Refurbish Old Pool Tile Waterline


Jul 17, 2014
Milwaukee, WI

This spring I am continuing my journey of refurbishing a 75 year old IG concrete pool with a concrete pool deck that is approximately 50 - 55 years old. I plan to have the concrete pool deck redone sometime this summer. I have not contracted anyone yet, but working with a few estimates now. When it actually happens will be largely dependent on their workload and weather (I am in Milwaukee, WI - spring is highly unpredictable). Below is a link to my pool (new epoxy paint refinish last year).

Dropbox - 20170925_182729.jpg

I plan to install a new tile waterline myself. Had several samples and probably going to opt for a glass tile from HomeDepot (Merola Tile Coppa Marina 12 in. x 12 in. x 4 mm Glass Mosaic Tile-GDRCOMAR - The Home Depot). Any concerns about the tile selection?

Some questions about the process and timeline of replacing the waterline tiles.
  • Is there any issue with me starting to chip away the existing tiles this spring with water in the pool?
    • As you can see from the picture, tiles are already coming off and have been for the last 2 years
    • I do not want the pool to sit without water in it as my water table in the area can be very high in spring and this is very dangerous for the pool (pool lift concerns)
    • Game plan was to use a bunch of "inflatable server bar" tubs taped to the side to avoid getting a bunch of debris in the pool - tiles will come off pretty easy as they are old
  • I am assuming I will need to clean up / smooth the walls that the existing tiles are on. What can I use to clean the wall up?
    • I was planning on using a grinder and maybe a sander to do this or is there any other recommendations to do so?
  • When the tile is removed and I have managed to get the old thinset or other material cleaned off, I am figuring that I will need to build up the wall some. Either because of issues from tile removal or because the selected tiles (link provided above) are slightly thinner than the original tiles. What material should I use to build this up? Just extra mortar or something else?
  • Based on research, I believe it is best to install the tile after the pool coping has been done. Is this correct?
    • If that is the case, are there any issues with me leaving the waterline exposed without the tiles being installed for possibly up to 2 or so months? Obviously no control over weather and concrete pool deck contractor's schedule.
Appreciate the assistance!



Gold Supporter
Silver Supporter
TFP Guide
Mar 25, 2018
Chandler Arizona
If you can float a tarp on top of the water and tape it to the wall just below the tile, it will help you greatly with clean up.
I’ll ping someone to help answer your other questions. @bdavis466


Jul 17, 2014
Milwaukee, WI
If you mean the plaster below the tiles, yes. I do not want to disturb that at all.

If you mean behind the tiles, not sure if there was any plaster, but I assume there will be some collateral damage behind.


TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
Aug 4, 2014
San Clemente, CA
I think you're asking for trouble and a lot of heartache. My suggestion is to drain the pool and punch a few holes in the shell for hydrostatic relief. Have the coping replaced, tile the waterline and have the pool replastered.