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Gunite Pools: 5 Things You Should Know

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A backyard swimming pool is an amazing way to enjoy your home to the fullest. A pool makes the hot summers more pleasant and even living near water is just good for your overall wellbeing. 

Gunite concrete pools are an excellent, long-lasting, and super-customizable choice for an inground swimming pool. So if you’ve decided on a gunite pool or are still on the fence, here are 5 important things to know before you take the plunge.

But First… What is a Gunite Pool?

A gunite pool is an inground concrete pool that is built in a specific way. Traditional concrete pools are constructed by building a wooden framework and then pouring concrete over that framework to hold the shape while the concrete hardens.

Gunite pools are similar in that they use the same main ingredients as concrete: water, cement, and aggregate (sand and gravel), which of course, are the components of concrete. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz later.) Instead of a wooden frame, however, gunite pools use a permanent steel rebar framework to hold the shape.

Rather than pouring concrete onto the steel reinforcing rods, gunite is applied in layers using a super-cool spray gun. That means there are no seams in a gunite pool, just layers and layers of pressurized concrete sprayed into form.

Spraying the cement mixture with some serious pressure behind it also adds some serious benefits. The specialized gun allows gunite to be sprayed anywhere, even on vertical surfaces, allowing for maximum coverage and maximum design potential.

Gunite vs. Shotcrete 

You may have heard of another method of shooting concrete out of a gun to build a pool: shotcrete. So how is that different than gunite?

Easy. It’s all about moisture and when that moisture is added. See, when shotcrete is used to build a pool, the cement is already mixed with water when the big truck arrives at your home. 

Gunite, on the other hand, is a dry mixture that only meets water at the last second when it’s sprayed from the nozzle. So, rather than these two being different materials, they’re actually more like different processes.

#1. Gunite Pools Can Be Endlessly Customized

Gunite pools are extremely attractive to soon-to-be pool owners because of their flexibility and customizability. Your personality and tastes really get to shine when you install a gunite pool because they can be crafted into any size or shape. They are built on-site so they can even be constructed to coordinate perfectly with your backyard landscape.

Finishes

The best part about gunite pools is the dizzying array of available finishes to seamlessly integrate your new pool with your deck, patio, and other backyard fixtures. The most common are plaster, glass, quartz, and pebble, which are applied after the gunite layers have cured.

Additional Features

With the addition of a gunite pool to your home, you’re not just getting a pool. The list of custom add-ons you can incorporate into your backyard sanctuary literally goes on and on. Think tailor-made design, brimming with your own personal touches. 

Let your creativity run wild here.

These include options like: waterfalls, bar stools, custom benches or steps, tanning ledges, grottoes, and other custom features that you may previously have only dreamed of.

#2. Gunite Pools are Highly Durable

This type of pool is the most durable concrete pool you can have. With steel reinforcing rods (rebar) structure underneath and layers upon layers of stout concrete, the usual stress cracks you find in traditional concrete are nowhere to be found.

Poured concrete has a serious flaw that you won’t see with gunite construction: seams. Think about a poured concrete sidewalk that has a space or seam every yard or so. Seams like this are faulty points in the construction of a pool and weaken the overall structure.

Last but not least, the high-pressure spray of gunite application packs the mixture so you end up with more concrete material per cubic yard than in a poured concrete pool. 

#3. Gunite Pools Take a Long Time to Build

Good things come to those who wait. This is a good phrase to repeat to yourself as you wait for construction on your brand new gunite pool to be completed. 

Since all the work is done on-site and layers of concrete take time to dry and cure, you may be waiting as long as 2-3 months (or more) to build a gunite pool from scratch. This may seem like an eternity compared to other types of inground pools (looking at you, Fiberglass), but be patient, time is what makes gunite so strong and durable. 

Precise curing is the most important part of the construction process of a gunite pool and will be the difference between a durable pool that lasts decades versus one that cracks and deteriorates within a few years. 

The curing process and, most importantly, time is what allows the gunite to be properly hydrated and to reach its exact designed compression strength. 

#4. Gunite Pools Are Rough

If you’re planning to install a gunite pool, it’s a good idea to consider your preference regarding the texture of the floor and walls. Many swimmers with sensitive feet may find the coarse bottom of a gunite pool to be a bit too harsh. Unfinished gunite has even been known to snag or tear a swimsuit while a swimmer sits on the bench or steps.

As you may know, a porous surface like concrete is also a great place for algae to thrive, so proper pool maintenance and the liberal use of algaecide may be a necessity if you don’t plan to install a finish on your new gunite pool. 

#5. Plaster is Good But Pebbles (or Tiles) Are Better

“Rough” doesn’t have to be the final word here.

As we’ve mentioned, gunite pools are highly customizable and can be finished in many different ways to coordinate with your deck, your patio, and your lifestyle. If you’re planning on building a gunite pool, chances are you’re looking to build a durable pool that will last for many years to come.

Not only are gunite pools the hardiest and most durable form of concrete pool, but when you install one, you have the most options for finishing. The most common are plaster, pebble, and tile, with less common alternatives like quartz and glass.

Plaster

Plaster is the most common finishing substance used with both regular poured concrete and gunite pools. There is a reason for that: it’s the cheapest option. The only problem is that you have to replaster every few years due to wear and tear. 

This extremely porous material reacts constantly with your pool chemicals and gives algae a cozy place to hang out. So, although you spent less initially choosing plaster to finish your pool, you may end up spending a fortune on pool chemicals in the years to come. 

This is why coating your gunite pool with a more durable finish is the way to go. Why build the most durable pool around and then not use the most durable finish? The two best options for finishing your gunite pool are tile and aggregate (pebble).

Tile

Tile is a very good option to avoid the natural scratchy surface of gunite and to rid yourself of the problems of a porous surface. Tile can be expensive, depending on the type of tile and material (clay, porcelain, etc.) but will last a long time if installed properly. 

Aggregate (Pebble)

Aggregate or pebble finishes are probably the most durable of the options out there. A pebble finish reduces the porous surface of the concrete, thereby protecting your pool from the onslaught of pool water chemicals and algae over time. 

Pebble finishes come in a variety of colors and customizable styles as well, giving you the most freedom for design potential. A pebble finish will also get rid of the major downside of gunite pools: the rough surface that scrapes your feet and snags your swimsuit. There you have it — problem solved. 

The More You Know (About Gunite Pools)

Gunite pools have been popular in fancy resorts for years and are now making their way into private homes because of their versatility, durability, and endless design opportunities. With a gunite pool, you can count on years ahead of fun in the sun with your family and a sturdy pool that’s built to last.

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