because we really like the look and cost of it. BUT, our neighborhood just opened up a new pool this year and they have a combo of what appears to be half rock salt, half broom finish- I think. It is done in large squares and it alternates- one square has the rock salt texture and one does not. And it is SO slippery. THere have been so many cases of people slipping, including one this past weekend where a woman slipped and fell and hit her head so heard she was unconscious and the paramedics had to come so naturally I am super leery of it now. Is it possible this is some other material? Let me see if I can find any pics I have taken there... here's one a friend took

    thoughts?
    31' X 18' IG gunite freeform pool with raised 7 X 7 spa. Pentair Whisperflo Pool Pump, 2016 build thread Another build in DFW... far north DFW

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    We find the salt finish to be less slippery than other finishes -YMMV. I find the finish pretty forgiving, and we haven't had anyone slip yet near the pool - we also have salt finish all the way around our house and in our courtyard. Our neighbor has brushed finish around his pool and has had to add a non-slip coating (sharkbite?) to the top to keep it from being slippery.

    Now different mixes of concrete and adding color and/or sealants...could make a difference I expect.
    2015 Build Link: 15'x30' Rectangle (3'-6", 5', 4' depth) 14,000 Gallon Pool, Finish: Wet Edge Primera Stone Black Kona. TF-100 Test Kit, Dolphin DX5+S Robot, Jandy CL460 Filter, VS 2HP pump, AquaPure 1400 SWG, iAqualink2, Automatic Safety Cover. No Heater

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    We are in the process of finishing my pool. In our previous pool in south Texas we had cool decking and I loved it. Went with the salt concrete and I HATE everything about it. It was very slippery in areas so they came back and did a very light acid wash. It is not even a month old yet and already I have areas where they stamped the salt too deep so the concrete raised and is scaling off. Missing color where they acid washed. If you don't have an excellent concrete person the finish can look awful, not like tile. The pool company is behind and busy and the subs are doing awful job in finishing. Some areas are heavily salted and others are not. I've read if you have a salt pool that sealing the concrete will only create problems where the salt will eat away at the sealer. I would never recommend anyone do salt concrete finish.

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    ack, this is what keeps happening, so many conflicting opinions on it. lol, still don't know what to do!
    31' X 18' IG gunite freeform pool with raised 7 X 7 spa. Pentair Whisperflo Pool Pump, 2016 build thread Another build in DFW... far north DFW

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    I can't thank you all enough for your replies. I've learned so much. We decided to go with our PB and the stamp, because we didn't hear back from the concrete guy after asking for references. He did eventually reply a week or so later, but we were already committed. Fingers crossed that it all is working out for the best.


    Pool + Spa in MA -- 40' x 16' gunite pool, 8' x 8' spa with spillover. PebbleSheen Ocean Blue. Vibrance Glass Nero 2" x 2" tile. SWG, Paramount in-floor cleaning system, 400 BTU Sta-Rite LP Gas Heater, ACT1500 Heat Pump, S7M120 Sta-Rite Modular Media Filter, IntelliPro XF 3.0 HP Pump, SuperMAX VS 2.2 HP Pump, AquaLink automation. LP gas firepit. 1700 sf stamped concrete patio.

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    Re: Need Advice Please - Rock Salt Finish Concrete

    Quote Originally Posted by TortugaCat View Post
    I can't thank you all enough for your replies. I've learned so much. We decided to go with our PB and the stamp, because we didn't hear back from the concrete guy after asking for references. He did eventually reply a week or so later, but we were already committed. Fingers crossed that it all is working out for the best.
    Stamp or Rock salt is both concrete the only difference is the finish which in reality is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep from the surface. So environmental factors are going to be same with both.
    Sounds like your pool builder was just pushing you towards a more expensive finish (for His benefit).

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