Pool Tiling

Pool Tile

Years ago, pool tile selections were very limited. Today, the choices for new pool tile can be overwhelming. From solid color to designer pool tiles, size choices like 1″ x 1″, 1″ x 4″, 2″ x 2″, 3″x 3″ and 6″ x 6″, and even from porcelain to glass, a client, without guidance, could virtually spend weeks trying to make a decision. Just as in pool finishes, part of the pool tile selection process should consider budget – prices can vary by a wide range depending on the pool tile price category as well as the labor to install. For example, a typical 6″ x 6″ porcelain tile can be installed and grouted in the average-sized pool in a day. On the other hand, glass tile must be installed and left to cure for 21 days before it can be grouted. This impacts price due to the higher glass tile cost and installation materials required as well as a second trip to grout. This also impacts the remodel schedule. All factors should be considered before making a decision.

Tile Components

Waterline Tile

This is the layer of tile at the top edge of pools just below the coping or deck. Waterline tile is typically the first design element that you see when you look at a pool. The size of pool tile and grout color are equally critical selections. Make sure you understand the benefits of integrating grout color to pool tile – can make for a more blended look if that is your goal.

For cantilevered decks, make sure the mason applies a silicone joint at the top of the waterline tile – this makes for a more flexible interface between the tile and deck to better absorb deck movement.

Waterline Tile allows an opportunity for some fun design ideas – for example, incorporating a mosaic every 5 or so tiles. Or mixing two different tiles for a “designer” look.

Trim Tile

Trim tile is the tile on the leading edge of steps and benches. While this is required in commercial pools, it is not on residential. This may be a place to save some cost by eliminating trim tile on a remodel. Note that trim tile cannot be saved during the preparation process of pool or spa for a new finish.

Pool trim tile is also considered a safety issue in order to better see the edges of the steps or benches.

While the typical install is 2 rows of 1″ x 1″ tile, there are many alternatives. 3″ tile set on a bias (diamond set) set 12″ to 15″ apart for one. If smaller tile is not available to match the waterline tile, we can cut the 6″ x 6″ tile in quarters for a 3″ tile installation as a viable option.

Entire benches and steps can be done in all tile for a big wow factor. Make sure you select a pool tile that also is available in a quarter round for the outside leading edge of the step or bench. You should select trim tile in contrasting color from the plaster finish so it is clearly visible.

Spillway Tile

The spillway is typically the spa dam wall or a notch in the dam wall. Usually this tile is the same as waterline but can be a different tile depending on your design. Spillway tile needs to be set so that grout lines are not going to be worn, eventually cracking. Again we suggest you select a pool tile that comes in quarter rounds, beaks or surface bullnose for a clean edge and thin grout line. This will result in a much nicer look and reduce chances of leaking or erosion resulting in grout cracking. Also, this area of the pool is where most children climb to jump in – receives a measure of wear and tear. Typical non quarter round installation can produce a sharp edge that can hurt little feet or heads.

Raised Bond Beams

The walls of a pool are called Bond Beams. When that wall is higher than the deck level, it is called a Raised Bond Beam. This will typically be tiled or covered by stone, natural or manufactured. On a large raised bond beam wall, consider deco-tiles tastefully placed to upgrade what could be a bland one-note look.