Which swimming pool surface is best in 2024?

Salt staining on fibreglass pool - after

Swimming pool surface guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide you with quality and reliable information.  We hope to guide you through the process of finding a swimming pool surface that is best suited for your needs and lifestyle. So, what is unique about this guide?  Firstly, most information found online comes from surface manufacturers who are selling the benefits of their own material. Often they are promoting their own products.  Also, this ‘information’ highlights all the faults and flaws in their competitor products but conveniently fails to mention the flaws with their own!  Therefore, because this information is unreliable, a common question that we hear from clients is ‘which pool surface is the best?  These clients trust our advice because we don’t sell pool interiors or have any financial affiliation with any pool interior company.  Remember, we have vast experience with pool surfaces.  Each day we treat stains that various surfaces face when things go wrong.

“Every pool surface is susceptible to visible stains along with a dramatically reduced lifespan if the water is not regularly and properly maintained.”

Fact is, all pool surface finishes have their merits and drawbacks which are explained. Given the right conditions, any surface mentioned below can be the ‘right’ one for you and look great.

The 6 most common pool surfaces

  • Pebble ( + plaster)
  • Fiberglass
  • Vinyl Lined
  • Quartz
  • Painted
  • Fully Tiled

 Unbalanced water damages pool surfaces

What makes surface selection even more challenging is that every pool surface, no matter what they claim, will have a visible and adverse reaction to unbalanced water.  This happens because water is a very powerful substance and as such is often referred to in chemistry as ‘the universal solvent’.  Remember, the chemical power and properties within pool water can easily etch, calcify, stain, bleach, corrode or even completely destroy pool surfaces if the water is not maintained.  This image shows how even a simple rainwater drain can cause deep etching in concrete over time.


New pool surfaces don’t last as long as the original

In many cases, a pool interior surface product will not last as long when you apply it to a renovated pool. This is because older pool concrete pools will have aged and become more porous over the years. Also, most pool renovation companies will apply the new surface directly over the top of the old (or existing) surface. This means that the old surface is still in the pool and is now under the new surface.  Therefore, creating a strong bond to the pool shell is not possible because your old surface is still there. Because of this, some product warranties will reduce significantly (or eliminated) when used on a renovation rather than a brand-new pool. We discuss this in more detail below.

Fully tiled pools

Without doubt, fully tiled pools are the ‘Rolls Royce’ finish for maintenance and longevity. However, they also are the most expensive finish available. If your planning to stay put for the next 25+ years, this finish is worth a closer look.
COST: $18,000


  • Very durable and long lasting
  • Ceramic tile surface makes it easier and cheaper to maintain water balance
  • Wide selection of tile colours, finishes and patterns available
  • Small sections can be repaired and closely matched (with spare tiles)
  • Relatively smooth under foot
  • Surface cleaning is easier than some other pool surfaces
  • Tiled pools have been used worldwide and stood the test of time for decades


  • Tiles can fall off the walls as pool ages
  • Up to X 4 times the cost of almost every other surface type
  • Chequered tile patterns can be visually off-putting for some people
  • Pool owner will need to wait a long time to see a return on extra investment
  • Trendy tiles can ‘date’ your pool over time
  • Algae and calcium can form in grout causing erosion and discolouration
  • Some cheap imported tiles are etching, fading and not lasting as long as good quality tiles

Which Swimming Pool Surface is best?

After reading this information you may feel as though every swimming pool surface available is a disaster just waiting to happen. While this is certainly the experience of some pool owners, these issues can often never appear or take years to appear if the water is well maintained. Along with good water maintenance, the professional application of the new swimming pool surface during the renovation process will play a critical role in surface longevity. Remember, a substandard application will cause major problems, even if the water is maintained perfectly. In short, the secret to a long-lasting pool surface is to maintain the water and ensure that the new surface is applied correctly. Doing these things will massively increase your chances of having a new pool surface that will look great for a long time and bring joy to your family for many years.

Should you test your own pool water?

Testing water regularly is not only good for swimmer health but will also keep your pool surface looking great as well. We often say that if everyone maintained their water perfectly then the pool stain removers would be out of business. Also, using a good quality home water test kit may help you maintain the water more regularly because you will not have to go to the pool shop as often. Quality water test kits do a good job and are surprisingly accurate. In fact, we prefer the old-style ones with liquid drops as they are generally more accurate than test strips and cheaper per test. Remember, testing and adjusting the water regularly is the best thing that you can do for your pool. However, it is a good idea to go to the pool shop every so often to get a full water test to make sure all other levels in the water are correct.

Renovating your pool can transform your backyard

Renovating a pool can make a huge difference to the appearance of your home and garden. A quality job can transform an old dated pool into one that looks brand new and is an impressive feature of your backyard. However, if you feel a little scared and taken aback by what you have seen here then we have achieved our purpose. Our goal in writing this article is not to scare you. Rather, our aim is to help you approach this renovation project with accurate information along with a dose of skepticism. This is because we hear heartbroken clients almost every day say that “if only” we had checked things out beforehand and done our research properly we would never have used company or product XYZ. Remember, clients stuck in these circumstances often face an expensive repair bill and emotional distress. So to sum up, taking some time to research products and companies before signing up is a great use of your time.

Pool problems can cause genuine emotional distress

An example of the emotional distress that can occur when things go wrong happened in late 2018. A distraught client in Brisbane told me that she had built a new pool at a cost of $65,000 and that within 7 weeks, the surface had growing staining issues. These issues were so severe that she was unable to sleep. When she did sleep, she was grinding her teeth with such intensity that her husband insisted that she visit her dentist. After spending $4,500 to repair multiple fractures in her teeth, the dentist told her that she needed to reduce her stress in her life and stop grinding her teeth. He warned her that if she didn’t that there would be nothing more that he, or anyone else, could do for her. It was her story that prompted me to write this article.

Take time to find a great pool contractor

Having said all the above, there are many amazing pool contractors in the pool industry. These contractors go well beyond the legal requirements to make things right for customers if something goes wrong. They are people of integrity and goodwill who have a brilliant reputation. They are loved by their clients and have the respect of many within the pool industry. On many occasions, I have seen genuine and honest builders personally pay for treatments, even when the pool issues have absolutely nothing to do with them, their products or their workmanship. It is my hope that this article will help you connect with contractors like these. They mean what they say and do the things they promise.

We wish you the very best of luck in your pool project.

Wade Bosse
Founder / President
Pool Stain Removers