Aside from the type and size of the pool itself, perhaps the most important decision we make as pool owners that determines how much we will use and enjoy our backyard retreats, is our selection of deck size and material. Modern consumers have a vast array of choices when it comes to decking. Our decisions are based on several important factors – cost, size of area, typical use, and appearance.
The first rule of thumb in pool decks, is to (say it with me) “Buy as much as you can afford.” We’ve all heard it, and for good reason. It will never be cheaper or easier to add square footage to your decking than it is when you build. Adding additional deck later adds to extra cost, means giving up your yard again, and can lead to potential problems matching materials. Of course following that recommendation is easier said than done. After all, you are already spending plenty of money on the project, and adding a couple thousand dollars more can be quite a strain on the old budget. It can be a tough decision and one that may have you trying to decide between using a less expensive material and a larger deck, or a more costly option covering less space. It is really a personal choice that you have to make for yourself. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the most common deck options are pavers, stamped concrete, exposed aggregate, Sundek, Kool Deck, brushed concrete and wood.
Pavers, usually made of concrete, brick or stone, can vary wildly in price, but tend to be on the more expensive side due to the amount of labor involved. However, pavers can be a great option for the diy’er looking to save money and have a beautiful deck at the same time. Pavers can vary from simple layouts to intricate patterns. Most paver materials are weather resistant, non-slip, and very durable. One of the great things about pavers is that if one gets cracked or you need to work on the plumbing underneath, the pavers can be removed and later replaced.
Stamped concrete has grown in popularity quite a bit over the past few years. Stamped concrete is concrete that is stamped, or textured to look like patterned stone, pavers, or just about any other material. One of the great features of stamped concrete is that is can be made to match virtually any house or setting. When using stamped concrete around a pool, be sure to add a textured surface to prevent the stained surface from becoming too slippery. Stamped concrete, like pavers, will vary based on the complexity of the design and amount of labor involved.
Exposed aggregate decking is usually made by putting down a base of concrete and topping or seeding it with pea gravel or crushed stones. The pea gravel or stone is then washed to “expose” the various shapes and colors . Exposed aggregate can have a very natural look and be an excellent compliment to other natural materials. Exposed aggregate is among the most affordable and durable deck options. Aggregate can be hot on the feet when in direct sunlight and depending on the type of aggregate used, the surface can sometimes be a bit hard on the feet.
Another very popular choice for pool owners seeking the natural look is flagstone. Flagstone has grown in use recently as both a coping and decking material. Flagstone has various natural colors able to fit into almost any color scheme, and a naturally rough texture to prevent slipping. Laying flagstone, like pavers, is fairly labor intensive which adds to the cost. Don’t forget…when using porous, soft stone around pools, it may be necessary to use an approved sealer to protect the stone from chemicals associated with pool use. Flagstone, especially darker colors can also be hot in the sun and due to it’s naturally variant surface, can sometimes cause small puddles of water on the surface.
Sundek and Kool Deck, often used interchangeably, are actually two different types of concrete coatings. Both use a combination of concrete and man-made materials to form a deck coating, come in a variety of colors and have an appearance similar to stucco. As the names suggest, both of these products are excellent in areas where hot climates make for very hot surfaces and can be significantly cooler on the feet than concrete or other deck materials. Both have been in widespread use for many years and fall somewhere in the middle of the price range of decking options. Sundek is slightly more expensive, but will typically wear better and be more stain resistant. Sundek, also has the ability to be applied like stamped concrete and can be made to resemble pavers and other intricate or custom patterns – at a much higher cost, of course.
Brushed concrete, is basically just what it sounds like, concrete that is brushed to give it a better texture and appearance. The most common application would have the look of a sidewalk or driveway. More skilled installers can take this simple, cost effective material and turn it into something more appealing. Using various type of brushes, sponges, trowels and custom tools, brushed concrete can be formed with a variety of unique patterns and finishes, all while remaining one of the least costly deck options.
And finally, you can’t have a conversation about decks without talking about wood. Wood decks have been around… well, forever. Wood decks have several advantages – they can be built by anyone with average carpentry skills, customized to fit nearly any yard or situation, and are ideally suited for use around above ground pools. The main drawback of wood, is of course, weathering. Using inexpensive, untreated lumber can lead to headache when used around water. Water exposure can lead to warping, cracking, and rotting – and then there is the additional risk of pests like termites. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent or minimize these affects. Wood decks can be sealed annually to prevent rot and weathering or you can use pressure treated lumber like “Ultra-wood”, which can last for many years, and resists both rotting and pests. Another material gaining popularity is the use of wood composites, such as “Choicedek.” Choicedek, and other such composites, bind wood fiber with recycled plastic resins for a deck that can last for decades with no need to seal or otherwise maintain, other than an occasional cleaning. Composite decks are also resistant to pests and can come in several colors. While the cost of composites is much higher than wood, the trade off in reduced upkeep and replacement costs mean that composites can actually be less expensive in the long run. And, like wood, composites can be installed by the homeowner.
Basically, it is up to you as the homeowner, to determine which decking materials and options best fit your budget, and needs. Hopefully this article will help with the decision making process.