Pro Tips for Renewing Concrete Pool Decks
By Tom Maellaro
Now that commercial pools are reopening, requests for renovations in and around pools has grown exponentially. The pools themselves need new liners, plaster or paint, but often the pool decks are in even greater need of a repair or refresh. This is where deck paints can come to the rescue. These products are designed for quick and efficient renovation of decks to repair cracks, but also improve the entire pool's appearance while making the deck safer for swimmers.
Is Deck Paint Different?
Deck paint is significantly different than pool paint as it is designed to withstand the heat and ultraviolet (UV) from the sun, which can cause blistering, cracking and fading. It is also formulated to provide a nonslip, non-skid surface to promote safety by preventing slips and falls around the pool.
Deck paint is designed to withstand direct foot traffic, provide a nonslip surface and remain cool by not absorbing the sun's heat, which would make it difficult to walk on with bare feet.
On the other hand, pool paints are designed to be submersed in water 24/7, with varying pH levels, while also withstanding water movement, temperature changes, chemical treatments, oils, debris, salt and freshwater. Both deck paint and pool paint are created to withstand their specific environments.
In fact, many decks can last five to eight years with a specialized deck paint, assuming the deck was properly prepared and then painted correctly. These paints are known to be particularly well-suited to climates with extreme heat as they are rubberized, which prevents the coating from becoming dangerously hot. The same rubber ingredients also make the paint well-suited to extreme freeze-thaw climates to prevent deck cracks over the winter.
The successful use of rubberized deck paints requires the deck surface be cleaned, prepared and primed before painting.
Clean & Prep
Before applying a new coating system, pool professionals must make sure the deck surface is completely clean and free of loose paint, dirt, oils or solutions. There are products designed specifically for deck preparation, and using them is highly recommended. In most cases, these products can reduce the amount of time one needs to prep the deck's surface, allowing the job to be completed in one-third the amount of time.
Pool deck coating professionals who are not using a specialty "clean and prep" product should use the following steps:
- Remove any contamination from the surface using a heavy-duty cleaner/degreaser.
- Power-wash the entire deck surface using a minimum 3200-psi power washer.
- Once dry, sweep or use a blower to clear away any leftover paint chips or debris.
- Use a garden sprayer to evenly apply an acid etch preparation product to the entire surface, following the manufacturer's mixing instructions.
- The solution should be scrubbed as it begins to foam and etch. Continue scrubbing until the foaming stops, paying extra attention to areas where heavy soil accumulates. It is important the concrete is porous.
- The surface should be flushed three times with a strong stream of clean water from a garden hose. This step should not be completed using a power washer as it lacks the volume of water required to effectively flush the surface. It is important all residual preparation solutions are removed.
Any surface not being painted (e.g., coping and control joints) should be protected. One should consult the deck paint application instructions to determine if it is viable to paint the control joints. There are also specific products on the market designed to be used when painting pool coping. Pool professionals should choose the best paint based on the surface onto which it will be applied.
Prime the Surface
When the deck surface is completely clean and free of loose paint, dirt, oils or solutions, applying an adhesion primer is recommended to ensure a successful renovation.
When using a deck paint primer, one should be sure to stir thoroughly before use. Professionals can apply these primers using a roller or spray gun, paying careful attention to ensure an even, properly sized coat. Applying more than one coat or excessively heavy films will lead to insufficient through-drying of the paint and will yield soft paint films.
Additionally, deck primers should not be applied on extremely humid days (90% relative humidity or more) or when rain is expected. Applying these primers in the late afternoon—when working outdoors—also is not recommended as the wet film may be adversely affected by dew. When working in cooler climates, be sure the air and surface temperatures will remain at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for at least eight hours after application.
The concrete should be completely clean and dry before beginning to use the primer. All imperfections, cracks, etc., should also be patched using concrete filler and flexible joint fillers. Silicone repair products should not be used, as primers and paints will not adhere to the silicone.
It is recommended professionals use a 0.375-inch or 0.5-inch roller because these primers are mostly two-component, water-based epoxy primers. Properly sized rollers promote good adhesion between concrete or previously painted surfaces and a deck paint topcoat. One coat of adhesion primer is sufficient before the specialty deck paint is applied.
Any pool deck surface can be painted, whether concrete, wood, composite or other. Even previously painted decks can be repainted. In fact, with most deck paints, it is not necessary to know what type of paint was previously used on the deck as they can be applied by abrading the surface and covering with a coat of adhesion primer. Two coats of specialty deck paint should be used when covering a previously painted surface.
Acute flaking, chipping or peeling may indicate a surface that is not suitable for painting in its current state. In these cases, surface preparation and priming are extremely important for deck painting success.
Paint the Surface
Deck paints should be stirred or shaken thoroughly before applying. Once mixed, professionals can apply the deck paint using a roller or a spray gun. (Most pool professionals use a low-pressure hopper spray gun.) It is important to avoid applying excessively heavy paint films (greater than 60 mil) as this will lead to insufficient through-drying and can cause mud cracking of the paint as well as soft paint films. Like applying primer, heat, weather and time of day should also be taken into consideration when painting. When working in cooler temperatures, pool professionals should make sure the air and surface temperatures will remain at or above 40 degrees for at least eight hours after application.
After the first coat of deck paint is applied and has dried, a second coat should be applied to ensure the best results.
Pool professionals should wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear when handling chemicals and paints. All safety precautions on power equipment being used should always be followed.
Painting a pool deck is one of the most economical ways to keep it looking nice and performing well. Water-based deck paints can upgrade and renovate many types of surfaces—from concrete to previously painted decks. Proper planning, surface preparation and using best practices from the field will help ensure the best results. Deck renovations using specialty coating products will provide safer non-skid deck surfaces that are cooler for swimmer's feet while also enhancing the beauty of both residential and commercial pools.
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