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Homeowners weigh many factors when choosing a material to pave their pool decks, including the cost, slip resistance, upkeep, durability, and how well it complements the surroundings. While concrete certainly isn't the only player in the game, it offers a number of advantages that other pool deck materials can't match, particularly when it comes to versatility. We put concrete to the test in a face-off against some tough competition, including natural stone, pavers, brick and tile. Although all these materials have their pros and cons, we believe concrete is the clear winner in the following categories.

Economy

While pool decks made of flagstone, pavers, or brick have great aesthetic appeal, they can be costly to install because of the labor required to place each unit individually. Many installers find it more economical to pour concrete and apply a pattern than to haul and place paving units by hand. For homeowners on a tight budget, you can still achieve impressive results by mixing stamped concrete with fields of less-expensive plain concrete.

Ease of Maintenance

All of the paving materials in our face-off are durable and have a long life span, but most of them require more maintenance than concrete. Bricks and paving units can shift over time, requiring releveling or replacement. The joints between paving units also need to be refilled with sand periodically to prevent weed growth. Poured concrete eliminates all these issues, and simply needs occasional cleaning and resealing to maintain its appearance. See this guide to maintaining and caring for exterior decorative concrete.

Heat Reflectivity

Compared to darker-colored brick and tile pool decks, which can become extremely hot to the touch after baking in the sun, concrete reflects solar radiation and is more comfortable on bare feet. There are also decorative toppings for concrete that can be used to significantly lower surface temperatures. (See below for more information on cool pool deck overlays.)

Slip Resistance

Because good traction is especially important on pool deck surfaces, slip resistance is a high priority. All of these pool deck materials can become slippery when wet, especially tile, but with concrete there are several ways to improve the surface traction without detracting from the decorative appearance. These include the use of broomed or exposed aggregate finishes, putting down a textured overlay, or mixing a clear plastic grit into the sealer before it's applied. (See Making Concrete Slip Resistant)

Design Options

Only decorative concrete gives you the ability to select any shape, size, color and surface treatment for your pool deck—from plain broom-finished concrete, to exposed aggregate or imprinted patterns that mimic tile, brick, or stone. You can also mix and match decorative treatments, such as combining stained concrete with a stenciled or imprinted border or enhancing a colored overlay with sawcut or engraved patterns. To learn more about the design possibilities, see Concrete Pool Deck Surface Ideas.

What type of a pool deck will stay cool?

Question:

We need a product to resurface a concrete pool deck in a community complex in Las Vegas. The summer heat is unbearable, and the concrete gets so hot you can't walk on it. I have heard about a product called Kool Deck, but pool stores tell me it's really just a paint. Can you recommend a product for our needs?

Answer:

Those pool stores are wrong. Keystone Kool Deck from Mortex Mfg. is a not a concrete pool deck paint. It's a spray-applied cement-polymer overlay available in light colors that will help to reflect the heat. It also has an "orange peel" texture that provides air pockets to help keep the surface cooler underfoot. The Las Vegas summer sun will heat up any surface, but a spray texture overlay in a light color will help quite a bit. These products have been standard coatings for pool decks in the sunbelt regions of the U.S. for decades. (See Resurfacing Existing Concrete with Pool Deck Coatings.)

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